Advent, 5: Mending
I chalk it all up to the beer.
The more organized among you have undoubtedly already done your fall cleaning — swept up the leaves on your paths, passed on used clothing, weeded out unmatched socks and rid yourselves of books you will never crack the covers of again.
I would have gone blithely into January without this valuable exercise had I not had this adventure.
Last week I opened my basement storage area looking for the jars of crab apple chutney I’d made in August as gifts for my neighbors. For months, I’d been opening that door and tossing things in, then closing it again, confident that the gremlins of organization would not be watching.
On a parallel track, several family members have taken up home brewing. And so for some time a large plastic container filled with whatever pre-beer is called (it escapes me at the moment) has taken up residence in the middle of the concrete floor in there.
My eye was busy scanning the shelves for the telltale Ball’s jar box. Suddenly I was aware that my feet were getting wet. I looked down and found myself standing in a steady stream of beer. I’d unwittingly released the spigot with a mere brush of my foot!
This is how a three-second errand turns into a morning’s cleaning project.
Humbled, as I scoured, on my knees with vinegar and water, I remembered: there are no short cuts.
We can stuff only so much away, can gather only so much excess, delay only so long the reckoning with what in our lives we ignore, as we race ahead into another day. Sooner or later we will be standing in a leaky pool of something smelly.
When life gets to this point, we need more than an hour of re-ordering. We need to clean the wounds before we can apply antibiotics, stitches. We need to release pent up pressure. Give a sick room fresh air.
What are you deferring?
I have now tossed old cookware, re-gifted a pasta maker, recycled fabric swatches, and asked myself whether I will use my downhill skis boots ever again.
The process re-educated me in the nature of mending at its best. Mending is about self-care.
Mending is a graceful dance, actually, when done well. We break the surface of our routines in bursts of creative chaos, trying new recipes and art project and relationships. It is taking risks, and acting in trust that our mindfulness and enthusiasm will carry us forward.
But when that part of the dance has had its hour, we need to slow down enough to reflect, to process, evaluate, and let go. We need to clean the counter of the crab apple cores, put the paints away, and allow a fallow time in which to re-charge.
My mistake this fall was to take this part of the dance too lightly. There was always something more compelling on the calendar to call me away from this critical step of self-care. Now, as the days grow shorter, and I have more time to look at my shelves and into the corners of the house, I see much will fill the snowy evenings with mending.
I am pulling on a pair of warm, dry socks for the journey.