Week 25: Sacred Idleness

Certainly work is not always required of a man. There is such a thing as a sacred idleness – the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected. George MacDonald.

This week we gained access to a third car which freed my schedule up considerably. Elsa, with her sisters in tow, can now follow her busy schedule without running her ragged mother to death. Monday and Tuesday mornings passed quietly with my efforts to write 2000 words a day on The Isle of the Dead. The mornings were quiet, strangely quiet. I have often longed for lengths of time for quiet.

Soon, it was too quiet. I fidgeted. I rotated the laundry and emptied the dishwasher. I banged around and turned on a book on CD. I was positively restless. I did not know what to do with myself. For ten years, I have spent my summers ushering my daughters to tennis practices. Now, what was I to do? The answer was Write, of course! I did. Still, an emptiness settled over the house. A pall descended upon my quietude and ruined it.

My addiction to running children around to activities began in the cabin high up in the Ochoco Mountains when any excuse served to get me out in the world with my children. Looking back, the forced solitude in those mountains is bathed in a romantic hue. I remember the walks along the forest paths. The little knees kneeling to examine forest flowers. The snow covering the porch. The girls playing along the creek. The rope swing dangling from the aspen tree. They were days of utter simplicity. Getting the children to bed by seven was my most difficult task.

If I tell myself to think objectively, however, I was lonely, too. Perhaps all stay-at-home mothers feel the natural isolation stemming from following nursing and napping schedules with multiple little ones. But the lonely mountains compounded my isolation. True, I had some neighbors but people who live in the mountains understand we live in the mountains for a reason. Privacy is an implied rule. Mountain-dwellers are not unkind though there is no Southern hospitality with neighbors bringing over iced tea to welcome you. You knock on the door in great need or dire emergency … a cougar or bear sighted, a lost dog, an accident.

In the long, lonely days I discovered reasons to visit the little town a half an hour away. Tennis was a cheap and enjoyable diversion which lasted a month at a time. All other activities were twice as expensive for half as long. Tennis filled our summers.

Now I am left alone. I am thankful for the transition, for the gift of time to myself. I am also uncomfortable. I am a Rip Van Winkle, waking to find the years are gone. I feel the pain of irrelevance. The widening gap of relating to the new world. The rug of “how things are” being pulled from under my feet by progress.

 I am exaggerating, perhaps, a little. I speak of feelings, not of realities. I wish I would have cultivated more sacred idleness in my life — especially, these last four years when we had so little structure on which to hang memories upon.

If I had given more time to sacred idleness I would know my reflection in the pool of water. I would recognize the world in which I live.



  1. Beautifully expressed- I know what you mean about the Rip Van Winkle part, and yet we are a part of all of it. Perhaps not on a grand scale, but an essential important one, in the lives of those we love most. Thanks for writing it out- I need to hear it from some one else. Bless you!


  2. Great post. Feeling almost there myself – knowing I need to let my girls gain their independence in the form of driving around alone (gah!), desperately wanting to live my life at a much less-frantic pace, but half-afraid of what lies on the other side. A new kind of trust, schedule and self-discipline, I suppose.


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