Spring Break

New growth, renewal. A temporary suspension of reality, a parting of ways from everyday life. A cocktail mix of uppers and downers. A floating out on the waters with no needs other than air.

Better than a regular vacation, without schedules and itineraries, better than holidays with obligations.

Yes, a different animal altogether. One could say party animal, but spring break welcomes so many more, encompasses so much more.Spring Break

A year ago I was in Cabo at this time. It wasn’t until I checked in that I realized I was sharing the resort with several hundred 20-year-olds. They came pouring out of shuttle vans, grouping into the lobby with duffel bags, an expectant buzz, surprisingly low-key and innocent. Easter/Passover/ Pagan Equinox were still off two or three weeks, but in Cabo Spring Break lasts … well probably all year! And you don’t have to be a student or 20 to enjoy Spring Break.

Yes, there were older people wandering around too. Although we were outnumbered, I saw young families, couples, middle-aged and beyond. Some retirees have time shares and return every spring to experience the bustling nest, the sense of buoyancy.

No wonder. Something’s in the air. We’ve all become fledglings learning to fly and age doesn’t seem to matter. Yes, the young have more perfect bodies and occasionally send whooping calls through the halls, but overall there is a sense of ageless movement and civility.

On a side trip up the coast to Todos Santos, one woman, younger than I, staying at another resort, complained about all the wild kids. The irresponsibility, the rudeness, the danger. I wondered if her resort was different from mine; not all are family-oriented. Or was it her attitude? Was she never young and crazy? I did not encounter one young person who was out of control. Of course I know they are in some places, but the Spring Breaks I am remembering and celebrating are flying at the right altitudes.Spring Break Flying

Now we have the Spring Breakers descending on our beach town. There are complaints about the extra cars on the streets and crowds on the sidewalks, and in some vacation rentals, parties that go on all night. So far I’ve been lucky. Except for a bachelor neighbor who entertained in his hot tub under my bedroom window a few years ago, my block has been quiet and I can sleep.

I like to watch the Spring Breakers in their happy trances. Families by the rocky coast and bay, strolling into shops and restaurants, cleaning out their sand pails and flippers, hanging their beach towels along fences and railings. Teen-agers and 20-somethings jostling and flirting along the oceanfront boardwalk. No, I don’t sit on the beach or the bar stools with them. Let them enjoy while they can. Soon enough they’ll return to the real world, work or school, leaving behind the spirit of Spring Break for us to float on and breathe in with the salty air.

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More Thoughts on Spring Cleaning – Part 2

I’m nearing the end of my 40/40 Project – the challenge to get rid of 40 bags of “stuff” in 40 days. I thought it would be 40/50, that is, take me 50 days, but it’s turning out to be more like 30/40. I don’t have enough extra possessions to fill 40 bags!

Moving here last summer forced me to bring my stored boxes and bins indoors, since I have no garage, just a carport. They didn’t fill my garage before (I liked to park in there), but now they fill my office closet and I’m already anticipating having less space when I downsize next year. So this project has turned out to be a motivating curse/blessing. I can easily see what I have to sort through – no out of sight, no respite for me.

Overall, I probably have less than many people, since I’ve moved every few years and lived alone for 15. As a writer, my area of clutter lies mostly in files, folders, boxes and baskets of projects and in notebooks filled with ideas, plans, plots, notes, marketing logs, research. And writing, of course. A writer can never have too many notebooks! Except when there’s no place to put them.

In a few weeks of diligent paring down, I’ve burned out my shredder, so I turned to my fireplace to burn more confidential information, such as the tax records showing I earned poverty-level wages during my journalism career. Would anyone want to steal that identity? I doubt it, but I shred/burn anyway. As for my raw, half-baked writing, I don’t care if people see it in trash or recycle bins. Maybe they will laugh or recycle the ideas?

As I wrote before, this 40/40 Project requires 20/20 vision. It also requires courage, a lot of courage, to confront old dreams, ghosts that still haunt us, taunt us, when we open yet another box.

Just which ones do we let go, watch crumble in flames, fill our chimneys with soot? Which dreams do we let drift off and be released into the night sky? Is anything left to rise from the ashes or just a sooty aftertaste in our mouths, lungs and hearts?

The ashy smell lingers for days, but the old boxes are empty and light, leaving room for new dreams and the courage to embrace them.Shred and Burn

Spring Cleaning on Fast Foward

Some nut job with nothing better to do has dreamed up a new challenge for those of us who have enough to do already, thank you very much.

Her challenge is: get rid of 40 bags of stuff in 40 days. Since her idea appeared around March 5, the 40-day timeframe probably corresponds to Lent this year (Easter is on April 20). Giving up something. And what better time than Spring? Renewal, rebirth. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that.

But to undertake the 40/40 Project, you have to be zealous to some extent. Just like a missionary knocking on every door to find converts. Closet doors, cupboard doors, cabinet doors, garage doors where the lapsed possessions lurk. They don’t need to be saved since they already are, but they yearn for salvation, new life in new location, Salvation Army filled with Good Will.

