Saturday, July 15, 2017

The lost art of loafing

"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability." - Sam Keen

Late summer sunset on Lake Michigan / Cindy La Ferle

The sad reality always hits us in mid-July: Summer is at the halfway mark. 

Taking inventory of what we've done since June, we might realize how precious little time we've spent relaxing. The first half of June, after all, explodes like a bottle rocket into thin air. Our calendars are covered top to bottom with ceremonies, picnics, graduation parties, and weddings.

Before summer packs up its beach bag and clears out for a new school term, we'd all do well to indulge in a few non-eventful pleasures. Many Europeans, for example, take the entire month of July or August as vacation time. While such a long holiday isn't possible for most Americans, I'd like to borrow a page from a favorite French author, Veronique Vienne. Joie de vivre isn't all that complicated, she reminds us, but we have to make time for it.

With that in mind, I plan to watch more sunsets, count more fireflies, take more cat caps on the patio, and spend more starry nights identifying the constellations. Instead of pulling weeds or pruning, I'm going to sit back and admire what I've planted. Guilt-free, I'll ride my bike for an entire morning without checking my watch, and later read a novel that has no redeeming social value. In other words, I'd like to experience life in real time -- and spend less time nosing around the internet. 

Most of us schedule our lives too tightly, then rely on "nostalgic flashbacks" to appreciate our happiest moments, writes Vienne in The Art of the Moment: Simple Ways to Get the Most from Life (Clarkson Potter). 

"As you embrace the here and now, don't be surprised if you suddenly feel lucky -- lucky to be blessed with a good mind, and lucky to have friends who love you for who you are," Vienne adds. "The ultimate gift of the moment is a deep sense of gratitude for simply being alive."

It's always fun to anticipate and celebrate our major milestones. But we need a break from special events, not to mention a reprieve from all those commencement speeches about beginnings and endings.  We need ordinary time. Come fall, I want to say good-bye to summer knowing that I've squeezed every last drop of its sweetness, and savored it all. ~CL

Part of this post is excerpted from a longer essay in my book, Writing Home. It was originally published in my "Life Lines" column in The Daily Tribune on July 18, 2004.

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