Five days till Spring is officially here. Spring cleaning coincides with my return to Nevada from wintering in Texas, and it’s time to clean up and get things in order for the drive back in April, right after my show opening of THESE FOOLISH THINGS.
There is much to admire in the writings of Henry David Thoureau’ , WALDEN. Of late I have been carrying around a tiny volume of the book and diving in and out of it. I found this entry on a ritual called a BUSK a perfect Spring story of a custom from days past.
” The customs of some savage nations might, perchance, be profitably imitated by us, for they at least go through the semblance of casting their slough annually; they have the idea of the thing, whether they have the reality or not. Would it not be well if we were to celebrate such a ‘busk’, or feast of first fruits’, as Bartram describes to have been the custom of the Mucclasse Indians?”
When a town celebrates the busk (says he) , having previously provided themselves with new clothes, new pots, pans and other household utensils and furniture, they collect all their worn-out clothes and other despicable things, sweep and cleanse their houses, squares and the whole town of their filth, which with all the remaining grain and other old provisions they cast together into one common heap, and consume it with fire. After having taken medicine, and fasted for three days, all the fire in the town is extinguished. During this fast they abstain from gratification of every appetite and passion whatever. A general amnesty is proclaimed; all malefactors may return to their town. On the fourth morning, the high priest, by rubbing dry wood together, produces new fire in the public square, from whence every habitation in the town is supplied with the new and pure flame.They then feast on the new corn and fruits, and dance and sing for three days,’and the four following days they receive visits and rejoice with their friends from neighboring towns who have in like manner purified and prepared themselves’.
This made me wonder if this custom was a throw back to our modern day ‘spring cleaning’ ritual – without the fire! I never have to look too far when I look to others who sought knowledge and direction on how to navigate modern life . Few will argue that our lives have for the most part, become unmanageable in many ways. A good cleaning and purging helps, and as usual when one season is over…
TO END IS TO BEGIN, so let’s busk!
(featured image from Catherine Massaro – Meditations on the Hill Country series)