I arose this morning to the smell of fresh cut grass and rain evaporating off the damp driveway. It was the glorious and pungent smell of my past wafting across my property and into my desperate nostrils. I have been pining for the smells, sounds and sights of spring lately.
We have had so much rain lately that our backyard has turned into a pond. The fire pit is completely under water, the cushions of the lawn chairs floating helplessly in the middle of the whelming flood. I waded in to the water to rescue them so that they didn’t waterlog to their own demise. As I did, the sound of honking geese echoed across the yard from my neighbor’s property along with peeping frogs, buzzing insects, and chirping birds. The symphony of sounds literally seeped into my eardrums like the oil my mom used to drip into my ears to soothe my aching infection. These sounds had a similar healing effect.
I opened my garage and began to clean out the debris piled up from a long winter of negligence and laziness. Things inconspicuously stack and accumulate over time along the sidewalls until they effectively take over the whole of the garage allowing for little more than bikes and scooters, boxes and old mattresses. When people come over you throw things out there that you don’t have room for or know what to do with and instead of going out and getting it after they leave, somehow it stays out there getting kicked to a side wall to join the rest of the clutter and litter accumulating like driftwood and leaves in a rivers’ eddy.
Dirt and gravel from the slushy leftovers of snow caking the wheel wells cover the cement floor staining it with all kinds of disgusting abstract art. Leaves from last fall have found their way into the corners and crevices, filling open spaces like box-packing Styrofoam. Every time I move anything, it seems I kick up three more cleaning projects, but you know you can’t leave things as they are. You have to flush out the mice time-shares that have been built over the winter. A thorough inspection of each and every item is in order whether you like it or not. And for some reason, today, I liked it.
I like spring-cleaning for some reason. It is like communion or baptism or foot washing to me. It is a symbolic ritual that represents what my heart longs for elsewhere. It allows my hands to touch something while my head thinks something and my heart feels something. Touchy, thinking and feeling are essential categories to awaken through some sort of liturgical custom. And this spring-cleaning custom spiritually stirs my head, heart and hands. For that I’m grateful.
I need more physical activities that serve to purge the built up residue that cakes my interior. My heart can start looking like that garage I cleaned today. Things pushed to the corners, unmarked boxes stacked along the walls with ‘God only knows what’ inside them, dirt accumulating on the floor brought in by tires and blown in by storms, little rodents taking up residence in book filled boxes, mildew rotting out the bottoms of stationary boxes…I could go on. All I know is that as I was cleaning out my garage, God was cleaning out my heart.
He was stacking boxes, throwing out garbage, sweeping up floors, discovering lost tools, putting items back where they belong, hanging things back in their rightful place, and replacing blown out light bulbs to shed light on dark and damp places. And I needed that.
Who knew that cleaning your garage could be a spiritual ritual?