To lie under a tree, listening to the murmur of the water, and watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. John Lubbock
Two days ago, I got myself in a twit. As I looked ahead to a week of busy-ness, and a trip out west to visit Pete, Shel, and Baby Viren on the other side of all that busy-ness, I panicked. How was I going to fit it all in? How was I going to feel good while fitting it all in? So, instead of moving forward on the projects at hand, I spent my Sunday morning creating lists, elegant lists written with my purple pen on fine cotton-bound paper. Each day of the week became a heading, and, underneath this heading, the columns of tasks and errands and people to call. I revised my week-long list, again and again and again, until it all fit on one side of the sheet, until it was neat and tidy, with enough white space to breathe – a neat and tidy “to do” list, a neat and tidy life, everything in order, everything getting done . . .
And then the day began to fill itself in. Things happened that weren’t in the Sunday column of the list. Cam arrived home from a morning of mountain-biking an hour earlier than I had expected, and, of course, I wanted to visit. And, I’d forgotten to allow time for eating, and, how could I resist all those market veggies and the pear-cherry tart, and who cares if I’m a little behind the agenda anyway?!? And when a grown-up son calls, there’s no question that it trumps the “to do” that’s waiting to be done. And how could I possibly concentrate on writing the blog-post that’s supposed to be next in my production line of a Sunday when the rain has stopped and the sun is bursting through those no-longer ominous clouds?!? And who can write a blog-post, anyway, when the pressure is on and the blog-post topic is intended to be about feeling free?!? So, in the late afternoon, in a diversion from a well planned-out day, off to the Lake I went.
It’s not like I immediately let go of my twit. While sitting on the rocks on Superior’s shore, I gave it the college try, to stick to the list, to pump out that blog-post, long-hand in my left-handed scrawl. Except, my scrawl was not a scrawl at all; it was tight and uptight, and my blog about fearless creativity was a wound-up mess. And that’s when I wadded up the paper; that’s when I decided that I would let go of trying to write an essay about feeling free and just go for the feeling itself. And, in that moment, I realized what I really wanted to do was reach into my basket of writing goodies and haul out the pile of cards that I’ve collected during my summer of travels. I love collecting cards! I love writing letters to people! I love sitting by the lake while I write these letters! And that’s what I did. I began to write letters, and my scrawl became a scrawl again, loose and free, and I could feel myself breathing a bit deeper and noticing that the wind was soft and the lake was gentle, and the waves, they were mere wisps touching the shore. And it was the third card that I pulled from my basket that really turned my mood around; it was the quote by John Lubbock beneath the print of a tree and a stream that brought me back to my center: “To lie under a tree, listening to the murmur of the water, and watching the clouds float by, is by no means a waste of time.” Halleluiah! Of course, I know this! It is not a waste of time to lie on the ground and watch the clouds float by; it is my savior.
Twenty-five years ago, I traveled to Nicaragua for three weeks with a peace group from Maine. The day before I left, I was in a frenzy, in a real twit, not peaceful at all. I had never left Cam and the boys for more than a long weekend, and I now I was heading to Central America for seventeen days. My to-do list was daunting and my nerves were raw and I certainly was not grounded and my thin façade of control was shattered when I backed down the driveway and ran over the white bike that my four year old had, unbeknownst to me, had parked behind my stationwagon. I remember that Chris was devastated. To a bike-loving four year old, it was an unforgivable act, even if his handy-with-things-like-that father could fix it like new. I also remember that I was devastated, too, that it stopped me in my tracks, that I immediately gave up on my to-do list. Completely. And I lay there on the front lawn of our Pansy Street home, and my two little boys, they joined me; for what seemed like a long time, we just lay there on that balmy summer evening and watched the clouds float by. I have no idea what was on that to-do list. I have no idea what got done and what didn’t. None of that mattered. What I do remember is how it felt to lie there on the grass with my boys close by. I remember it like it is happening in this present moment.
It is like that when we pause; at least it is for me. When I pause and breathe, I push the save button in my inner computer and I soak things in deeply. And, this past Sunday, I paused, while sitting at the Lake and I waved to the two people in the canoe that glided by and I wrote three letters and I crumpled up a neat and tidy to-list and I decided I had more important things to do with my time.