Down Time

This post was written almost exactly 5 years ago, when western Michigan was pummeled by a winter snow storm.  The lessons I learned from the “down time” have stuck with me.

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I am snowed in – again.  Peeking through the frost stenciled inside our storm door, I glimpse huge drifts around and on top of our cars, which unfortunately crouch defenseless against the weather. Yesterday, after 90 minutes of shoveling, I was able to uncover one of those cars.  I’m thinking that it must be “Ground Hog Day” because the view out that door is the same as it was yesterday.  The furnace is chugging along like “the little engine that could” in an uphill battle to maintain some sense of warmth in a house that leaks warm air.  It’s as if we have a miniature battle of weather fronts as the cold air battles the warm air to get in/out of the house.


And yet . . . these several days have become a respite, a welcome relief from schedules and calendars and to do’s.  I mentioned in a meeting last week that it is a sad statement on my spiritual upbringing and heritage when  a wind chill warning and a mountain of snow  are two of the few things that dial my productivity switch down. And every head in the room nodded.

January, 2o14, with its recording breaking snowfall and thermometer-dipping records, is helping me bolster a new habit:  living life at a turtle’s pace instead of trying to keep up with the Energizer bunny.  I am not being lazy, I am not sleeping late or taking afternoon naps; I am just surrendering to the rhythms of days when I am not able to push through my normal routine.

At the same meeting where people agreed with my joy over looking at a winter week from the inside out, someone read a passage from Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak. “Winter here,” [in the Upper Midwest] says Parker, “is a demanding season-and not everyone appreciates the discipline. It is a season when death’s victory can be seen supreme: few creatures stir, plants do not visibly grow, and nature feels like our enemy [And the people said, “Amen!”]  and yet the rigors of winter . . . are accompanied by amazing gifts.”

One of winter’s gifts to me is the gift of quiet.  The cars and semi-trucks outside my door are almost voiceless.  I can only dimly hear the TV my husband is watching at the other end of the house, I am really in control of how much noise I let into my life. And, I’m noticing, it’s precious little.

Another gift is “letting go.” Everyday there is too much snow and wind to clear out the driveway, so just I let it go.  We are asked not to travel, so the VERY important errands (even to pick up David Baldacci’s new King and Maxwell book which is on hold for me at the library) will have to wait. No one is hounding me to be “productive” so I have let go of my “to do” list for home and work. And even more astonishing, since I can’t stop the storm, I am just  living with what it brings me.  This is a new dimension and explanation of surrender. Thanks to the Clipper system with its frigid onslaught, I have to just let go.  And I am learning that is an easy way to be. It is, as Palmer said, a discipline which is not always appreciated but which can be  life-changing.

In an article in Conversations Journal, Jane Rubietta writes of discovering that “work occupies my waking hours and if I’m not working, I’m worrying about work . . . I have become a zombie of sorts, with the lifeblood of joy and gladness sucked from my veins.”  But she has learned that delight is the antidote. “We can learn to live again, to live in the moment-by-moment pleasures of a God who has the whole world in his hand, a God who smiles at our antics, delights in our  childlike hearts, wants us to trust him enough to learn to rest and play and enjoy him again” (Fall/Winter 2013, p. 39).

And that is my final gift from Winter:  time and space and a stark white canvas on which to paint my life – hand in hand with God, the Master Artist.

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2 Responses to Down Time

  1. Priscilla says:

    This is just to say Thank You for your article in “Pack Horse Librarians” in the recent Senior Times. Honestly, in flipping through the pages I was beginning to think Senior Times is one big advertisement (and I felt extra sorry for the trees), but then I came to your article on your love of libraries and I beamed. Of course I was sitting in Herrick (main) when I read it. I frequent every library in this town. Yay for books! Yay for people (you) who share that love!

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