Driving down a tree-lined lane the other day, I was struck by the beauty of dappled shade on the road, the soft bright lemon patches, contrasting with the cool dark shadows dancing around on the dusty surface, constantly changing shape. And I experienced an indescribable feeling of lightness, uplifted-ness and joy that seems to be infused into the very atmosphere on a sunny summer’s day. Close alongside that happy feeling lay one of sadness however, that I was driving fast and “couldn’t” stop to fully be with that experience.
The fullness of summer only lasts for a few weeks. Why don’t I stop everything else and just revel in it, explore it, alone or with others? Then I read this passage from Thoreau’s Walden:
“I did not read books that first summer; I hoed beans. Nay, I often did better than this. There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love a broad margin to my life. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveler’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were for me far better than any work of my hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works.”
Yes, yes, yes I thought as I read and re-read these words. Of course, the voice of scepticism and “pragmatism” soon chips in with, yes well it was all very well for him, but we can’t all just sit around doing nothing like that for hours on end. Which is sadly true – though we might be able to escape or let go of our daily duties a little more often than we allow ourselves to believe.
Taking a walk at sunrise or sunset or any old time. Even in the city that magical element is in the air. Stopping to meditate for a few moments or to just simply be in the middle of the vegetable plot instead of relentlessly weeding and sowing. Taking a day off here and there to explore in the woods and fields, parks and rivers. Getting together with friends to walk and eat outdoors and just play.
Last year I became rather obsessed with the Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel (Clan of the Cave Bear etc.) and her vivid descriptions of the summer gatherings of the Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon peoples whose lives she evokes. Their winters spent cooped up in caves in the ferocious Ice Age winters and the joy they felt at being freed again to be outdoors in the spring and summer. Maybe there’s some echo of this in my longing to break free of my own “cave” – yet ironically here I am in the kitchen on a Saturday morning composing this!
So I’ll stop right here. How about you?