On pretty weekends in the summer, the riverbank is the very verge of the modern world…
On those weekends, the river is disquieted from morning to night by people resting from their work.
This resting involves traveling at great speed, first on the road and then on the river.
The people are in an emergency to relax.
They long for the peace and quiet of the great outdoors.
Their eyes are hungry for the scenes of nature.
They go very fast in their boats.
They stir the river like a spoon in a cup of coffee.
They play their radios loud enough to hear above the noise of their motors.
They look neither left nor right.
They don’t slow down for – or maybe even see – an old man in a rowboat raising his lines…
~Wendell Berry in Jayber Crow
It’s Labor Day, the last of our summer holiday weekends and people are desperate to relax from their labors. They drive long distances in heavy traffic to get away, wait in long lines for ferry or border passage, park their RVs/tents within 6 feet of another RV/tent, all to end up coping with other people’s noise and hubbub.
I too feel urgency to rest, the need to get away from every day troubles sticking to me like velcro. But any agenda-filled escape would be too loud, too fast, too contrived instead of a time of winding down, slowing, quieting, observing and wondering.
Life is not an emergency so I must stop reacting as if someone just pulled an alarm. I seek the peace and quiet of simply being, settling myself into rhythms of daylight and nightfall, awake and asleep, hungry and filled, thirsty and sated.
I breathe deeply, and remember in my bones:
we all need Sabbath, even if today happens to be a Monday.
The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.
The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.
A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily
moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.
Each minute the last minute.
To think that this meaningless thing was ever a rose,
Scentless, colourless, this!
Will it ever be thus (who knows?)
Thus with our bliss,
If we wait till the close?
Though we care not to wait for the end, there comes the end
Sooner, later, at last,
Which nothing can mar, nothing mend:
An end locked fast,
Bent we cannot re-bend.
~Christina Rossetti “Summer is Ended”
As now school buses drone past the farm,
no longer bearing our children away to greater knowledge,
as they each have caught rides far beyond my reach.
I recall each first day of school feels like a day of mourning
each “last” of summer a loss, each ending so bent
I find no strength to bend it back carefree,
and I must learn, once more, with each “last”,
how fleeting the bliss of this life.