Now ’tis spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted;
Suffer them now and they’ll o’ergrow the garden.
Spring. With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino…
What to say about spring? Paddy’s Day’s behind us and the spuds are in the ground. The daffodils out, the lambs a-bleating. In the streets, we glimpse a brave forearm or even a tentative shin…
And in Central Scotland, it’s snowing.
It’s impossible not to appreciate the feeling of vigour and raw vitality that comes with the first weeks of this, the most hopeful of seasons, though. It’s in the air, it’s in the light, it’s in our very marrow. Our bodies shudder with it, the rampant energy and the promise of summer; the heart stirs and the sexual energy begins to bristle… even those pasty-white British shins can cause a certain stirring. Ooh-wee.
I lived in Russia for a year, and on arriving there in late September, remarked that every woman in Russia appeared to be pregnant. Then I did the maths and realised that, when you’re locked down in minus-30-degree weather for four months, what else are you gonna do but ride all day and night? But it seems to me that sexual energy is highest around this time of year – spring. I’m curious about how reproduction habits differ between, say, a sample of people in Vladivostok and a similar cross-section in Belize. I can’t be bothered to go research it, but I’m sure it’s interesting. (If you’re an expert on human reproduction habits, by all means, write to me and let me know.)
But I didn’t write this article to discuss ‘spring horn’. This article is about the ‘spring clean’.
Very briefly, the spring clean, for our modern post-industrial society, has its origins in the 18th and 19th centuries. Back in the days before electricity and central heating, we were burning shit in our houses all winter: wood, paraffin, oil, coal… you name it, if it burned, we put a match to it. This meant that, after the long months of winter had subsided, the house was filthy with soot and smoke, and it was only a real good clean that would get it spick and span again. Naturally, this clean happened when the winter months passed, in early spring.
But we can go further back. In Greek Orthodox tradition, Καθαρή Δευτέρα, or ‘Clean Monday’, is a festival during the first week of Lent when the house is cleaned as part of a purification ceremony, not only in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense too. Lent, of course, is the time leading up to Easter, the celebration of the death and rebirth of Christ. The purification ceremony, I guess, is indicative of our own ‘rebirth’, the symbolic emergence from the dark death of winter. The ritual cleansing is a central part of that process.
Similarly, the Persians have Nowruz, kinda like a Persian New Year. Nowruz is “a springtime celebration whose activities symbolise rebirth and the link between humans and nature”. See the correlations and parallels with the Christian tradition? Preparations for the festival include “house-cleaning (khaneh takani)” in the weeks leading up to spring. (For another Christian–Persian parallel, look at the story of Mithra.)
But the house is not the only thing that can be spring-cleaned. You can go to work on your body, too, and the bodily spring-clean is central to many Asian traditions, particularly the Chinese. How do you spring-clean the body? There are many ways. Fasting is one of the quickest and most effective methods (Think Ramadan – Ramadan is not only about sacrifice, it’s also a ritual cleansing of the body).
Which is why, next week, I’m gonna fast.
I’ve been doing the occasional fast for about two years now. I try to do a day a month but it often passes me by. Every so often I’ll do 48 hours (from Friday night to Monday morning, it’s closer to 60). Very rarely, I’ll do three days. I won’t lie, it’s tough. Two days is doable enough, three is difficult. But I’ve heard that after three the body adjusts, and it becomes quite effortless.
This week I’ll do three days. I hope to get more regular with it, and in the coming years, maybe a good spring clean will be a week-long fast. But right now, three is sufficient.
Trust me, folks – fasting. Now and again, we gotta flush out all that shit we pump into our bodies day in and day out. Even if you don’t drink alcohol, think about the caffeine, the salt, the sugar, the toxins… it builds up. And it really fucks with the machinery.
Try it sometime. Give yourself a good spring clean. And hey – summer is right around the corner, and don’t tell me you haven’t got a few winter pounds you can be shaving off. Don’t let lambing season pass you by…
‘On the Spring Clean, or Getting Ready for Lambing Season’, by Ultan Banan. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.