Katy Burns: Out, damned spot! . . . er, unruly spirit
On Tuesday a friend mourned. The lovely half-barrel of colorful annuals outside her door would soon be a koi pond, at least if she had koi.
And I looked out the window into the garden, where normally decorous, downright humble hosta plants grow larger by the day, their huge leaves smothering their neighbors. It’s clearly only a matter of time before we venture outside and the hulking green monsters murmur, “Feed me, feed me.”
The rain, oh, the rain! It’s been great for thirsty gardens and the water table. But for those of us without webbed feet, languishing inside, it’s a bit of a bummer.
I would tackle the house, that’s what I’d do. I’d make the interior shine.
And then a friend emailed from her sick bed. She’d been confined there, she said, with a broken leg. And – without going into gruesome details – the sorry tale involved a stairway and a vacuum cleaner gone rogue.
My mother was right. Cleaning is seriously overrated, and at times downright dangerous.
Clearing, on the other hand, is a very good idea. Clearing space, that is. Clearing it of – well, I’m not sure exactly what, but definitely bad stuff lurking all around. Vibes. Energy. Currents. Not all of them benign. Who knew?
We know now, though, thanks to the great New York Times, which is determined – even in these days of straitened newspaper fortunes – to be the Paper of Record. And that means letting us, strivers that we are, know of the next great trend.
This “clearing space” thing is apparently a component – or outgrowth – of feng shui. Surely you remember feng shui, all the rage maybe 15 years ago? It is, of course, from the mysterious East, and it involves light, water, wood and other physical elements of our surroundings and homes that are so important in making them peaceful and happy places.
At the height of the feng shui boom, battalions of imaginative, enterprising folks styled themselves experts on its finer points, peddling their services – for real cash money – to builders, homeowners, real estate brokers and others seeking to make particular properties more desirable or more livable or maybe just to stay au courant.
I never did quite understand feng shui, which it is said doesn’t work well in places with nooks and crannies, which pretty much eliminates a heck of a lot of typical New England homes, including ours.
It also encourages the clearing of clutter, which made feng shui a real non-starter for us. Our house is a masterpiece of clutter, although we’d rather think of it as cunningly and closely arranged cool stuff. Not that anyone really says “cool” anymore.
Where was I? Oh, yes, clearing space. Even if you don’t clear the actual clutter, you can clear the ethereal space. From what I can gather from the wealth of information available
on the wonderful worldwide web, a lot of our problems are caused by the unhealthy and/or cranky energy, or, uh, spirits
that surround us, lurking in the odd corners like persistent dust bunnies. Something like that.
A spirited cleaning of said spirits is essential. You might say that the auras of our surroundings are a bit dingy and need tarting up. And as with the original feng shui itself there are (surprise!) a growing number of practitioners of space clearing who will happily sell you their services. Especially in our large cities, full of sophisticates eager to be relieved of their money.
Intrepid Times reporter Penelope Green, buoyed no doubt by a huge expense account (hint to Monitor Editor Felice Belman), explored the brave new world of space clearing. New York City is crawling with practitioners happy to clear the air, so to speak, not only for artists, musicians, actors and such usual suspects but for doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers and the like.
They – the soothsayers – ply their trade with a variety of “tools,” from spray bottles for spritzing the air with scented water to bells, because bells are . . . well, bells and so ever-popular.
Green’s first hiree, a one-time corporate lawyer, arrived swathed in a pale pink pashmina wrap, looking “like a New Age fairy, as played by Anne Hathaway,” Green said.
The cleaner danced through the house armed only with a pink spray bottle filled with tap water and her own prayers, and she “sucked all the bad vibes” from the apartment and “opened a healing vortex” over the bed.
Green’s second on-site clearer was a former actor and music industry veteran – “charming, dapper and slightly profane” – who mostly wandered through the apartment swinging a censer filled with smoldering jasmine and sage like a medieval priest. As I said, Green likely had an expense account.
Some clearers of spiritual miasma specialize, according to Green.
A few concentrate on post-divorce homes, chock full of negative energy.
An English clearer, she tells us, specializes – remotely, of course – in clearing pet space, presumably ridding our little furry companions of all their bad energy. (You hear that, Jake and Sam? We’re getting a little tired of your middle-of-the-night foot races through the house.)
Not all of us, of course, live in a large city with ready access to professional space clearers. So to help us purify/cleanse/clear our auras/spirits/energies, the ever-helpful Times listed talismans we could find in the market to improve and protect our own spiritual environments.
Leading the list, of course, were bells of vast variety or, alternatively, Chinese musical wind chimes. Other time-honored “demon-repelling goods” are horseshoes (preferably iron or bronze), bamboo flutes (hung on a wall, not necessarily played), traditional Jewish mezuzahs (designer versions available for big bucks) and – my own nominee – St. Brigid’s crosses, famed for protecting houses against storms, fire and evil.
Finally, the Times recommends rosemary, even if just rosemary-scented candles. It is, we are told, “the workhorse of herbs, a mind-clearing, romance-promoting, bad-energy-deflecting shrub that can substitute for frankincense in a pinch and even be used to summon elves.” Summon elves! What more can we want?
So now we know.
As we wait for the return of sunshine, we can fortify our energy with candles, bells and horseshoes. And just remember, clearing has it all over actual cleaning. After all, who knows what a malicious mop or a demonic dust cloth might have in mind?
(Monitor columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)