On Cultivating Stillness

20 Jun


This week a few people have posted vacation pictures on FB. A couple photos in particular stood out to me. A friend in Maine has been posting images of seaside landscapes and quaint houses with flowerbeds. Another individual, visiting in Alabama, has been posting pictures of the Tennessee River, including the image above.

When I look at this Blue Heron everything in my being seems to stop and calm down. I am temporarily arrested by its beauty and the stillness of the water. The photo calls to mind a different pace – a time when summer was deeply intertwined with a slower rhythm. I remember when summer was a period where children felt occasionally bored and adults sat on their porches in the evenings with a glass of lemonade or a gin and tonic.

Our calendar year is broken into seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Yet unless we live in a region where the climate truly dictates what we can and can’t do, we often lose track of nature’s cycles and rhythms. Instead, the show goes on. Electricity allows us to work until late in the evening and snow plows clear the roads so people can get to work despite terrible conditions. So like the Energizer Bunny, we go and go and go too. Until we are possibly on the brink of collapse.

Yet in some European countries, it is customary for people to take the entire month of August off. For them, summer is a time to pause and to be a little less productive. For me, I think about my childhood summers and how even though I enjoyed school, it was nice not to have to be up early every morning and to follow a set routine. I enjoyed reading books in bed, watching re-runs of “Leave It To Beaver,” and spending hours outside. Though an adult now, and without the luxury of discretionary free time, my spirit still pines for it. My soul wants a period of less structure and more spontaneity. It wants time for rest, a little boredom, and no agenda. Although a challenge, I think it’s possible to cultivate a bit of stillness within the chaos of summer activities, family gatherings, work, and social commitments. It might be that we spend a weekend reading a novel instead of running endless errands. Maybe we get take out food or eat peanut butter out of a jar, if we don’t want to hassle with the grocery store. Perhaps we do more exercise or spend time in nature to break the pattern of our never ending racing thoughts. Then again, we might simply look at this photo and for a few seconds, stare out at the greater expanse of existence where we can be still and know God.

2 Responses to “On Cultivating Stillness”

  1. tracymartin June 21, 2014 at 1:20 am #

    Enjoy reading your posts. Nice easy perspective on things. thank you.

  2. Mary Koepke Fields June 21, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    The cranes are diurnal birds that vary in their sociality by season. During the breeding season they are territorial and usually remain on their territory all the time. In contrast in the non-breeding season they tend to be gregarious, forming large flocks to roost, socialise and in some species feed. Species that feed on predominately on vegetable matter in the non-breeding season feed in flocks to do so, whereas those that feed on animals will usually feed in family groups, joining flocks only during resting periods, or in preparation for travel during migration. Large aggregations of cranes are important for safety when resting and also as places for young unmated birds to meet others. Wikipedia

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