Since I’m on a path to create a simpler life, to downsize, I decided this 40/40 Project is perfect for me. I’ve been wanting to pare down for awhile. If I grab a few bags and open a door a week and a drawer or file box a day, I can do it!

Letting things go is not easy. It requires 20/20 vision – the ability to see ourselves and our lives clearly and to make decisions quickly. Will we ever wear the pin-striped power suit again? The purple dress? The turquoise pants with black blotches that seemed fine at one time?

Will we ever throw that Christmas party we’ve been planning for 20 years? All those silky green and red lanterns, napkins, glassware, recipes. The invitation I hand-lettered after I took a calligraphy class.Zoe on File Box

Will we write the mystery novel we filed away? Will we need the papers we slaved over in high school and college on the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Shakespearian character development, politics in Germany between world wars? Will we re-read the once-timely articles we saved, the issue of Time magazine dated September 11, 2001? Some decision are easier than others. There’s no longer any need to save what we can find on our computers or the Internet.

Some items with sentimental value are difficult or impossible to discard. My grandmother’s Scottish cookbook and recipe cards, even though they are falling apart. A few pieces of my mother’s china and silver. My collection of old letters from relatives long dead, husband long-ago divorced, boyfriends, other friends. I used to fantasize about sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch in old age and reading them all with good memories. But the closer I get to rocking chair age, the less appealing it sounds. I’d rather read something current and be in the now and carry my memories inside.

Zoe in BoxI am soon in the 40/40 flow! Motivated to move forward! I fill little bags, big bags, count an old suitcase as a “bag,” add items here and there to my trash bags. I hang on to a few family items and will gradually hand them over to my sons and daughter-in-law. My file folders are lean and functional, containing only what I’m working on now and a few ideas. My clothes have room to breathe. I feel more ready to make my next move to a smaller home. If there’s a 40-day flood here (and we are in tsunami territory), there’ll be less floating around.

Truthfully, it’s 40 bags in 50 to 60 days for me, since I took a vacation and some days have said “Screw It.” But as the inventor of this project said, it’s the spirit that matters and I’m sorry I called her a nut job. She saved me from having to pay for a professional purger and from having to lug and store more than I need to my next home.

The Royal Gloom and Bloom

June Gloom we call it along the coast – the marine layer that hangs over us, dulling scenery and spirits for almost all of this month’s 30 days. Even worse, it drags directly behind May Gray, thus insuring a double dose of semi-drizzle and we are not sure if spring is really happening. It’s also hard to know what to wear during this gray and gloomy time. The sky is overcast and the air makes us shiver, so we put on a jacket and a scarf and then when we drive a mile inland, we roast. Away from the coast, people are lightheartedly skipping around in sandals and shorts or sundresses.

It is Spring, of course, but evolving slowly, not at all like springs in colder climates where there is snow and then bright pokes of green and sudden riots of color. When my family moved here from Montreal, gardens were thriving and it was warm and sunny back home. In our new home, my sister and I could hardly wait to run down to the beach. We froze. It was May. There was no golden sun in our California at all.

But now that I’ve lived through many such Mays, I’ve realized that there is a purple lining in our silver skies as our coastal spring unfolds, a royal glow as purple blooms everywhere. Jacaranda trees arching over the sidewalks. Agapanthus, lantana, princess flowers poking out from gardens. Morning glories climbing fences. Sea lavender standing guard over the ocean. Sage, daisies and mountain lilacs cloaking the hillsides.Jacaranda and agapanthus

The Jacaranda tree is May/June’s crowning glory and San Diego’s official urban tree. It’s a sub-tropical tree native to South America and was imported to San Diego and Los Angeles in the early 1900s by Kate Sessions, a California horticulturalist and landscape architect, also known as the mother of Balboa Park. The jacaranda also blooms in the fall, but not with the same periwinkle blue-purple brilliance that it does in the spring. The branches bend and bow over our sidewalks, dropping little trumpet-shaped blossoms. I’ll take walking on this magical purple carpet any day over a red carpet. And just as the purple jacaranda canopy fades, it’s July and the blue of the sky takes over.

Another purple flower that blooms here in May and June is the agapanthus. They seem to appear suddenly out of nowhere, big, round, purple balls poking scepter-like toward us from front lawns. (There are white agapanthus too, but they are outnumbered by the purple ones.) The agapanthus are originally from South Africa and are also known as lily of the Nile. They grow around the world, even in gray England, where they are called the African lily and mentioned in a Harry Potter book. It’s possible to see a royal connection, resembling as they do staffs of pharaohs and monarchs. They point the way to victory – the clearing of our skies.Morning glory

In Southern California, and especially San Diego, we have one of the best climates in the world. It’s usually never too hot or too cold, so you’d think we wouldn’t complain about the weather. But of course we do, especially by the ocean during spring when we crave some tantalizing, tangible evidence that summer is around the corner. When will this gloom and doom lift? Until it does, it helps to know that the hazy gray sky has a touch of royalty, in the richest sense of the word.