Two weeks ago I practiced the art of doing nothing (and I’m finally getting around to writing about it now because we’ve had a lot more to do than nothing since returning home). So did my children. We were busy; yet, we weren’t. The paradox of vacation.
We had no schedule to stick to, errands to run, or deadlines to meet. There was no agenda other than swim, catch frogs, stargaze, and run barefoot in the grass. All our meandering revealed details we so often miss in the rush of everyday life. The way Mary Elizabeth’s hair catches the sun and turns all coppery. The snowdrift of clouds ambling in the sky. The smell of a new book.
I read. I wrote. I went on solitary walks. I took naps. I watched my children search the shallows for frogs or minnows and scan the skies for butterflies and dragonflies.
Together we picked berries and ate more than we kept just like Sal.
We traced Mary Elizabeth’s pudgy foot in the camp log where many pages before you can find the squiggly outline of my husband’s baby foot.
This rustic Maine camp has been in my husband’s family since the late 1800s. Generations intersect. Time stands still.
We use the bathroom in an outhouse in the woods. High adventure for children.
After the kids breathing turned heavy and they drifted to sleep on the bumpy mattresses of cots, my husband and I played Wits and Wagers with his dad, sister and her husband (Nana read beside our slumbering children). We toasted marshmallows in the gaping mouth of a stone fireplace.
We sipped coffee on the porch overlooking the Hemlock-lined lake. We skimmed the water’s glassy surface on a canoe at dusk. During a breezy day we caught the wind and sailed away from land, and I shivered with pleasure experiencing the contrast of the warm sun against my skin and a cold spray of water on my face.
The girls made silly faces. They played with each other and with their cousins. They went fishing with their pop.
Great Grandmother (GG) hosted a rainy day tea party. The girls were perfect ladies, polite and poised.
We experienced nature study at its finest, studying creatures in their natural environments up close and personal.
There were the wily frogs my daughters were constantly hunting, a sneaky snake zigzagging among the rocks near the lake, a tiny mouse huddled in the shade of a bush, loons singing their mournful song as they glided across the water, flowers of every color, a bright green praying mantis, a rainbow stretched across the sky after an afternoon rainfall, a glorious orange moon spilling gold onto the lake, vegetables and fruit ripe on their vines or the branches of trees, a flying insect my husband and I are having trouble identifying (help please)…
|That’s the moon, not the sun. Amazing, isn’t it?|
|Can anyone please help me identify this guy?|
So much to take in. So much bounty.
And plenty of joy, too.
It would have been difficult to not stay in the moment. These images, the memories of our slower pace and the simplicity of camp, these are the best souvenirs from our trip.
Reentry is never easy, but I’m trying to keep our pace a bit slower as we cross that bridge from relaxation and the leave-it-all-behind fantasy of vacation back to this place we call reality and everyday living.
I’ve decided to not be quite so ambitious with our homeschool plans. Looking at these snippets from our trip, I see that school is always in session. We’re always growing, learning, and experiencing. I just have to calm my hyper-driven self long enough to recognize this. Which I did easily in Maine.
“You were very quiet in Maine,” Pop observed.
I was. And I can be now, too. It just might take a little more effort.
These are some of my goals for the week. To find pockets of quiet every single day. To focus on one task at a time. To feel productive and accomplished just by nurturing one of my children.
|My husband captured this moment shared between Mary Elizabeth and me – a mother and her child in their own circle of calm unaware of everything except each other. How beautiful to see this!|
How can I expect my children to value silence if I don’t? My oldest, a true extrovert, recently said, “Being quiet is boring. There’s nothing to do in the quiet.”
Oh, but there is, and she knows it, too. She can easily lose herself in a picture book or in imaginary play, but I have to gift her with silence and the freedom to dawdle.
So here’s another goal for my week: I have to remember to not see a school day as a failure just because I didn’t follow my lesson plans but instead saw that my antsy children needed a little of Maine at home here in Georgia, enough idleness to notice the fleecy clouds sailing across the sea of a sky.
And I have to remind myself that happiness lies not in things or even the wild isolation of a Maine vacation but in ourselves.
Doing nothing is profoundly healing, but it is not practical for everyday living. But choosing joy, no matter the circumstances, is.
I remember seeing a photo of a Haitian child splashing in a puddle, his face shining with joy though the carnage of the earthquake was everywhere. Young children’s joy is at the core of their being. It does not rely on lovely destinations or perfection or freedom from all suffering.
Wherever life brings me, let me try to embrace the determined delight of a child. And I know sometimes when melancholy gets the best of me, I might just have to fake it. Not for this blog. Or for you, O Faithful Reader, who thanks me for keeping it real. But for my family’s sake and for mine, too.