Seven Springs ago, when Evan and I were falling in love, we spent a lot of time outside walking, picnicking, and just being out in the sunshine after the long Illinois winter.
One of our best early dates was to the gorgeous local arboretum. That summer when he visited me in northern Wisconsin, I took him to all the parks that I loved along Highway 8, and we even found new ones together.
Then that Fall, we got engaged in a park, over a picnic, a block away from where my parents had gotten engaged 30 years before. I think that we might be park people. Our wedding reception the following spring was in the State Fair Grounds—that is almost a park.
Over the past almost six years, we’ve lived in four different apartments around Maryland outside of DC, and visited dozens of parks. I am more of a homebody than Evan, but he talks me into trying new parks. Nearly always, they are a fun adventure.
We’ve had a couple duds over the years. Once, we spent over an hour searching for the illusive Tilden Woods Park that had an official looking Montgomery County Park sign, but gave up and ate soggy sandwiches near a settlement pond and a highway and that pretty Tilden Woods Park sign.
But for the most part we have spent most of our off days wandering around parks called Sugar Loaf, Cabin John, Great Seneca, Black Hills, Gambrill, Cunningham Falls, and Little Bennett. When we go on road trips, if we aren’t too pressed for time, we’ll pack picnics and explore a park along the way with views of bogs, or old growth forests, or a simmering, great lake. Next month, we’re off with my parents, brother and sister-in-law for the big vacation of the year to, arguably, the mother of all parks: Yellowstone.
Often we’ll only have an hour or two on a Friday (other than Sunday, our off day right now), and so we’ll walk around our apartment to a local soccer complex park or one of the parks within a 10-minute drive. But for the past year, one of our new favorite ways to relax is to simply hike in a mile and then sit and read or just be for an hour or two if the weather is warm enough.
It started with anniversary trips to the beach. We’d take a day and drive down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and spend a long weekend bumming around the beach. We’d stretch out on towels, bring camping chairs, and just watch the waves, and read books that no one was going to quiz on us.
We loved the beach so much that, if we didn’t have a whole weekend, we would take a Friday when we had managed to push all the chores and errands to other days and drive to the Maryland beach 3½ hours away. Even in March, we’d brave the wind and enjoy the nearly deserted beach.
And then, if we didn’t have a whole day to drive to the beach and back, we tried to just hang out for a few hours on the lakeshore of the little man-made Seneca Lake a few minutes from our place. And then, getting quite radical, we stopped even needing the “beach” to have a beach afternoon. Now, our favorite place is on top of a hill near the remains of a 200-year-old tobacco barn, surrounded by a sea of trees.
There is something so incredibly restful about sitting or lying down and having nothing to do for a few hours in nature. We bring fun books, journals, snacks, or sometimes articles from magazines we’ve both been meaning to read. Sometimes we talk, but often we’re just together in the quiet sounds of wind and waves or wind and rustling trees.
Carving out space and time to rest is essential to living a life in which you can work well. Sabbath rest on Sundays is a discipline and a gift. It is something that has a particular day; it is marked by both the absence of tasks and also the presence of restorative practices. Practicing the Sabbath on Sundays, setting aside the constant graduate schoolwork and the other “have-to’s,” is an important way to acknowledge our limits and be restored for the week to come.
But practicing Sabbath, practicing intentional rest, isn’t only for Sundays. (Or Saturdays, for my Saturday-Sabbath friends.) Prayer and meditation can bring that deep sense of rest and rejection of the anxious and the urgent into each day. And finding ways to be completely present somewhere, at the beach or on top of a grass hill, is another way that Sabbath rest can permeate our weeks.
Rest can look different for different people or for different seasons. Rest can be in a familiar place, or a new one. Rest can be in solitude, or community. Rest can be a disciplined removal of the urgent and the distracting, or it can be a free and full engagement with the delightful and the good.
For me, I find that it helps to have rest be filled with beauty, to be a time and place set apart. For me, rest can be small and regular, like a weekly hike, or it can be large and extravagant like vacation a thousand miles away in Yellowstone.
As central as showing up and doing the work is to creativity, what makes the creative life sustainable is having regular periods of rest. Periods of rest necessarily are set apart by periods of work. But finding ways to stop and be quiet are essential to being able to practice listening and thinking about your life and work in new ways. It can feel extravagant and unproductive to make time most weeks to rest like this, but that is the truth of Sabbath: God’s gift of extravagant grace and rest because of His great work on our behalf.
How do you make time for rest? What helps you set aside the urgent?
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