Muck Raking

Every spring, as soon as the mornings get warm enough for me to venture outside, I have this little sunrise routine: Still groggy from bed, I grab a cup of coffee and head out into the backyard.

pilar-gerasimo

At first, I just sit on my back steps, soaking up some rays and taking in the post-snow-melt mess. Then I start poking around under the soggy leaves and weeds to see if any new green shoots are coming up yet, and to see what I might have to contend with come planting time. This can be fairly disgusting.

Let’s see, there are the shriveled remains of my ornamental cabbage plant. There’s the cryogenically preserved squirrel carcass the neighbor’s cat must have dragged over just before an ice storm. There are some mystery animal droppings. There’s that melon rind I tried to lob over the back fence and into my compost pile – but missed because I tossed it from the back porch while wearing my bathrobe. Which, if you must know, I did because I didn’t want to have to put my boots on and traipse through a foot and a half of snow one early morning last December. Oh, and there’s a nasty looking bare patch in the grass that I have been planning to reseed for about two years now but haven’t because, frankly, I don’t really know how.

Anyway, it goes on like this for a couple of weeks, me just looking at the emerging mess and thinking: Pretty soon, I’m going to have to clear out some of this stuff. Some of the little messes that appear, like the melon rind, are of my own doing. Others are just the natural progression of seasons and the detritus brought by nature and events beyond my control.

But spring is the season when I start getting motivated to do something about them.

In March, my backyard looks like a big, gloppy, clod-covered disaster area. By April, I am out there with my wheelbarrow, gloves, shovel and clippers, making progress. By May, things are starting to look a little more presentable – some little plants popping up and leafing out, and even a flower or two showing a brave face.

Truth be told, I really enjoy this whole process: the sitting and contemplating of the mess, the determined clearing and cutting back, the anticipation of seeing which perennials will be returning, and which, bless their souls, have returned to that big garden center in the sky. And then, of course, there is the fun of picking out new little plants and deciding where they’ll go, and the curiosity about what kind of new “volunteer” stuff might come up to fill in the odd holes.

So what struck me this year, about late March, when we were getting this issue of EL ready to print, was that this whole backyard process is very much like the process we go through to put out the magazine – and, for that matter, very much like life itself. There’s this natural progression of identifying the gunk and clutter that has to go; gathering your wits and nerve to tackle the mess; making room for new and exciting stuff; and, finally, surveying your work and feeling downright pleased about how far you’ve come – even if there might still be some random imperfections and bare patches here and there.

We assembled this issue with a view to how we might fortify our readers to face the various spring-cleaning and clarity-seeking efforts they might be facing in their own lives. Our goal was to help you shake off the dark and doldrums of winter. To help you see a variety of things in a clearer light, but also to help you feel more clear – more energized, focused and excited about whatever you decide to take on next.

I see it this way: If there is a desiccated squirrel carcass in my backyard, it needs to go, regardless of how it got there. And if there is a mess lurking in my schedule, my body, my heart or my mind, I guess I feel the same way.

Spring is a great time to move it on out. Muck be gone, I say, and let the sun shine in.

Pilar Gerasimo is the founding editor of Experience Life.

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