It’s that time of year again…spring looms on the horizon, and it’s inspiring me to clean out closets, drawers, and sort those random stacks of papers that seem to accumulate somehow during the droll months of winter.
I love ‘spring cleaning’. It’s so refreshing to purge through one’s things, to discard what is no longer needed. Not only do I love the Feng Shui feeling of open spaces in my closet and no stacks of paper on the floor, but I like the fact that I am clearing room for new things to come into my life. Let’s face it, we all like new stuff. But my home is small, and the rule is, if something comes in, something else must go out. It’s an easy rule to follow, once you get into the habit.
So I’m going through my closet with gusto, thinking of all the space I am clearing out for the new spring fashions, when I see the dress. Technically, it’s new, because I haven’t worn it yet. It’s a long black tank style dress with a gold lacey overlay. Tassels hang from the bottom hem, and the matching gold lace shawl is draped over the hanger. And there are strappy shiny new black high heels with gold buckles somewhere in this closet as well. Still in the box, tag still attached. The dress, you see, is a dancing dress. The shoes are made for dancing. I find them in their box, and sit down on the floor, removing the lid slowly. They are so shiny I can see my own reflection in their black patent leather sides.
Do I go out dancing? No, not really. Not in a very long time, at least. I bought this outfit for a very special occasion I thought would occur in April. A night out with someone I was so looking forward to seeing again. This outfit, with the dress, shoes and shawl, were not a cheap ensemble. But some things are worth the extra bit of elegance. However, that special occasion isn’t going to happen now. I’ve found that even the best laid plans can be like sandcastles on the seashore. No matter how grand your construction, the tide can come in an instant and wash it all away the minute your back is turned. There is one simple fact of life concerning any plan that involves more than one person to complete: people can change. The minute you turn your back, the sincerest of words can be washed away, like drawings on the seashore at high tide. A little water on your toes, a rush, a wave, and then…nothing.
The gold of the dress reminds me of sand, and the sea, and what lies beyond it. I stand for a moment, my ‘give away’ clothes bag at my feet, wondering what I should do with the dress and shoes. I’d forgotten they were here, and yet, on some deeper level, I remembered. A woman doesn’t forget buying a dancing dress. She doesn’t forget the way gold lace shimmers, or the way the shoes felt she tried them on. She doesn't forget the smile of the man she planned to go dancing with, or how his voice sounded to her ears. We don't forget these things, no...we just try to put it out of our minds. And then, we see the dress...
I could go out dancing anyway. I could easily get a group of friends to go. It might be fun. But truth is, I can hardly bear the thought of that. It’s nowhere near the original plan that I had when I bought the dress, and as fun as it might be, it would only be substitute. And I don’t believe in substituting one plan, one dream, or one life for another. So I carefully put the top back on the shoes and take the dress down from its hanger. I fold it slowly, and place the shawl on top. I’m a bag re-user, so it’s just a short trip to the hall closet to find the bag from the store the dress was purchased at. I’m also a receipt saver. Even though it’s been a couple of months, the store graciously accepts the return. I walk out of the shop, a hefty sum of cash in hand, a mixed feeling in my soul. I could do a lot with this money. The dress and shoes were, after all, top-of-the-line. But taking them back was acknowledging that the evening I’d so looked forward to is not going to happen. I’m not sure I was ready, really, to accept that loss of hope. Hope is the life-raft we cling to when feeling adrift in the sea of someone else’s choices. But that type of hope only keeps us afloat for so long. At some point, we have to come ashore…or drown.
I take the money and go to a salon. I have my hair cut and colored. A radical change from the dark tresses I was born with to a soft, honey tone, a light golden brown, like the gold lace of the dress that is no longer mine; the gold buckle on a shoe I’ll never wear; the gold of sand along the seashore; the golden thread that still binds my heart to a dream I don't want to let go of. Like Penelope of ancient lore, I toil at the loom by day, weaving golden threads into a tapestry that will never be completed, waiting for someone who, for all practical purposes, is lost at sea. By night I dream of the three fates, of making them my allies, for they alone possess the secret tool to cut the golden thread that binds one world to another.
The beach is only a few hours drive from my home. The sun is a golden disc high in the sky, the sea still too cool, really, to lose one’s self within, but I have no self left to lose, so I stand with my toes in the sand, shoes in hand, looking out over the water. It seems endless, but it has an end, I know. I’ve been to the other side. I’ve stood on a foreign coast and looked back towards where I am now. I thought the coming of summer would take me back there again, just as I thought I’d wear the dress to go dancing on a warm night in April. But the tide washes away what is written in only in sand to begin with. Maybe Robert Frost was right when he said nothing gold can stay.
I set down my shoes and wade into the ocean slowly, my body instantly reacting to the water’s chill. But I’ve been in colder waters, so as soon as it reaches my knees, I dive forward, swimming out, letting it wash over me completely. If warm water is relaxing, then cold is purifying. I dive forward again, going deeper this time. I let the water wash over my hair. It falls into my face, strands of gold shining in the sun. I think of the dress, how it would have shimmered beneath the lights, how the shoes would have sounded on hardwood floors. I dive under again. For something new to come in, something old must go out. It is the only way.
There are many forms of spring cleaning.