Yesterday afternoon I didn’t do anything. And by “anything” I mean I didn’t do anything that I would typically count as “productive.” I wasn’t at work, and my two year old was napping. I didn’t cook dinner, I didn’t do the laundry, I didn’t work on any projects, I didn’t practice yoga, I didn’t plan the upcoming weekend. I didn’t do any of the things that I usually do when I have an hour or two of time on my hands. Instead I sat at the kitchen table with a glass of wine and looked out the window. The lake was glassy and starting to reflect the late afternoon sunset as dusk claimed ownership of the day’s light. The wind of earlier in the day was starting to settle, and the newly fallen leaves lay still, a carpet of yellow and orange and red on the ground. At one point a seagull called out and circled the lake, a spot of bright white against the muted, hazy tones of the landscape. Everything was quiet.
At first I felt that familiar sense of guilt for not using my time to address the next item on the never ending task list – in the fall, it’s even longer than usual with the seasonal tasks of gathering firewood, putting up the last of the garden produce, getting the garden ready for winter, raking leaves, winterizing motors, and all the other things that need to happen for a rural household to welcome the winter elements in Minnesota. And there are of course the tasks of daily life always waiting in the wings: Food to prepare, dishes to wash, floors to clean, errands to run. It is all too easy to fall prey to the energy of guilt, self condemnation and plain old worry.
“What if I’m not ready for what comes next?”
“What if I fail to do what my loved ones expect/need me to do?”
“What if we never finish the list?”
Well. These questions, much like the dreaded “list” could go on for pages. For all the questions that I could come up with, the answer – if I’m really being truthful with myself – is, “So what?” As I was sitting there, looking over the lake and taking in the stillness of the moments as they passed, I was somehow able to see over the what ifs into the present. I could see that my taking an hour to just sit still and be wasn’t going to lead to the demise of ……….. well, anything. Perhaps it will take one more day to get all the apples turned into sauce. Perhaps the leaves will pile up and mat down the grass for more days in a row than would be ideal. Perhaps while I sip my wine, a detail will slide by into oblivion, never to be attended to. Perhaps the world will go on.
I wouldn’t want to have day after day of sitting at the kitchen table drinking wine. Things will still need to get accomplished, and I will still be happier when the dishes are clean, I’ve practiced yoga and the laundry is folded instead of in a heap on the bed. But taking time to just sit and be with the quiet of an afternoon is necessary, too. Most of us need to feel like things are getting done to be content – but we also need to observe time for rest so we can work another day. After all, isn’t that what we are working for? To be in the world in a way that invites contentment and peace for all living things? Maybe we need to remember to observe what we are working toward in the first place.
How can you build a Sabbath into your week?
Sabbath observance invites us to stop. It invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help. It invites us to delight in the world’s beauty and abundance. ― Wendell Berry