Spring Cleaning for the Heart and Soul

By Kate Kerry Spencer

This winter was, for most of us, what my wise mother would have aptly described as “a long-ass haul.” No snow for Christmas, but plenty in March. Temps so low outside that the dogs’ breath crystallized at first pant. Days as brief and dark as a Kafka short story. Seriously. It’s good to finally be looking at winter mostly from the rear-view mirror now. So damn good.

Spring. It’s such a buoyant, tap-dancey kind of word. Nothing can keep its determined, tenacious blossoming from coming. Spring is the season that most doggedly will not be denied its arrival, come mud, flood, or gales. Everything in the ground that has been dormant wakens to the light, the warmth, the lengthening of days. Everything—weeds to roses, babies to ancients—feels that quickening.

In that quickening and that longer, brighter light, we may also see more clearly the winter pounds, the stalled projects, the reminder notes that we forgot to remember, and all the physical and emotional cobwebs of a long winter’s hunker down. If, in this spring light, you feel a sense of guilt, dread or anxiety about the loose ends of a long winter, choose to get beyond that now. Winter is over and spring has come.

See with Fresh Eyes

Wherever you live, go outside this week and look at something that’s just coming back to life. It could be a weed, a tree, a rosebush—anything that was dormant in the winter and is now waking up.

Over the course of 4 weeks, watch how that life changes, buds and blossoms. Try to slow yourself down, for at least 10 minutes, to really look at the small changes you see happening. Recognize that you are part of this shared cycle, and are coming into a new season of life, too. In what ways are you, or can you, see yourself with fresh eyes?

Welcome the Cycles

While human lives may not be as closely bound to the cycles of seasons as the lives of plants and animals, we do, in our own way, deeply experience both the seasons and the weather of our lives.

What cycle are you living in now? Is it still as cold as winter? Are there signs of a thaw, or a breakthrough, in your life? Do you feel like it’s your time to bloom? Are you now as solid and season-hardy as an old oak, with some branches almost touching the sky?  

You can be any, and all, of these things many times, and sometimes, simultaneously. The work, and the joy, is to be the good that genuinely calls you in every cycle and to be open and present enough in your life to hear what it’s trying to tell you.

Keep Your Eyes and Your Heart Open

Often, the weather of our personal lives is out of sync with the weather outside. Something beautiful and new may be growing within you, while outside, something is in a bleak, deep freeze. And often, the opposite happens too.

“The sun shines on a funeral, just as same as on a birth. The way it shines on everything that happens here on earth.”

These words from the song Enough To Be On Your Way ring so true. The saddest day of our life may start with the clearest blue beauty of a summer sky. Likewise, the happiest day can be one where the snow falls in impassible heaps.

Because of that truth, we need to remember that the real bellwether of our lives is how thoughtfully, thoroughly and mindfully we live the weather that comes into our lives, bidden or unbidden and, as the poet W.H. Auden wrote, “stagger onward, rejoicing.”

Each of us in our own broken-mended, weary wonderment can do exactly that. And in that eternal spring, find our way through all the seasons of our lives. Winter is over, spring has come.


This morning, before the day gets into full gear, find a window and look up to the sky. Whether that sky is still dark, or just rising, or shrouded in fog, or rumbling with storm, be with that sky. Put your hand on your heart and take a few slow, easy breaths. As you breathe in, say silently to yourself, “This is the day I have been given.” With each exhale, silently say to yourself. “I will receive its gifts.”

Tonight, before you fall asleep, look up to the sky, or the ceiling of the room if you don’t have a view of the night sky. Put your hand on your heart and take a few calming, end-of-the -day, breaths. Silently say to yourself with each inhale, “This is the night I have been given.” With each exhale silently say to yourself, “I will sleep in its peace.”

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Kate Kerry Spencer is a Pacific Northwest writer, editor, and publisher. Learn more about her upcoming memoir, Smoke: A Story of Love, Lies and Cigarettes

Smoke is the story of fatal consolations--tobacco, denial and deceit--and the second chances that can come to us in the most unlikely places. For this mother and daughter it was a rehab center where the two women wrestled with cigarettes, scrambled brains and each other--and in the process, found the long way back to love.

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