This week I gave my mind a vacation. For a whole day at the cabin, I didn’t do anything on my list of “I should be doing this.” I abandoned any agenda, wasn’t even tempted to turn on my computer, to do any work or check my email. For a whole day, I had no idea what happened at the Olympics or if the Senate raised the debt ceiling. For a whole day I wasn’t besieged by environmental groups wanting me to sign petitions to stop the Keystone pipeline or save wolves. For a whole day I wasn’t tempted to read articles about how to improve my memory or the 10 best foods for cholesterol control. I had no excuse to chase down the thread of emails and websites that always takes me further and further away, down some deep hole where I’m hopelessly caught and can’t escape.
I had no lunch dates to dress for, no errands to run, no appointments, nothing to prepare myself for, no reason to look presentable. (I didn’t even run a comb through my hair; what was the point when the wind would just mess it up every time I stepped outside.) I didn’t have to organize myself, figure out everything I needed for a day in town.
Instead, I sat in my cabin and let my mind settle down, tried to concentrate on my breathing, interrupted by Stellar’s jays noisily announcing to anyone interested that I had scattered bird seed on the deck. The only thing I allowed in my head was this place: the solid block of snow that stretched to my neighbors’ cabin, the sun glinting off their green metal roof and burnishing the sturdy rough boards, the line of aspens that only partially blocked the view looking across the valley; the two young spruce trees that shimmied in the wind all day. The blue sky was an open stage where clouds made their appearances and then were quickly ushered off.
When I got up to make lunch, I paid careful attention to everything I did: slice the red pepper, scoop the squash from its shell, listen to the sizzle in the pan. Eating slowly, I’m surprised at how long it takes to chew, at the amazing blend of different flavors. It seems like a lot of food on my plate, even though it’s the same amount I usually eat fast when I’m not paying attention.
When I took a break to go cross-country skiing, I found myself moving fast, my usual fallback position, then stopped myself. Where was I trying to get to? What was the hurry? It was a beautifuly day, with 3 feet of new powder and warm temperatures when the wind dropped; it felt good just to feel the sun on my face.
I gave myself permission to pause whenever something caught my attention: the hummocks on the creek where the snow had taken the shape of the boulders; the long shadow of the tree across the creek, the snow that had piled onto picnic tables, formed curvaceous wind drifts and strange little knobs protruding from the snow.
A day without obligations or schedules is like unshackling my mind, letting it run free, and seeing what comes up: long-lost images, a sudden bond with the jay tilting his blue-crested head in my direction, a tenderness that could break my heart because everything is suddenly so precious.