The idea of summer seems to be one of the driving forces behind most people's daily lives. This may sound trite coming from someone who believes in Heaven, which should be the real driving force behind my life. However, having been in academia as a student and now a teacher for most of my life, summer continues to hold sway over my imagination, year after year, much like it does for all of us. I've often wondered what it would be like to not have "summer" to look forward to, like those of us who work a job that doesn't take the summer off. While we lived in Georgia, I did experience this in a way while I worked in leasing, and then again here, last summer, while I was at Pottery Barn. Those were both periods when I was in one way or another waiting to start the next academic thing, though, so it doesn't really feel like an adequate experience in that frame of mind.
I say "the idea of summer" instead of just "summer", because, in my experience, even when one has a summer break, it usually disappoints in the sheer amount of activities it seems to hold, year after year. It would be my assumption that most people look forward to summer for the same reasons I do: to relax, to do nothing (relatively nothing, at least, to the amount of nothing one was able to do the rest of the year), to catch up on rest, to cook, to go to movies, plays, concerts...you get the idea. This is where the idea of summer comes in. The things I look forward to are usually last on the list of things that haven't gotten done the rest of the year. As a result, I find myself about the same degree of tired as I was before, but with slightly less stress, since now the things that I feel I should be doing are just the nothings of summer. Having said this, that stress is still stress, and it's something that this summer, I am trying to break myself of a bit. Let me try to explain a bit better.
This has been one of the most exciting summers that I have had in a while, and it's really just beginning. We've been fortunate to take trips to San Diego, Bellingham, the peninsula here in Washington, many times to my parents' to go crabbing, and most recently to visit Orcas Island for a rich time of fellowship at Kindlingsfest, an annual arts-music-friend-Christ festival (hard to describe). Many of these things have been made possible by friends and family, and for that we are so grateful. I'm heading down to Portland this weekend, which will first be for a time with my mom and cousins this weekend celebrating a new baby, followed by several days with a friend who is experiencing a challenging season and whom I haven't seen in far too long. We had originally planned to go back to San Diego with friends later in the summer, but that has been called off. Perhaps you are starting to see what I mean when I say that my "tired" remains at a similar degree to that I had during the rest of the year. Let me be very clear that I am NOT complaining about these wonderful experiences. My point here is that mentally and in our day-to-day, we really must work to keep some time for ourselves. Do I do this? Not enough, if at all. Most weeks during the school year, the weekend is just about long enough for me to get caught up just to the point where the amount I fall behind doesn't exceed the past week, and so it's about a breakeven situation.
Rest is one of the most sacred things discussed in the Christian life. My issues discussed above are really more about rest and less about summer, which is why I am trying to work some of them out. I believe that there will always be an excuse to not rest. We live in a world where productivity and progress are placed on a pedestal no matter one's gender, race, ethnicity, class or profession. I believe in productivity and progress, and I believe that God does, too. However, I also believe that He never meant it to take precedent over health, relationships, or rest (which is really a part of health). And if one is a believer, God most certainly didn't mean for us to put P&P before a relationship and a constant pursuit of Him. This is a hard truth.
One of the things that has really shown me how out of control my inability to rest has become is my garden. We planted it back in May, and it really has been amazing to watch it grow. However, when you have places to be and things to do, the draw is really just not there to go out and water or "tend" to your garden. Let me rephrase that: for ME, someone who up to this point really does have a black thumb, that draw hasn't been there because of the skepticism I had upon planting that any of these starts or seeds might actually grow! But a strange thing has happened: everything save the potatoes that I had nothing to do with planting has grown (although I may very well have been the one who overwatered and killed said potatoes...)! While we didn't eat enough of our lettuce fast enough before it bolted (a term that some of you may have to look up), I am pleased to be eating some of the last of it now complete with green beans that are fresher than any I have had. This morning, I froze basil in oil. This is an experiment prompted not by my black thumb, but by the massive growth of my herb pot, which I had to completely top the other day...usually a word I reserve for large evergreens in my parents' ocean view. I just pulled a pretty big pan of kale chips out of the oven and have mastered that recipe, too. All of these extremely recent food-kitchen events have shown me everything that I have missed by not having a garden or faith in my ability to grow things. Yes, it is a wholly new experience and a subject that I know hardly anything about. However, we are learning and with the sun we've had in Seattle, most of the growing (assuming there was enough water, which I can do) was a no-brainer. God has given me yet another gift that I cannot repay Him for, Him being the author of all processes spiritual and scientific/physical: fresh, living food.
