Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Living Deliberately

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

A long time ago, it seems – really just five years ago but it seems like a lifetime ago – I had a pretty quiet life. We were homeschooling, and took life one day at a time. I looked at some of my friends who worked and had their children in multiple activities and felt sorry for them. Their brains seemed so full of scheduling dilemmas that there was no room for intellectual depth.

Now, with three kids in school and all of them involved in travel softball and baseball, we are busy every day. There is so much activity packed into spring and carrying over into the first few weeks of summer that it takes a few weeks to catch one’s breath. I try to schedule some “down time” into every day, a few hours of swimming in the pool before dinner and that night’s ball games, but it is still mentally and physically exhausting when there is no break in the constant commitments.

Leisure is needed to allow for depth of thought. Why I haven’t been writing as much as I used to has as much to do with the state of my brain as with my schedule. I used to wonder why those busy friends of mine seemed so “shallow”. Was I becoming like them? If I kept up at this pace, would I become a thoughtless creature, going through the motions of life without the whole of my soul involved?

We finally had a few days with nothing scheduled, and I even turned off the computer, which often provides distraction from absorption into family time. We read books, played chess, watched baseball, and just hung around. It was great. After a full day of doing next-to-nothing, I sat down and did a long-put-off project and was quite pleased.

Summer is a time for rest and restoration. As the kids get older and are provided with more options for activity outside of the house, it requires much deliberation to balance purposeful activity (whether work/play, or a combination of the two, such as sports) with rest and thought.

Are you getting enough rest to restore your soul on a daily basis? Is there a deliberate purpose to whatever you have planned for your family this summer? Are you just keeping busy or are you living deeply, sucking the marrow of life?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Five Raccoons

Coming out of the King Kullen parking lot, a light blue Oldsmobile with Florida plates cruised uncertainly ahead of me. Was that an old man with a hat driving? Suddenly I was reminded of my Poppop, John S. Nagy Sr., my maternal grandfather who passed away a year ago, with the honors of being both a New York City Police Officer and Veteran of War. Not to mention world’s funniest grandfather who wore his old man’s hat with style.

The tears that came then were both of happiness and sadness – happiness that the memories of Poppop and the time we had spent together will always be with me – sadness that he is gone from this world forever, leaving his wife of several decades behind. I think of him whenever the Mets play the Marlins, because he was both a Mets fan (being a native New Yorker) and a Marlins fan (having moved to Florida in retirement).

Wiping away my tears, I was driving down the long country road that leads to my house, when my headlights shone on a family of five raccoons crossing a yard ahead of me. No one was behind me and I stopped short. I thought they had stopped right in the center of my front end. To be certain, I edged up and turned around.

No road-kill in the middle of the road. There was one raccoon on the right side of the road, standing upright and keeping watch as the other ones re-crossed in the opposite direction again. I watched as two cars sped by in the opposite direction. Why did I care?

My Dad would have said it was good riddance. In my childhood neighborhood of Bethpage, squirrels and raccoons were pests that were gotten rid of by multiple methods. Drowning, carbon monoxide, and bb guns were common methods of killing them off. A farming neighbor said that if you caught them and spray painted their tails and then drove them off to the state park, they would be back within three days. My Dad did that and sure enough there were blue-tailed squirrels running up the Maples in my backyard three days later.

The next day I went to carve up the watermelon for the kids as they swam. I searched the packed fridge and couldn’t find it. “Where did you put the watermelon?” I yelled to my son. “What watermelon?” he answered. I ran to the car and found it under the backseat. It hadn’t been fully ripe when I bought it – it was perfect now.

Why did I stop for those stupid raccoons? Again I asked myself, as I cut up the large, juicy fruit. I brought it out to my husband, kids, and nephews, who jumped out of the pool and eagerly ate it up, throwing the rinds into the woods. Some deer, or more likely a raccoon, would come eat them up, and then run out into the road on the other side. Would they make it?