Oh yes, I know that spring is finally coming to the Prairie! I can see it in the daylight sun, even if it’s not yet reflected back through leaves or color here in Minnesota.
Mostly, I can see it in the trash in my yard, which has emerged yet again from another winter leaving me in wonder.
I live on a corner, so it’s not inconceivable that people come by and drop stuff my way, but every year I am dumbfounded by the sheer variety and quantity.
This year, besides my own yard signs which froze into the ground (in violation of MN law, which would have you remove them directly after elections so you don’t tick off your neighbors through a long miserable winter), I have an endless variety of random items. I’m not talking about candy wrappers or colorful bags of other people’s dog crap—yawn. Or the unbagged piles of other people’s dog’s crap either. No, I’m talking about things that really make you wonder.
A Barbie doll’s head, for instance, one year. Did some angry kid rip that off of their sibling’s beloved doll and heave it through a passing car window, leaving only a tiny hole in the snow where it fell, making it impossible for the family to find even if they came back and tried? Wouldn’t Barbie’s long blond hair have stuck up defiantly out of the snow as a flag—here I am!? Perhaps it was an angry mother at wit’s end on a horrific February day: “What, you forgot your mittens AGAIN? I’m taking down Barbie!”
Or a tennis shoe, looking like it belonged to an adolescent male. Again, I’m left with nothing but my speculations: was my house the location for a fight between kids as they walked home? Was this revenge? Did a mean bully throw the beloved shoe of some sweet innocent kid? Or did some kid hate these shoes so much that he (I’m presuming gender here) wanted to be able to get home and say he’d lost a shoe and needed new ones? There is no phone wire over my house that someone was trying to throw it onto. So I’m bewildered.
I love imagining stories that account for weird trash items. Since I don’t know a thing, the story is all I have, and wondering about them gives me something to do as I clean the yard. I’ve found items less intriguing—a wallet, with no cash or credit cards, but library card and other things with a name on them, which I turned into the police station. Used condoms—WHAT!?!? My YARD!?!?!? On a CORNER!??!
This year, from the looks of it, the trash is mostly mundane—my own plastic pots from seedlings, that must have blown around after I stacked them neatly in the corner; gum wrappers and cigarette butts from passer-by. (Last year, a healthy cannabis plant that emerged in garden told me that someone had thrown another kind of butt into my yard!)
Here’s the thing: I’m so excited for spring, for access to my yard and garden again, that even the trash is a welcome site. Today’s task is to pick it up and get rid of it, but not in a spirit of anger or resentment. More like, “Hey! It must be spring!”
Yesterday, in a heart meditation session, I saw that my long-neglected practice had resulted in my heart looking similar to my yard: Though I could see healthy green growth and even some flowers when I looked closely in there, I could also see brambles of dead thorny branches which needed to be cut away before I could access the growth without hurting myself. For once, I was kind. For once, I put on heavy gloves in my mind’s eye before reaching in to remove those thorns. For once, I could see that the thorns were just an easily removable obstacle, and that the growth, the health, the vitality was right there beckoning to me. Clearing away the brambles I visualized in my mind’s eye became a blessing, a labyrinth leading me to the clearing.
When it’s been a long hard winter, even the trash, even the brambles, in our real and metaphoric gardens can be seen as a gift. The clearing away can be done with joy and gratitude, eagerness and optimism, when we know that spring is coming.
When we’ve been away from spiritual practice, even clearing away the rubble to get us back there can become a joy. May our spiritual practices allow us to see even ‘yard pick up day’ as a blessing, greeted with gratitude after a long cold winter. With longing for new life in our eye, may all manner of things become beautiful!