Tag Archive | Sabbath

Delicious Solitude

Monastic Way 10-13During the month of October, the daily reflections in The Monastic Way pamphlet by Joan Chittister were on the theme of “Delicious Solitude.” I loved those reflections! Here’s a sampling.

October 1: Solitude, like black olives, is an acquired taste. But once it touches the soul it is the only place where we can come to know ourselves.

October 2: To be alone is to come to know the self for the first time.

October 7: Solitude is the place where we assess our blessings and choose the best of them to be grateful for so that when we go back into the throes of life we are more aware of life’s blessings as they go by.

October 18: Solitude and silence are those places where the creative fountains flow…

October 23: Solitude is outer separation from the frenzy of the world. Silence is inner separation from the frenzy in ourselves.

October 25: Solitude and silence heal the broken parts in us by exposing them to ourselves.

I’ve written before in this blog about how important it is to take time to be alone. Personally, I usually take a few days once or twice (or more) a year to go off by myself to our Christmas Mountain timeshare in Wisconsin Dells. The time away has always helped me reflect on life in general, or the time away has helped me think about specific issues I’m dealing with at the time. A time of solitude for me is a time to rest, to read, to play music, to talk at length with God, and invariably, to be refreshed. When I can’t get away for a few days of solitude, I treat my soul to a couple hours of playing the piano, or reading, or writing, or going for a walk.

Marian playing Baldwin wideWhen I was a child, I found a time of solitude by playing either the piano or the small electronic organ we had in the living room. When I came home from school, I was supposed to play every piece assigned in my piano and organ lessons ten times each. That’s not what I did. I usually played through each piece once or twice, and then I’d just play what I felt like playing – picking out a tune that was in my mind note by note, or learning some new songs in one of my mom’s gospel songbooks, or trying out all the pieces in a new music book I’d spent my allowance on (like “Greatest Hits of 1962”). I was usually alone in the house. Mom was still at work in Madison; Dad was in the barn; Danny was outside; and Nancy was away at college. I would often spend a couple hours being absorbed in the music, thinking about my feelings, talking with God. If I came home from school angry about something, I’d start by playing loud, discordant music, and gradually I’d work my way toward peaceful sounds. I loved my time of solitude. I still do.

In the introduction to October’s reflections, Chittister observed,

For the first time in history we are no longer an agricultural people who live miles away from one another. We are a people who live in a nest of noise, 24 hours a day, every day of the year…

Silence, solitude, and the contemplation of what it means to be a human being in a world of machines may be long overdue in this society. We take war for granted, crime for granted, cacophony for granted, everything for granted except the need to be alone, to think a bit about something besides the externals of life, to think about not wanting to think about anything at all…

Silence, solitude and contemplation have gifts to give all of us that no amount of frenetic activity can possibly provide. Rest, peace, insight, calm, concentration, serenity, energy and transcendence are no small bounty to garner in the midst of a world in perpetual motion.

Mim treeI’m thinking about trying to schedule a Christmas Mountain retreat sometime within the next few months. I’ll bring my keyboard along, and a brand new hymnal I just bought.

But first, it’s Mim’s turn to go away for some time of solitude. She’s leaving this afternoon to go to a timeshare in Oconomowoc, between Cambridge and Milwaukee, and she’ll come home on Friday.

It’s usually hard for Mim to get away. All of us who live in our house depend on her to take care of us. I’m sure we’ll survive, but we’ll sure miss her. Mim works all the time. She really needs a few days off.

As Joan Chittister said last month, “Silence and solitude are the Sabbaths of the heart…”

Reclaiming Sunday

Do not let Sunday be taken from you.
If your soul has no Sunday, it becomes an orphan.
Albert Schweitzer

When I was a little kid, Sundays had a very different rhythm from every other day of the week. The day started with a different breakfast. We had cold cereal with milk and bananas. Every other day of the week we had eggs and toast. Putting boxes of cereal on the dining room table was less work for my mom than frying eggs, and Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest.

We also built go-karts.

We also built go-karts.

After breakfast we went to Sunday school and church. We got home from church about noon. Then my mom set aside the “minimize work rule” for an hour or so and fixed us a big Sunday dinner. After dinner my dad read the newspaper until he dozed off, my mom read a novel, and my brother and I went outside to play baseball or football or cowboys. If it was rainy we stayed inside and played Monopoly or checkers. Sometimes we’d watch an old movie on TV. Occasionally the family all went to Lake Mills to visit my cousins for a couple hours, but we had to be sure to be back in time for my dad to milk the cows and for the rest of us to go to evening church. Basically, Sunday afternoon was a slow-paced time, a time to relax, a time to play, a time that was totally care free. (We didn’t even do school work!)

Wildflowers along Highland Drive - our country road

Wildflowers along Highland Drive – our country road

When I was a little older, my mom and I would sometimes go for a walk down our country road for an hour or so before supper. We’d look at the wildflowers and listen to the birds singing. One of the things we talked about was how she spent her Sunday afternoons when she was young. Her parents were quite strict about not working on Sundays. She wasn’t allowed to use a scissors because that was considered work. Often her friends from church would come over to the farm to play baseball and her mother would make root beer for everyone.

When Mim and I lived in Chicago, we usually went to church Sunday morning and tried to do fun, relaxing things in the afternoon. For several years we had season tickets to a piano concert series at Orchestra Hall. Another favorite place to spend the afternoon was visiting with the animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo. On nice summer days we biked along the lakefront. When we were in grad school, studying and working often tried to barge in and take over quiet Sundays. After a while, we’d miss the relaxing time and resolve to take back our Sundays, with mixed results.

Since moving to Wisconsin 21 years ago, we have struggled to keep Sundays as a day to relax. When we had a bed and breakfast, we worked harder on Sundays than any other day of the week. Recently I realized that Sundays have again become the busiest day of the week for me. I usually play the organ in church in the morning, and in the afternoon I often work on writing something for my Monday blog post (as I’m doing right now). I’ve talked about designating another day of the week as my “Sabbath” but have never been able to be successful in implementing the practice.

As Maya Angelou said in Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now:

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.

So …  I’ve decided to change my blogging day from Monday to Tuesday. Effective next week, my new blog entry will be posted by late morning on TUESDAY. Hopefully, this change will help me reclaim Sunday afternoons as a time to relax, to be care free.

Over the past sixty years our culture has drastically changed its attitude toward Sundays. The routine of going to church and having a quiet afternoon is just one way of spending the day. For many people, Sunday is a day for shopping. (When I was a kid, stores were closed on Sundays; shopping wasn’t an option.) For some people watching sports on TV is the favorite way to spend the afternoon. For others Sunday is a day to catch up on housework or yard work. Sunday still has a rhythm that is different from the other days of the week – even if the day is no longer a day of rest, it may be a day “in which no problems are confronted.”

Setting aside one day a week as a special day has Biblical origins.

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work – not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them, he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day, he set it apart as a holy day.
[Exodus 20:8-11 The Message]

Personally, I’ve decided to try to reclaim the Sunday of my childhood. I don’t think I can convince my brother Danny to play Monopoly with me, but I’m pretty sure my partner Mim will take a walk with me down our country road. Writing this blog, as well as most other things that try to creep into Sunday, can wait till tomorrow.

Our country road leads to CamRock Park, a place with perfect trails for a Sunday afternoon stroll.

Our country road leads to CamRock Park, a place with perfect trails for a Sunday afternoon stroll. This photo is from last October. Mim and Abbey got ahead of me.