Can’t get enough
By Kami Rice, freelance writer
Most of you know it when you see it: a printed page, a Web site, a billboard, or a roomful of knickknacks that is just too busy. It has no space about it. Things are crammed together. The white or black or hot pink background color is covered up by words and images and stuff (stuff that has to be dusted in the case of the roomful of knickknacks).
That’s been my life lately. It’s as though the printer printing my life has been stuck on the “fit to page” (i.e. leave no margin) setting. The page has been jammed full, full enough that it’s wearisome to look at. And because of that I’ve been spending very little time in coffeehouses for work or play, which is surely a sign that things need to change.
But what’s a person to do? Life can be very full for a little while and it’s just good, fully-lived life. But when that fullness extends from little while to long while, it becomes life with no margin, life that leaves you gasping for breath and begging for sleep or something like it. And that’s when things begin to feel out of control and you begin to feel unhealthy.
Now, don’t worry, I’m not a fatalist. I do believe I have some choices here, but I’m not sure of the best, healthiest way to exercise those choices. I mean, what would you cut out if this were the list of things that were leaving you tired?
- Lots and lots of freelance writing/consulting work (yah!) set into the very real reality that freelance work tends to be feast or famine (lots of work this month probably means very little work next month)
- A few hours of weekly work at the part-time job that supplies both your health insurance and the most stable community you’ve had during five years in Nashville
- Preparations—from money raising to suitcase buying—for a fast-approaching four-month mission trip to Africa this fall
- Time with people, from impromptu conversations with roommates to introductory conversations with new friends to lengthier catch-up conversations with old, dear friends
- Home chores like bill paying, laundry washing, meal making, and trash taking outing
- Sundry miscellaneous things that fall into none of the above categories
So, what’s your answer? Or better yet, what’s on your own list and what have you cut? Can you cut enough things to have time to linger in a coffee joint with friends or with a book or with a nose that’s just savoring the smell of coffee beans?
For your sake, I hope so. For my sake, I hope I can do that again soon!
If it weren’t for the fact that earlier this year my weekly writing group stopped meeting at a home and started meeting at a fine coffee-serving establishment, I might not have set foot in a mocha-making joint at all lately. You see, I do believe in the importance of rest, of margin, of Sabbath. I just struggle to make it a reality.
Essayist, poet, novelist and Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry wrote a series of poems that were collected in an edition called A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems of 1979-1997. Norman Wirzba, a Wendell Berry scholar, wrote a nice review of Berry’s book that it’s well worth your time to read (perhaps when you’re resting?! or relaxing over a nice white chocolate mocha?!). You’ll find it here.
These poems offer a reminder to rest, to stand still, to cease striving and working and making and doing. A reminder we can never hear too often. A reminder I needed to hear today and yesterday and last week and a month ago.
Since I don’t actually own this volume of Berry’s poetry (but wish I did! J ), I’ll let you in on a poem from another volume which I do own, The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry.
THE WANT OF PEACE
All goes back to the earth,
and so I do not desire
pride of excess or power,
but the contentments made
by men who have had little:
the fisherman’s silence
receiving the river’s grace,
the gardener’s musing on rows.
I lack the peace of simple things.
I am never wholly in place.
I find no peace or grace.
We sell the world to buy fire,
our way lighted by burning men,
and that has bent my mind
and made me think of darkness
and wish for the dumb life of roots.
Kami Rice is a Brentwood-based freelance writer who’s heading to Africa at the end of July! You can read all about it on her Africa blog (www.kami-in-africa.blogspot.com) after you’ve read Wirzba’s article about Berry’s Sabbath poems.