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
I sometimes feel a desperate urgency to relax, the need to get away from every day troubles sticking to me like velcro. But my 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 nature, settling myself into rhythms of daylight and nightfall, awake and asleep, hungry and filled, thirsty and sated.
So I breathe deeply, and remember in my bones:
a pause to rest is gift enough. It is up to me to make it so, and so then it goes.
“In summer, the song sings itself.” ―William Carlos Williams
A couple days spent at the Pacific Ocean in mid-summer is a rare concert experience: the song sung by the constancy of the tides, the hymn of waves rolling and tumbling over the sand, the cries of thousands of gulls and other marine birds as they flock and swoop en masse.
Today a different flock appeared on the beach–a small group of nuns in traditional habits on holiday, walking through the cold salt water in their lace-up black shoes, waves lapping up their skirts, soaking them to their mid-calves. Their smiles were huge; I could hear their hearts singing praises.
And so: summer sings with wet feet, happy faces, and flowing soaring wings of freedom.
“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien
It is not supposed to happen while taking vacation days from work. I’m supposed to be well-rested, eager to return to work and ready for the next challenge. Instead, some viral crud has collided with my immune system and won; I’ve spent the last 24 hours with chills, fever, muscle aches and no appetite. I was thinking my strange dreams and overwhelming laziness over the previous two days was just the real “me” coming out while on vacation, but now I know it was the real virus instead.
I try to go at 100 miles per hour in my professional and personal life to get everything done, rarely taking breaks as I feel I’ll never regain the momentum needed. I’m finding that approach to life can’t be sustained, either because my body can’t do it any longer, or more likely, my brain doesn’t easily stretch that thin any longer. I’m realizing there may a steady pace that is sustainable and I need to find it. Right now that pace is from bed to bathroom to computer and back to bed. I hope to aim for a little more adventure tomorrow.
When I am stretched too thin–when tears flow easy–it is time to slow down and taste the bread and not worry about buttering it.
It is time for the body to be restored by the Body.
“Flung is too harsh a word for the rush of the world. Blown is more like it, but blown by a generous, unending breath.” Annie Dillard
It isn’t possible. The five year old me who had a sudden terrifying revelation that I would some day cease to be has become the almost fifty eight year old me who is more terrified at the head long rush of life than of its end. The world hurtles through space and time at a pace that leaves me breathless. Throughout my fifty-plus years, I have felt flung all too frequently, bruised and weary from the hurry and hubbub.
Good thing there is someone else breathing each breath for me or I would have never made it another minute. I’d be down and gone in a heartbeat.
Now comes a few days of breathing space, taking a respite from routine. I’m lifted lighter, drifting where I’m blown, less weighted with the next thing to do and the next place to be.
Instead I just be and always will be. Be blown away unending. Blown by breath that loves, fills and nurtures, its generous promise hopeful and fulfilled.
The old me simply ceases to be. Blown away.
If only the five year old me could have known.
“Wherever I am, the world comes after me. It offers me its busyness. It does not believe that I do not want it. Now I understand why the old poets of China went so far and high into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.”
— Mary Oliver