This summer has been delightfully slow, deliberate and full of things and people I love.
I finally finished a little book I picked up entitled Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The book was published in 1955 after the author spent a short vacation in a small beach house on a Florida island by herself. The book has a lot to say about slowing down and incorporating simplicity into our everyday lives. There are many jewels in this book, but in her last chapter I found real inspiration.
A rather lengthy quote from her last chapter:
"My life back in Connecticut, I begin to realize, lacks the quality of significance and therefore of beauty, because there is so little empty space. The space is scribbled on, the time has been filled. There are so few empty pages in my engagement pad, or empty hours in the day, or empty rooms in my life in which to stand alone and find myself. Too many activities, and people, and things. Too many worthy activities, valuable things and interesting people. For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well. We can have a surfeit of treasures.... Here on this island I have had space. Paradoxically, in this limited area, space has been forced upon me. The geographical boundaries, the physical limitations, the restrictions on communication, have enforced a natural selectivity. There are not too many activities or things or people, and each one, I find, is significant, set apart in the frame of sufficient time and space. Here there is time, time to be quiet, time to work without pressure, time to think, time to watch the heron. Time to look at the stars or to study a shell, time to see friends, to gossip, to laugh, to talk. Time, even, not to talk. At home, when I meet my friends in those cubby-holed hours, time is so precious we feel we must cram every available instant with conversation. We can not afford the luxury of silence."
"When I go back home, will I be submerged again?..... Not only by distractions but by too many opportunities? Not only by dull people but by too many interesting ones? The multiplicity of the world will crowd in on me again with its false sense of values. Values weighed in quantity, not quality; in speed, not stillness; in noise, not silence; in words, not in thoughts; in acquisitiveness, not beauty. How shall I resist the onslaught? How shall I remain whole against the strains and stresses? For the natural selectivity of island living I will have to substitute a conscious selectivity based on another sense of values.... signposts toward another way of living. Simplicity of living, as much as possible, to retain a true awareness of life. Balance of physical, intellectual and spiritual life. Work without pressure, and space for significance and beauty. Time for solitude and sharing. Closeness to nature to strengthen understanding and faith in the intermittency of life and human relationships.
I have had time this summer to re-evaluate where I am in my slowing down process. After retiring from work, I was plunged into a dizzying round of caring for my sick and aging parents. No time for deliberate living, for thinking or solitude. Sometimes life is like that and we cling to Jesus for a lamp unto our way. But since my parents passed away ten years ago things have been a bit muddled. I have read that women my age struggle with finding a new purpose in life, of being needed. (Probably men too if retired). It's so easy to become addicted to 'accomplishing things', and I have a tendency to do that each day and then measure the days worth by that yardstick. That yardstick is not found in scripture however, but it makes me feel more fulfilled somehow. There are certainly good and worthy things to fill our days with, different for each woman and personality and circumstance. But the key is the slowing down mentality, to release the stress and pressure and evaluate our days by God's measure not ours. I also think this concept varies greatly depending on where you live. The city is the worst, and living there increases the speed of life tremendously. We live in what I would call a mini-city, not in size but in mentality. Bend wishes it were a big city in many ways, and people are streaming here to live, so that might happen some day. The stresses here are much the same as in city living. I think the smaller and more rural the town is the slower the pace of life. Isn't that the true attraction of country living? Certainly not the back breaking work that accompanies living on a farm or ranch. In my own case, I have taken a break this summer from teaching piano, and have found a great freedom. That doesn't mean that I shouldn't resume my schedule this fall, (with the goal of helping more people learn the language of music), but the summertime space and time to think about these concepts, will give me more focused and hopefully God-honoring days, work without pressure, and time for simplicity and solitude as well. I won't get everything done, but that is a lesson I need to learn, just as much as the woman who needs to learn to get more done. Isn't it wonderful how God keeps on teaching us and leading us towards lives lived for His Glory and Honor?
*A point of clarification: There are concepts in this book that I don't agree with, so read with your discerning glasses on for the nuggets of wisdom.