Rest

For me, summer has always meant a plunge into sweet busyness. A steady, happy clamor accompanies every hour — kids yelling, the zip of the cooler as we pack yet another picnic, feet shuffling in sand, the splash of water at the end of the day as we rinse swimsuits and rack up another load of dishes after dinner.  

But this past weekend, we enjoyed a rare spate of days without guests. We hiked, worked in the yard, and watched the whole miniseries of “Emma.” And one blissful afternoon, I stole away to the hammock where I finished reading a book and then drifted off to sleep. The leaves of the cherry tree stirred in a slight breeze, the dog curled up on my legs, and the neighbors turned off their power tools. Just like that, I floated away from the everyday things — both the blessed and vexing — that nip at my heels. I entered a deep, profound rest. When I awoke an hour later, I felt refreshed down to my bones.

Lately I’ve been talking with others about taking a Sabbath — that is, setting aside a day, or at least a period of time, when I put down all work, open my hands in gratitude, and rest.

It sounds easy, right?  But it’s not.

Disciplining myself to take a day of rest — for me, time without screens or writing or busyness — makes me take a hard look at my own identity. Do I define myself by what I do? Or do I define myself by who I am — that is, a beloved, worthy human, divinely and beautifully fashioned, wholly complete? This is basic stuff, right? But it’s ongoing work, and for many of us, real, fulfilling rest is hard-won.

Taking real rest — being alone with our thoughts and in the space of quiet — opens doors to our hidden wounds and longings. It takes courage to carve out these spaces in our lives, for what the clamor of daily work and necessity obscures comes out of the shadows. While this can be a painful space, it is also the space our souls deeply yearn for. In this quiet we encounter not only what troubles us, but what feeds us deeply. These ritual pauses in our lives open a door to a sacred place where we can find healing and rest.  In the poem, “Sabbath,” Wendell Berry writes:

The mind that comes to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend.

We must seek this pearl of great price — the rest which our souls beg for. As Wendell Berry illustrates, we must physically remove ourselves from our work and move to a fundamentally different space. In This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems, Berry associates the tilled, orderly farm fields with work, while the woods symbolize rest:

To rest, go to the woods

Where what is made is made

Without your thought or work.

Sit down; begin the wait

For small trees to grow big,

Feeding on earth and light.

Their good result is song

The winds must bring, that trees

Must wait to sing, and sing

Longer than you can wait.

This summer, I hope you will be able to carve out time for real rest. Go to the woods, where what is made is made. Hush your thoughts. Listen to the world, to the voice that calls you by name. Receive your gifts. It is perhaps the kindest thing you will do for yourself all summer.

Here’s to cultivating wonder,

Kim

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