“Spring cleaning” is the annual ritual of cleaning your home or yard, scraping out all the clutter that’s piled up and been packed into corners over a long winter. It’s the day we go beyond the call of duty and feather dust ceilings or spray-clean the insides of drawers. We crack open windows and let in actual fresh air, as if it will somehow breathe new life into our carpets. And when we’re done with this ritual, usually in a day or sometimes a whole weekend, we feel calm and rejuvenated, a bit more…dare I say…whole.
The symbolism of this should not be ignored. The purpose of spring cleaning is to rid our homes of a year’s worth of junk and make space for something new. So let’s just go ahead and replace the word “homes” with “selves.” And let’s assume for a moment that after a year in quarantine, held in the grip of a pandemic, nasty politics and social turmoil, that we could all use our own personal spring cleaning. The operative word here is “personal.” It’s time to get introspective, clean your own house and make some new space.
In the spirit of new space, I did something the other day that was a first: I listened to a 100-year-old ballet. All 42 minutes of it. The ballet was, not coincidentally, “The Rite of Spring,” by Igor Stravinsky. Now, I am not really a ballet person, only because it’s never entered my orbit in a natural way. I am quite fond of ballet as an art form, and I’d heard this particular title referenced a couple times over the last year. So, in light of the season, I Googled it. I quickly scanned the page when something caught my attention, a quote from the composer, who characterized the work as “…unified by a single idea: the mystery and great surge of the creative power of spring.”
Every single word of this intrigued me. So I put in my earbuds and cued up Spotify, giving a break to all my stale playlists of rock and hip hop and electronic, and took a long walk on a 60-degree day.
“The Rite of Spring” was not the joyous and bombastic symphony of fireworks and flourishes that I was expecting, like that scene in “Home Alone” when they run through the airport to catch their flight. Some parts were uplifting, some otherworldly, but some were moody and dark and complicated. Some were aggressive. Uncomfortable and dissonant. Eerie. Even frightening. It ran a gamut of emotions, which, I suppose, is what ballets are meant to do. And it certainly lived up to Stravinsky’s description.
After 10 minutes I began to feel like a character in an old “Twilight Zone” episode, some strange traveller exploring a suburban planet. I’m sure the old-timey orchestral sound had something to do with it. I’ll spare you the depths and details of my little journey, but it opened up some new doors in my imagination. Who knows what, if anything, will come of it, but it felt invigorating. And I bet if you string enough of those together, you just might get somewhere. A new idea. A new perspective. A better appreciation for the way things are, maybe some renewed hope for what they could be.
We all have our own ways of getting there. It could be a new hobby or exercise regime or a random drive to someplace unknown. Or a 100-year-old Russian ballet. You never know.
And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?