” A messenger you can trust is just as refreshing as cool water in summer.”
There are many rhythms of summer. Here in the Midwest we can tend to fill our summer days with more activities than people may in other parts of the country. We know what is to come and so we can act like a desperate people. Desperate to wring out of each sunny, splendid day all the life it can hold. This is not a judgment. It is simply a fact. The act of soaking up good weather, of taking in all the color and greenness, the experience of a festival here and there, can take its toll. But mostly it is a joyous nod to the fullness that life can dish up.
Last week we were on vacation at a friend’s cabin in Canada. It held the rhythm of a by-gone time. Without electricity, the lights were powered by the Sun. A system created by black tubing and other contraptions I don’t know the names for provided our water. There was no indoor plumbing but, again, the compostable toilets did the work they needed to do. No television. No internet. No cell phone service. By the end of the week when the landline phone rang from its ancient looking black cradle, it jarred the senses. What was this interruption?
At first this daily rhythm, stripped of the urgency that usually fills my days, was unsettling. Like an animal trying to find a good place to rest or hide or die, I wandered from place to place, picking up one thing and then another. But before I knew it I had allowed the pure, gentle rolling of waves on the lake and the wind in the trees to relax the muscles in my body, calm my mind, settle my spirit. Making my way to the hammock that hung between two trees, I settled in to the act of doing nothing. The only need to get up from that place was the occasional requirement of preparing meals or replacing my reading material, or reapplying sunscreen.
A few weeks ago I read a line in a book by Barbara Brown Taylor. In it she talked about the months after she left her work as a minister in a small, Georgia church. In those months she recognized that she had been ‘addicted to adrenaline’. This was something I had never thought of before. The rush we get from filling our calendars to the brim can create an illusion that our work is more important, more vital, than is really true. It is a good thing to ponder in these days when we can alter the normal rhythms that guide us and perhaps add some needed perspective to our lives.
Last week I allowed any addiction to adrenaline I had to fall away….cold turkey style. Instead I spent whole hours watching an enormous bald eagle watch me from across the bay. We kept watch over one another and every now and then one of us would take wing. I watched the play of light on the water from the misty morning rising of the sun to the brilliant golds, pinks and blues of the sunset. When it was necessary I spoke words with friends. I savored the simple, slow meals this kind of life allows. The experience seemed to shed a light of truth on everything.
Coming back into the city and into my ‘regular’ life, I was aware of how everything had continued on without my input. The flowers in our garden had grown and blossomed without any help from me. They stand now in their summer splendor. So, too, the vegetables we are watching over in a neighbor’s garden while they are on vacation. The cucumbers and tomatoes, the dill and basil have flourished and are bursting out of their beds. It would be easy to slip into the adrenaline rush of thinking I have to do something to help them along, spur on their natural growth. But that would be wrong and would undo the lessons I learned from the hammock.
Summer may be the time to fill our days with the unusual and full rhythm of summer fun. But it is also the time to let go of the daily grind, to relish the sweetness of doing nothing, ‘dolce far neinte’ as the Italians say. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
May your day hold enough adrenaline to get accomplished what truly needs doing and may it also hold a bit of the sweetness of summer….the art of doing nothing.