There is something enormously satisfying yet terribly sad about this year’s spring cleaning.
I’ve just put out my third load of washing; tidied my underwear drawer; dusted the book shelves; wiped down the wooden floor boards with eucalyptus oil and water; and scrubbed the bathroom with Borax and vinegar.
Why? Because it is spring! And it is warm! And there is such a sense of satisfaction in polishing the old and making it new. A pleasure in auditing life, which asserts itself now that the days grow longer. A joy in accounting for what is and what is not; righting past wrongs, planning the future. And spring cleaning is a great excuse to do an enormous amount of laundry, so that over and over you find yourself stepping outside and lifting your face to the sun.
I have just walked down to the hills hoists in our yard. Yes we have two, but that doesn’t alleviate the anxiety that there may be no room on the line. There are twelve apartments in our block after all, and it is such a stunning spring day. A perfect drying day; the kind of day where the heat seeps into your bones. But when I got there the lines were empty. Do people really prefer to put their clothes in a dryer on a day like this? But it is a week day, probably everyone is at work. Do people really prefer to be at work on a day like this?
So I happily filled the lines, watched only by the black cat with green eyes that squeezes itself on the window ledge, between curtain and glass, in the ground floor apartment. Its lovely little head rotates with the lines as they move; its eyes follow closely the antics of this great mechanical bird in the yard.
There is such a sense of satisfaction and achievement in performing the rituals of spring cleaning but this year there is also a great sense of sadness. This spring there is another ritual to perform. We are having an election.
The sadness blights the excitement I usually feel at election time. I suppose the excitement is really a manic gratitude that we are blessed with something we can so take for granted. A system where choosing our representatives is just a three yearly ritual, not a life threatening act. One that some people even think is a bore. But even they would admit that it’s not as boring as taking an unpaid day off work to line up for hours on a cold Tuesday in November; or defying threats in order to walk hundreds of kilometers, risking violence and bullets, to participate in this right; this responsibility.
For Australians, Election Day is always a Saturday. Usually with sunshine. Never with bullets. Our greatest danger are the sausage sizzle and the cake stall, which as good citizens we will of course support. After all it is a fundraiser for the school that the polling booth so often finds itself in. I love the rituals that have been created around our Saturday polling day. It has become one of our festival days. As you walk in through the school gates you are accosted by the party supporters enticing you with their How-to-Vote cards. Then as you wait in line you smell the barbecue and watch harried parents delivering tray after tray of baked goods, trying not to trample on small children with their dogs and balloons. And finally you get to recite your name and address and confirm that you have not already participated in this ritual today; and then you make your mark secretly and in pencil, on a ballot paper paper or two.
But this Election Day I am sad.
I am sad because I think we are about to combine this festival with another much loved activity – spring cleaning.
I am sad that the urge for tidiness and simplicity, the satisfaction of throwing out something that has disappointed, that hasn’t been perfect, or is no longer fashionable, will win out at this election. I’m hoping that’s not the case but I suspect that that hope will disappear as I indulge in another favourite Election Day ritual, watching the results come in live from the tally room on Saturday night, over a (very) good bottle of red.