This morning, I discover an unusual sight in my raspberry bushes: the bumblebees appear to be sleeping. They attach their fuzzy legs to the berries and just relax.
I can’t believe it! Normally, I won’t even get near the berries because of the frenzy of bumblebee activity. They never stop moving as they dart in and out of the flowers.
But it actually looks like this bee rests her little head upon the flower. I call my entomologist friend, and she confirms that bees do rest. They also take a break if they need to warm up their wings against the chill of the morning dew.
I come inside, sip my coffee and think about doing nothing at all for the morning. I remember that even the bumblebees rest. I relax and tell the family I’m warming up my wings for the day.
Journal: How will you rest today?
I’m watching a mother bring out her “fun box” for her children during a long meeting.
The “fun box” contains modeling clay, puzzles, interesting snacks, drawing supplies, costumes, or any variety of objects to delight children when they have to be where they don’t want to be (hospital waiting rooms, rainy days, situations requiring stillness and silence for long periods, bed confinement because of illness).
I thought about the “fun box” all evening because someone asked me what I like to do for relaxation and refreshment during difficult or stressful times. What would be in my fun box? I thought of a few things: novels, bubble bath, candles and journals, my camera and walking shoes, or a new magazine.
I want to have my fun box ready for the autumn season when the weather turns cold. I want to have relaxation ready for when stressful events come. Living with flair means the fun box isn’t only for children.
Journal: What else can folks do for pleasure and refreshment?
I’m officially overloaded with work obligations and writing tasks. As I sit at my computer, I become annoyed by my cat, Louie Von Whiskers, who knows the exact moment when I start to type on my keyboard.
This crazy cat believes that my computer work signals his need to nap across the keyboard. I push him down onto the carpet, and he jumps right back on top of the computer–audacious, insistent, and. . . adorable.
“OK, you kitty,” I say. I take him in my arms, and he immediately curls up into a soft ball. Purring loudly, he stays put, and when I try to lean over to type, he actually puts a paw on my arm to restrain me. So I’m stuck here, holding this ball of fur.
I do have one hand free. Can I type with this one hand? Not really. But I can reach for my hot cup of tea that I’d forgotten I’d made.
Here I sit, cup of tea in one hand, purring cat on my lap. I think God gave me this cat to make me take a minute–a non-productive minute–to do nothing at all.
I find myself so refreshed that I have to wonder what other non-productive minutes I might take today. More tea? More snuggling with animals? What if I listened to a new song or gazed out the back window?
It can’t all be work in 2011. Imagine a cat sleeps on your lap and you can’t move at all. You have no choice but to lean back, drink your tea, and enjoy yourself for a minute.
I ask my students what they would do if I gave them 30 minutes of free time. What if I let class out early? How would they spend their time if I gave them recess?
With unexpected minutes given them, they’d drink more coffee. They’d study more for the exam at 10:00 AM. They’d prepare more for a presentation.
A recess refers to a period of time when a person or group is temporarily dismissed from duties. In schools, teachers mandate recess. Children go outside to play, and they do not feel guilty about missing work or losing precious minutes of productivity.
Other cultures regularly foster guilt-free recess moments in the form of a siesta or tea time.
I’m thinking of instituting siesta, high tea, or recess as part of my day because in the absence of a mandated time, I fear American culture resists free time.
Stop everything. Go outside. Relax and just enjoy something. For 30 minutes–without my phone or computer–I have to go play. I might rest on my bed. I might sip a cup of tea. I could even kick a ball around in my driveway.
Once I asked a woman to share with me her top 5 ways to relax and rejuvenate. She couldn’t think of one.
Recently, my children forged a trail through a forest so vibrant with autumn colors it seemed the heavens spilled paint down. I walked with my husband and a neighbor as the sun set through the pine trees with that unmistakable golden light.
The world moved on around us–the hustle and bustle–but out here in the woods, we had recess. Maybe tomorrow we’ll have afternoon tea. Maybe Sunday we’ll take a Sabbath siesta in a homemade fort. Whatever form it takes, I’m ringing the bell to release us out to the playground.
30 minutes of free time built into our day–like a class we have to attend–sounds like rejuvenation: restoring vitality, making us fresh again.
For all my talk of releasing children into nature, with nothing but pure imagination and the grass beneath their feet, I’m not one to take any time–as an adult–away from technology to just relax outside with no plan, no agenda. Is nature only good for the young? What would happen if I joined them?
How would I do it? Would I be barefoot? Would I look for frogs or collect random sticks?
Leaving the cell phone and the netbook behind, I placed myself under a tree in my front yard. The children played by instinct with the sort of freedom and abandon of fish finally released into water after nearly suffocating on land.
But for me, this environment of dirt, grass, pebble, and twig threatened to destroy my pedicure more than relax me.
But I stayed on, noticing the shade and breeze against my body. I settled into the earth, introducing myself by removing my shoes. I curled my toes around the grass and took a deep breath. A moment later, a single white garden spider crawled over my big toe, and two ants found my left arm: my welcoming committee.
I’d been incorporated.
I was in.
At one point, I opened a book and leaned back to read in the grass. Afternoon shadows grew long, and the wind was cool. The girls laughed and chased an enormous toad.
Their voices faded into the background of songbirds, the rustle of leaves above my head, and the hush of my own slow breath. What peace was this in my heart? What soothing balm?
Tomorrow, I’m telling my children to send their mom outside. She can’t come in until dinner.