Much of the struggles this year have been financial, or somehow connected in some way to money. I don't think this is something that I'm ashamed of, but it is exhausting. The garden has shown me that, with planning, some of the things that we assume today in our world and in our society just do NOT need to be "givens"! I'm not saying that Western society tells us that we HAVE to eat food only from the grocery, or that we must not garden, but I do believe that it tells us that we do not HAVE TIME to. And this attitude has brought on not only the progressive disappearance of the knowledge of how to grow one's own food, but a total DISCONNECT with where food comes from. At this point in time, I do not have a farm and really couldn't hope to raise any animal for food other than chickens. However, I have recently learned the extent to which our society's ignorance of where their meat comes from has gone. In the US, it is not surprising the percentage of food that comes from factory farming. Given the demand of fast food joints and our busy lives, as well as the continued demand of the wealthy population for things like veal, lamb, and other specialized or young meat, it is a logical "solution". However, logical here is anything but ethical. I have only scratched the surface of the horrors of these types of production, and I won't share any of it here because I believe it is truly appalling and could hardly handle it myself when I first read of it. Let me emphasize a very particular word in that last sentence, and one that I used above within the context of rest: PRODUCTION. Animals have become a product. Most of the meat and poultry that we purchase in the grocery store hasn't been raised, it has been produced. One detail I will share about these processes: even the meat on your table is likely to have come from a production line. You know, like the assembly lines cars or cheap plastic toys are made on. It is truly tragic that the part of the world who prides itself on being the most intelligent, the most resourceful, the best at anything and everything--that this is where we have lost the ability to feed ourselves. And why? We simply don't have time.
Productivity already is the catalyst by which man has exponentially sped up the deterioration and destruction of the very earth that he inhabits. I have no intention of becoming a member of an activist group and telling you you cannot buy meat at the grocery that hasn't frolicked around a field its whole life. I also won't tell you that you may not work on weekends, or holidays, or whatever other time outside of regular business hours that you choose to. I do urge you to consider the fact that your actions--every small decision that you make, down to the type of chicken you buy or the hours you sleep on a regular basis--has a direct impact not only on you, but on the very earth that you walk on. Life is hard, but in Western society, the relative ease with which we live has fostered a sort of bizarre inability to do things that any human being should be able to do: feed ourselves, and do so without shortcuts.
I realize that the last statement in that paragraph does not and cannot take into account the massive variety of situations that exist in our country. I mean no disrespect to those who struggle to make ends meet, and am not equipped to speak to that part of the conversation. I do think that that issue is wrapped up into the other type of productivity that I've discussed here: that which is the opposite of rest, and which more often keeps us from our needed respite. True, the United States was built on hard work and by many a man who worked sun up to sun down just to keep his homestead running. We shouldn't still be working those hours, with all of the progress we have made! And sadly, our work is not half as rewarding, for most of us, as that man's. He gleaned food, shelter, warmth, and great (though sometimes weary, indeed) satisfaction from his work. I do not suggest that we all return to this way of life; it has been and gone. However, I do believe that the last thing I mention him gleaning most days, his satisfaction, is something that most of us no longer know how to find.
This wasn't meant to be such a heavy or potentially controversial post when I began writing. I do hope that you are prompted to reflect on what you think about these things, and to always try to understand what is really going on in a situation instead of jumping to conclusions. For myself, I have learned that the only hope we have is God, but it's something that I also must relearn most everyday! It is easy to get discouraged; don't be. There is a God who loves you and who made this earth with a purpose. No matter how quickly we exhaust its resources, He has a plan. If He wants to make all things new, He will. If He wishes to destroy it altogether, He will. But I do know that either way, if you can trust in Him, it's gonna look a whole lot better once He makes His move! Bless you, today.