Carolyn J. Rose
Nothing can give me a bad case of but-first disease like spring cleaning.
I need to scrub the kitchen floor, but first I need to sweep the patio. But before that I should finish the transplanting and mulch-spreading. Those projects are contributing to the mud and bark on the patio.
Once those chores are done, however, the floor will be put off again because first I should clean the countertops. Before that, I should clean out the drawers and cabinets. And before that I should vacuum the high corners where spiders love to build their webs.
As a result, the floor is days—perhaps weeks—from a condition even approaching clean.
I, on the other hand, am closer to understanding the frustration my mother felt when I railed against spring chores.
But how could I not complain? They came at such an inconvenient time. Winter was finally in retreat. Mud Season had begun in the Catskill Mountains. I longed to be in pursuit of sensation—the feel of the earth, the crackling of melting ice, the drip of and rush of water on hillsides, the bright blooms of forsythia, the songs of returning birds.
And the chore list seemed endless. There were storm windows to be taken down and stored in the attic while screens were sprayed off and installed. Lawns had to be raked and brush cut. Gardens had to be cleared of dead plants and seeds had to be planted after the soil was turned. Winter clothing had to be cleaned and packed away in boxes with moth balls. Closets had to be cleaned out and furniture vacuumed.
I rushed, I tried to find shortcuts, I whined, and I did a sloppy job—sometimes on purpose. These weren’t “my” tasks and the doing of them wasn’t according to “my” agenda.
Now, however, these are my tasks and I set the agenda. Now I “get it.” And now I mostly accept the process of doing them. After all, it means that spring is here once more. Each task is, in a weird way, a celebration of a trip around the sun completed and a season of growth begun. I tackle them with attitude and energy I didn’t feel over the winter.
Except for scrubbing that kitchen floor.
I can’t seem to work up a good attitude or a burst of energy for that.
Which explains why my but-first list keeps getting longer.