By Brian Kelsey
- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man – Epistle I
Spring marks the end of one thing and the beginning of another. To some, it is the end of dark days and cold weather. To others, the beginning of renewal and rebirth.
And then there are folks like me, who see it as a sad goodbye to a season I love, but also as a chance to start anew.
Saying goodbye is never easy. Those who profess to be good at it must simply be disconnecting the heart from the mind. This isn’t a judgement; I wish I was as good at compartmentalizing my emotions as these individuals must be.
Of course, goodbyes come in many varieties and don’t necessarily always imply loss. Many times, saying goodbye is a celebration, as we look to what comes next with excitement, wonder and awe.
For instance, winter is my dear friend. So, as the daylight gets longer, snow disappears and temperatures rise, I am left mourning the passing of another “friend.” (I do consider winter to be just that.)
My daily winter hikes in the soft snow clear my head and the muted sounds of the forest comfort me. In the ever-changing winter landscape, I find myself lost in a place I know like the back of my hand. It is hard to say goodbye to that…something that is such a part of who I have become.
But each year I do. I say goodbye while still yearning for more, I say goodbye with nostalgia, I say goodbye with a simultaneous smile and a tear, as I know it is merely a “see you later” and not a “farewell.”
On those final winter hikes, my thought processes change and I find my mind more actively planning for the future, versus reflecting on the past. Just as stores and shops take a monthly inventory of goods—a Cost of Goods Sold. I take a season inventory of what is in my mind and calculate my own Cost of Good Done. I remind myself of my place in my family, my community, my job and ultimately, my place in spiritual time.
I began this article with a brief snippet of a beautiful (albeit lengthy) poem by Alexander Pope. You would have to live under a rock to have not heard the expression “hope springs eternal,” as it is so heavily quoted. I’d be surprised, however, if more than a few individuals have read the entire epic poem.
I was introduced to it long ago, in college, but did not revisit it until a few days ago when I sat down to plan the theme of this issue’s article. Pope’s poem reminds me of my place in the universe and that it’s OK to question, but to not forget, that there is a plan for each of us. We can work against it, but our path will lead us ultimately down the road God intended for us to walk.
Pope was accused of being fatalistic in the poem, as it was perceived as if all things were fated to happen and we had no control. I choose to look at it with faith and trust in that which I don’t know, and to simply do good work for my loved ones and my community as a whole…and to stop ruminating on all the unanswerable questions that churn in my head.
Winter for me is a clearing house, if you will, where after my mental churning, I can clean out my head, let go of things I’ve held onto for too long, heal emotional scars, end the “what if” games I oftentimes silently play. So, winter for me is the time to take stock of what I have, what I have done, what I am proud of, where I have failed myself or my family/friends, and ultimately who I have become.
Springtime allows me to look at that inventory and purge what is no longer needed, not healthy or simply something I have outgrown, whether spiritually, physically or mentally.
We do this in our homes, as well, this time of year. As the air temperature rises and windows reopen, fresh air is allowed back in. Windows can be washed, removing the deposited residue of a winter storm, or in the case of one of my windows, the residue of Nyjer seed that has been both blown and tossed on the panes of glass.
Once again, we can see clearly out our windows and witness the oncoming of spring flowers, buds on trees, migration of birds or even our first spring thunderstorm. Like corrective lenses for our eyes that facilitate clear vision, the washing of windows in early spring offers a corrected vision for the rebirth we witness in our homes and communities.
Springtime is also a great time to reassess the “stuff” we have in our homes we no longer use, no longer need or have outgrown (darn you winter!) Or, items we are simply ready to pass on to another loving home. Maybe you pass an item on to a fellow family member or a friend, or to firmly-established organizations in our community who rely on the resale of donated goods to capacitate others’ comfort and well-being.
As I clear out my mental closet, I also clear out my physical closets and items not worn within a year find a new home…a home where they can be better put to use. I reassess the items we have in our home and donate them to a number of organizations leaving me feeling both good for making room and also for not throwing away something that has a great deal of life and use left in it.
Our society has become so disposable…we’ve become almost conditioned to tossing away items, even when there is plenty of life remaining in them, just so we can “upgrade” to the newest and greatest version.
This spring, before simply throwing something away, ask yourself if it still has life—still has usefulness or purpose—and if the answer is “yes,” then please find it a new home instead of discarding it.
If you have children who no longer live at home, ask them if an item is something they might like. Nostalgia is often strong with items that remind us of the comforts of our childhood. Pots and pans that seem out of date may just remind your children of the soup you made them when they were sick, or the first pan with which they learned to cook. My mother knows all too well not to pitch items like that, as we all (and there are six kids in our family) can look into her cupboard and point out cookware and jokingly say “this one has my name on it.”
In addition to the spring cleaning we undertake in our homes, there are many not-for-profit organizations throughout Door County that rely heavily upon volunteers to help prepare them for the new season. At Peninsula Players, for instance, we have an incredibly dedicated group of individuals who return annually to help clean out our buildings and prep them for our arriving company members.
Northern Sky Theatre, Door Shakespeare, Birch Creek Music Performance Center, The Clearing, The Ridges—the list goes on and on—all require volunteer help to undertake spring clean tasks.
If you have the time, I would kindly request you reach out to an organization of choice and ask how you might be able to aid them this spring. It’s a wonderful opportunity to give back to your community and help an organization working tirelessly to provide visitors and locals the quality of life we have come to expect and appreciate here. I promise, it will leave you feeling fulfilled.
Time may not be a renewable resource in our lives, but what we choose to do with the time we have makes all the difference.
This spring as you reflect on renewal, rebirth (and the inevitable goodbyes that happen in life) remember that “community” is made by our actions, our aspirations and selfless giving. Open your windows and doors and let the fresh air of spring fill your home and your heart, and give back to your community and watch its rebirth unfold in front of your very eyes.