I’m so pleased to offer a guest post by former newspaper journalist, now freelance writer, Judy Roberts, who brings her skillful knowledge of nature (floral and birding) together. On this holiday weekend when the country “rests” as a nation, take a few moments to quietly ponder Judy’s insightful thoughts on winding down from a hectic summer season by paying attention to the value of purposefully balancing rest and labor. Judy’s words make me want to grab a steaming hot cup of coffee and go sit outside and be still (and I think I will).
The earth is resting. It is early September and the late-summer sounds each morning are notably different from those in June or July when a multitude of bird songs reaches my ears on my daily walk. Now, I hear only subdued singing from the crickets and other insects of the field, a few bird chirps, and maybe a light whoosh of leaves from a scampering bunny. The frenzied activity and bursts of garden growth from July are long past and everything is catching its breath, except for the butterflies and hummingbirds that quietly flit about in their quest for nectar. Earlier in the season, the air was full of blackbird and wren chatter each morning and the garden seemed to explode with color as each day brought clusters of changes. Our avian friends were occupied building nests, then sitting on eggs, and finally feeding their young. A pair of Eastern Phoebes who spruced up last year’s nest and raised not one, but two broods in it, entertained us many an evening as they flew sorties between the garden and their nest, swooping down to catch insects and flying them back to the waiting mouths of their chicks. Busy, busy, busy. After the young had vacated the nest, I spied one of the pair bathing (the males and females are indistinguishable) and thought, “Ah, finally a nice bath without babies to tend!”
As late summer gives the earth and its occupants a breather, I’m trying to drink in this wondrous pause each day and learn from it. I know there is wisdom in stopping for a respite after a period of intensive work or play, or a major life event. It’s a message the Creator built into creation, yet I often ignore it to my detriment. Even when things seem not to be working very well, instead of heeding and pausing, I tend to follow our culture’s favorite mantra: “Keep going.”
Truth be told, like most people, I prefer being occupied and busy and sometimes, I just can’t bear to stop. Even if I feel the least bit tired, I reason that more activity will refresh me.
But this near stillness of late summer is beckoning. So I’m trying again to listen. Summer is ending, to be sure, concluding a period of intensive activity, whether it’s been working in the garden, going to the beach or pool, taking a vacation, having friends and family over for cook-outs or hosting traveling house guests. It’s time to pause, even if it feels uncomfortable, and submit to inactivity, resisting that impulse to do something, anything.
These mornings, I’m paying heed to the quiet and entering into it, letting the more subdued sights and sounds around me sink in, knowing that by doing so, I’m partaking of the rest that I, too, require.
A friend who recently retired from a demanding job did something like this on the first day she started to miss the busyness of her previous position. She likened the feeling to the beginning of a silent retreat, when her inner gears resist the onset of inactivity. Eventually, though, she grows to love this new pace so much that she almost hates to leave. Recalling this caused her to suspend her discomfort and to pray about her new life, asking God for discernment concerning the possibilities before her. She prayed that she would not accept any new activity simply out of a desire to be busy.
When God through his creation is reminding us to rest, it’s natural to resist. After all, we receive rewards for our activity – accolades from others, a sense of importance, and the satisfying rush of adrenalin. This is good. We were made for action. But our actions grow meaningless if they are not accompanied by periodic times of stillness. The same Creator whose hand is in the explosion of life we’ve just witnessed, summons us to steal away with him and rest as another season of growth winds down.