It's Christmas Day but it doesn't feel much like it here in New Jersey USA. The temperature is in the upper 40s, there is a steady rain falling and this morning a blanket of fog wrapped the area in wisps of cotton. Very atmospheric. But not very Christmas-like.
I enjoy days like this -- they provide the perfect excuse for relaxation -- but something more seasonal would have been nice.
I spent Christmas Eve and part of today indulging a habit I picked up while living in Japan: end-of-year cleaning.
In Japan, there are essentially two kinds of cleaning. There's soji, which is garden variety housework (and schoolwork, too; schools in Japan don't have janitorial staffs. The cleaning is done at a set time every day by the kids and teachers).
And then there's o-soji, the "o" prefix meaning "big." O-soji is what you do at the end of the year in preparation for New Year's Day, and also when the seasons change.
I wasn't always conscientious about this year-end housecleaning in my small apartment in rural Japan. I was an o-soji slacker some of the time (and my batting average in plain old soji was none too high, either).
But at the karate dojo where I trained, I have fond memories of year-end cleaning, which was a communal event full of symbolism: Out with the old, in with the new. I remember helping to scrub the wooden floor till it gleamed, and cleaning dust and dirt from places I never knew it could gather.
And so, this habit has carried over, and with greater consistency, in my post-Japan life. I want everything to be spic and span for the new year, everything in its place -- even if this dedication to neatness and efficiency may last only a week or two. Hopefully, regular soji will kick in at intervals more frequent than in 2005.
I also want to do spiritual o-soji, going through the heap of ideas and notions I accumulated this year and neatly filing those that worked in the proper mental cupboards and consigning the rest to the dust heap.
It seems like just yesterday when I was making such preparations for 2005.
Time moves too quickly these days.
I once heard a very clever saying that sums things up: Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.