I finally had an entry in the Lughnasadh Give-Away! Maybe it is appropriate that my daughter won since her second anniversary is tomorrow. I will be doing another give-away mid-Samhain for a chance to win six Solstice or Christmas cards.
Here in Colorado most of the deciduous trees have shed their color as the predominant species among them, the aspens – the largest living organism in the world – transformed hillsides from green to gold in one night. And then from gold to bare in less than a week. In many places, however, it is hard to notice the naked branches because without their brilliant yellow coat, the aspens melt into the surrounding evergreens…a barren “invisibility” that is too often mimicked by the experience of human companions in many of the communities of which I am a part.
There have been more than a few times in my life when I have failed to notice that someone near to me has been deep in a fallow pause (bare branches and all). Their quiet inwardness makes them virtually invisible as I focus on the moving objects and events around me. Fallow is one of the harder states of existence both to observe and to live. Our culture has taught itself not to notice because it does not value true renewal, refreshment, and re-creation. In their place, we substitute sports…and think we are resting. Because communities are, by their nature, made up of people in diverse seasons, it is far too easy to be inattentive to those among us who are lying still and open, stripped of color and energy, barely breathing. They get lost in the activity and color of everyone else. It is rare for the winter time of being to be recognized, much less honored.
But harder than noticing and honoring others in their times of fallowness, may be noticing and honoring ourselves. Or, let me speak personally, it is hard for me to honor myself and respect the importance of that time.
Today I was talking with a friend about an intentional rule of life which, in the lay community as opposed to a monastic community, is less something we receive, as something we create. As such, it is both blessing and challenge, intricately interwoven. A rule of life gives us a discerning lens through which to see the tasks of daily living. It allows us to be attentive to what we choose to embrace, and what we choose to set aside. Instead of deciding whether we can or cannot do something based on whether there is an empty time slot in our schedule, we choose to engage or to set aside based on whether the event or request or opportunity is life-giving, health-bearing, and vocational. And a rule of life also recognizes that life has a rhythm, a cycle of seasons which must be welcomed each in turn or we will find ourselves burned-out and used-up.
The rhythm of my own life has me flying east in about ten days for my semi-annual visit with my father. During that visit, for the first time in a decade (a decade!), I will be taking a week-long silent retreat. I expect that my parched spirit will soak up the silence and the richly prayerful community life that permeates the retreat house to which I am returning after this long break. You see, my spirit has been pleading for a fallow time for more than a year. My psyche, my heart, my soul, my mind, have all been inviting me to lie fallow…and I have been too busy to listen. Instead, I have been moving faster, thinking that if I could get ahead of everything that needs to be done, then I could finally take the fallow time with a clear conscience. Oh, so wrong.
Over these past years, I have welcomed a lot of good things into the pattern of my existence, including a regular sabbath practice and the fiber art that has been such a blessing to me as it unfolded. I have created a website and an Etsy shop. I have nurtured marvelous friendships and taken more visits to be with distant family. I have developed a discipline of regular yoga and light weights, and committed to four miles of walking each day.
What I haven’t done is remain attentive to the turning of the inward seasons. There comes a point where all those good things need to be processed. I need to sit still and let my being rest from all that growth. I have been enormously productive…but no temporal being can be infinitely productive. Like the earth approaching winter, I need respite. I can take it voluntarily or it will be forced on me as I dry up or flame out. I have (and, I suspect, everyone around me has) noticed that I am more short-tempered and snarky; I don’t laugh as much; I am on the verge of tears at least once a day. I may be slow sometimes, but run enough red flags up the flagpole and I will eventually see one.
So, I have finally focused enough to accept that I need to hit the reset button. I need to power-down and put myself in a place where there are no interruptions, no duties, no distractions. It will be a challenge the first day or two to let go of all the internal chatter and the self-doubt (“Do I really need this? Wouldn’t my time be better spent organizing something or writing something or reading something or picking something up or cooking something or washing something?” Short answer, “No.”)
So, on November 1 – and what more appropriate day than the first day of Samhain, All Hallows day? – I begin my first retreat in a decade. I hope you will hold me in your thoughts. I have been pondering whether I should prepare new blogs for while I am away…or whether I should encourage you to go back and read one or two that you didn’t read the first time because you were busy that week, or you didn’t like the picture or the title, or you were feeling snarky and short-tempered. I’ll let you know what I decide.
The approaching season of Samhain is a time well-suited to retreat and renewal. I invite you to consider whether you need this as a fallow time, too.
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2014, 2009, Immram Chara, LLC