By Roger Barbee
This morning, the last one of November, was cold when I took the hound out for his morning ramble. The sun's rays had not yet cleared Short Mountain, but they gave the few clouds a warm, pink hue. However, that was the only warmth we had, so the trip was quickly finished when the necessary duties were accomplished.
Yes, I thought as we passed the new garden just planted in the fall, Earth is in her winter mode, at rest. Her seasonal nap was evidenced by the heavy frost on dead grass, the browned, bent stems of the mums, the limp hostas, and the frozen water in the small bird bowl.
The ancient Greeks explained this change in seasons by the myth of Persephone. She was kidnapped and made to wed Hades. Her mother Demeter was furious and demanded her daughter's return to Earth. But because Persephone had eaten seeds in the underworld, she could not live all of the time on Earth. Thus, when she came to Earth, her arrival was marked by new plant growth in the spring. When she returned to her husband, the Earth's plants turned brown and lifeless in winter. Not a scientific explanation of Earth's tilt on its axis, but a colorful one.
As the hound and I entered the house, I was thinking of how dull everything was. Settling in at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee and Mary Ann, I watched this last November morning unfold into one I had not anticipated.
Naps. I had not thought of naps in a long time, but as I watched the morning come in the dead cold of November, I saw our few acres as napping. I can still recall as a child fighting to keep from taking a nap. I recall wanting to stay awake for those few afternoon minutes because I did not want to miss anything that may happen. Now, as an adult, I take a nap at the first chance. And that is what our land is doing now, getting some rest. Yet it seems that in our modern world we have lost touch with naps and the beneficial rest they give us.
We seem so intent on doing in our modern lives. We seem to value each day by what we have done, not by how we have done. Thinking that way, we are always doing something, whether it adds value or not to our lives. We have become a culture of doers. Yes, being productive is good, but a time of rest is as important as a time of work.
This past week at school I spoke with another teacher about a student who was scheduled to be in two places and in two activities at once. The teacher asked if we could help the student do both. I explained that, in my mind, life was about choices and that the student could make a decision after discussing options with his parents. It was his choice, but I wanted nothing to do with helping him believe that he, or any one of us, could do all we wanted. We agreed to support his choice.
At school, I see students scurry to the cafeteria, get a tray and rush to a classroom to do some academic work while they munch on their food. I question the quality of the work being done, and the quality of time set aside for eating. It should be a time of rest, but it has, too often, become a time to get more done.
As I began my second cup of coffee, I considered these things. We are so busy with doing, it seems, that we do not see the thrill of life in front of us. We rush from one thing to the other in the belief that we are accomplishing some great achievement. But I wonder.
Maybe if we each took some time in each day to rest and reflect, we might get more done. I am re-reading the collected letters of John Keats, the poet, and marvel at the amount of letters he wrote to family and friends. And he did this with a quill and little paper. Yet, we have computers and all of their technology, but do we accomplish what Keats did? It seems that we are so busy doing that we do not do.
Take a nap. Just sit. Stop and be still. Listen to your inner self. Reflect. Perhaps you will, in the end, get more done and be better for it.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at email@example.com.