My wife and I just spent a weekend “up north,” to the amusement of my son Pilgrim.
As a native of Florida, I’ve always joked about Michiganders going up north to get away. It seems like we are pretty much already up north, here in the south central portion of the state.
But up north we went, in the middle of January, to a rented cabin near Petoskey. We built a fire and stayed in our pajamas for two days, reading and loafing.
We have had several wedding showers and nights of blessing in our home this fall, for young people from our church. We’ve made huge pots of soup for as many as 50 people.
And our adult children and grandkids were here for the holidays—16 of us altogether. Good stress. But still stress. Then Katie and I both had bouts with the flu.
It was time to stop.
But from the time we got there about 8 PM Saturday until we went out Monday night about the same time to check on an order related to Katie’s business, we just sat and watched the fire—reading and sleeping as the spirit moved, eating sparingly, seldom speaking.
Having no Internet was the blessing we needed. The phones didn’t work, thank goodness. We brought meatloaf and soup, already made. Our friend Terri sent along some cheese and crackers. I fixed bacon and eggs late both mornings.
Wednesday we drove into town, hung out in a couple of bookstores, bought some birthday presents for grandchildren. Then we had lunch at the Twisted Olive, by a huge window overlooking the bay.
I don’t tell you this to make you jealous. I say it to remind you that rest is restorative. And that loafing can be a virtue. I say this in the sense of a line from Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself: “I loaf and invite my soul.”
One of the three books I read while we were there was Andrew Delbanco’s College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be
And he says, among other things (more in later posts):
The capacity for spiritual surprise, for apprehending what Emerson called “the miraculous in the common,” has been an enduring theme in psychological writing at least since Augustine, whose conversion, reported in the Confessions, comes upon him without volition, as a gift unsought and unearned.
Such grace is often unexpected. More likely, unobserved. You usually have to stop to notice it.
I don’t think Katie and I are driven. But we live busy, productive lives. And we need some lazy, unfocused days.
For Whitman, in “Song of Myself,” it was contemplating a blade of grass in summer. For us, it was a roaring fire— building it, feeding it, watching it, until its orange and blue flames turned to coals on the hearth and we went to bed. The miracle in the common here is that no effort or words were needed to know we were deeply blessed and greatly loved.
The need to find these moments goes back further than Augustine, of course. In creation we are told that God paused every day to consider what He had made. It is good, He said.
And then He rested.
So did we.
And it was very good.