Do you ever look back and think, “Could that have been five years ago? It seems like last year!” Over the past few weeks, the walls of our home have listened to many conversations about the accelerated passage of time. Sometimes, right before summer, I remember my feelings as a child of months stretching before me freed from the constraints of school.
Looking back, though, I wonder if those memories came from books that I read. For me, freedom meant the freedom to read, to have long uninterrupted dives into the world of books. I can hear my mother’s voice calling from somewhere in the house, “Patty, are you reading again?”
My parents believed in the importance of study but they also strongly believed in the value of work. When I was fourteen, through a contact at our church, my father arranged for my first full-time summer job. For forty hours a week, I took care of five children under the age of ten, living in a small home out on a rural road near Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Their mother was going through a difficult psychological time and their father was abusive. Along with caring for the children, I cleaned their home of pots of food that had been left for weeks in corners of the kitchen and diapers stuffed under beds and in closets.
The part I loved was reading to the children, introducing them to my favorite children’s books, and taking them on exploratory walks in the woods. The part I hated was leaving them, especially the three-year-old, on Friday afternoons when their father returned from where he was studying auto mechanics during the week.
At home, I would squeeze my reading into the evening hours, reading quickly, forgetting to savor those marvelous words. I wonder if that was when I began to think that time was not on my side?
This emphasis in my upbringing of productivity created a core belief that time was scarce. Often during my adult years, I have felt the need to “work” on savoring time and even surrendering to it. During the past weeks, I have returned again to an exploration of my relationship with time, trying not to make it “work.”
Each day, I look for moments like those out on our deck when time passes from second to second before sunset, accompanied by the sound of birds. I’ve been trying to create that prolonged sense of time when I sit with you when you are going through something difficult or simply to listen to how you are in this moment. I have been paying attention to the quality of time, sometimes just seconds of encounters with neighbors when we walk, allowing for a conversation about the loss of a pet or a bear spotted only three miles away. I have been allowing my silent walks to be interrupted because it seems wrong to say to a neighbor, “I’m sorry but I need to be quiet now.” If I said that, my insistence on silence would ruin the moment. We can’t rush mindfulness!
Will you join me in the work of stretching time? This summer, let’s relax into those moments alone and with others when we can take a deep breath. This is the quality of time we need for the dreaming and envisioning that we are moving into as a congregation. When you look at the work that will be spread out on the sanctuary walls by the sanctuary transformation team, take a deep breath and be present. Don’t march through it. Take time. Take time to click on and watch the videos you will be sent in the Weekly Peak and in this Newsletter.
Listen to each other with the reciprocity we have been bringing to walks in the forest. Take time after service to ask someone you don’t know or an old friend, “What are your dreams?” Let time spread around you, unhurried. We have all the time in the world. The work for this summer is to listen and take time.