Spring cleaning for the mind

With spring approaching, Rose Nolen seeks to begin an annual ritual — purging the wastebasket of her mind. She examines some things she’ll probably never change, regardless of the season.
Monday, April 14, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:03 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Rose M. Nolen

I have always been grateful for the fact that I spent my early years growing up in a small town, when life in many ways was kinder and gentler. Memories of that particular period are those that my mind seems to reflect on most often.

At this time of year, I remember with fondness how the older women in our neighborhood would set out early in the morning with big paper bags and paring knives to gather wild greens in the woods nearby. Apparently, for them, this signaled the opening of straw-hat season, because they always wore wide-brimmed hats to cover their faces.

That evening, I would find them gathered around a big washtub, washing and picking through their loot. And on Sunday, everyone could depend on having a fresh bowl of greens for dinner. In the meantime, one of our local farmers would have parked his truck on the corner and passed out pieces of sassafras bark for making tea. According to legend, wild greens and sassafras tea cleansed the blood stream. And like most old wive’s tales, no one ever explained how the bloodstream got dirtied up in the first place. The main thing was that after eating and drinking, we had taken the necessary steps to enter spring as cleansed spirits.

Another spring ritual was, of course, the big housecleaning, which included beating the rugs and washing the windows. Somehow, cleaning was an important process of welcoming spring. And although those old rituals have died out over time, I have adopted my own version of ‘spring rituals’ which I perform religiously every year.

My big chore is to purge the big wastebasket known as my mind. In a year’s time I accumulate pounds of litter that need to be sorted out and emptied. This being an election year, the litter has doubled. But before I start dumping, I make a list of things I must accept because I will never be able to change them.

Number one on the list is irresponsible parenting. As long as some parents think that they alone have the right to decide how their children should behave, I will have to abandon hope. It seems to me on many occasions that these parents do not know right from wrong themselves; therefore, the chances of their children being taught appropriate behavior is out of the question.

I also give up on thinking that the majority of people will ever learn to turn off their cell phones when their ringing or usage infringes on the rights of others. And I accept the fact that until we are all bumper-to-bumper across America and no one can move will any political entity take the concept of nationwide mass transit seriously. I realize, too, that no matter how many human beings die from acts of violence, people who believe that the Constitution gives them the right to bear arms will not willingly give up their guns. And I will no longer hope that people will not try to force their religious beliefs down other people’s throats.

With all that out of the way, now I can start dumping. As long as this recession lasts I am immediately throwing out every mention of anybody’s golden parachute. I am rejecting every attempt to be persuaded to vote for either political party and am discarding words both written and spoken on that subject into the trash can. And I vow to continue to refuse to listen to any gossip about the sex or drug life of anyone in the field of sports or entertainment. (I will add politics to the list this year.)

Like most folks, it’s going to take every inch of space in my mind to figure out how I am going to survive any further escalation of fuel and food prices. Just in case, I probably should get my bicycle in shape and practice preserving my own food.

In any case, I intend to enter spring with a clear head and a fresh mind. After all, I didn’t say that I didn’t believe in miracles.

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