I spent a good part of the last few days scrubbing cabinets, amazed at how much sticky muck lines the tops and sides when you don’t think to clean them more than every decade. Then I started in on reorganizing the fallen piles of pots and pans, the giant bowl of never-used cookie cutters, and the menagerie of parts for food processors long gone.
“You’re doing your fall cleaning,” my husband observed, and yes, I was, and with a vengeance. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah intersect this year, and suddenly, I’m enchanted with the notion of “Thanksgivukkah.” Mostly, though, I’m drawn to transforming the parts of my home that I rarely see.
After the cleaning, the sorting. I sat in Sukhasana on the floor for an hour, going through various piles of things stuffed into seldom-used cabinets. I sorted the almost-melted-to-nothing birthday candles from the never-used trick ones (the kind you can’t blow out, at least not easier), the glass and plastic containers with and without lids, the mason jars and their accompanying basket of rusted or new lids, the pie pans from the bowls. I found Christmas cards from 1995, half-chewed-off plastic deer and other creatures the kids used to play with, and multicolor plastic trays, perfect for the picnic we never took them on.
After the sorting, the errands, and then back home to the over and stove where, over the course of two hours, I turned a sack of sweet potatoes, two bags of cranberries, half a dozen apples, a container of sour cream, some horseradish, and some flour and butter into various dishes for the holiday ahead. Carefully wrapping the sweet potato pies in foil and nudging over the turkey to make room for them, and cooling the jars of freshly made cranberry-applesauce, I felt oddly and completely fulfilled.
There’s something about cleaning, sorting and cooking that makes me feel like I just finished a long Savasana after an energetic class. Whatever I was doing or thinking beforehand dissolves away. Instead, I’m relaxed in the light of giving this space to myself—to relax into just being with the things in my house, making sense of them without pressure, and then using them to create nourishment and delight for others.
Such light and such giving speaks to both holidays—the gratitude we can focus our Thanksgiving around, and the miracle of light that’s at the heart of Hanukkah. Mostly, though, it speaks to the space we can create in our lives—bodies or homes, no matter—through surrendering to what is around us all the time. The world is around to clean, sort and cook, and in the process, we can connect more deeply with where and who we are.