In a world as wild as this one, continuous respite is unlikely; perhaps not even desirable. When so much of our growth and insight come out of our challenges and changes, there may be little difference between a life of respite and a life of bored stasis.
That said, we could all use a few more moments of respite here and there. It’s a wild time, and without moments of respite in our lives, we would never have enough internal calm to give any to others. That’s of critical importance, when it’s vital that we bring what peace we can to situations, rather than expecting to find it there.
So I’m grateful for the rare moments of respite that happen. And I’m grateful that those moments don’t have to be lengthy to create inner shifts, in the same way that tiny beauty can be just as impactful as an enormous vista. I can feel just as restored by moments watching bubbles in a creek puddle, as by hours staring at a vast vista.
Some moments of respite are beautiful and planned—for me a silent walk in the forest is one, for instance and forever. I never know exactly what I’ll see, since the woods are never the same for even two moments; but I know I’ll find beauty to explore, unexpected in all it reveals. I’m so grateful to live in a world so rich and deep that even a ten-minute walk will always reveal beauty I’ve never noticed before.
Music, too, has a richness of respite that’s apparently endless. I’m constantly amazed—and grateful—that after all the ages of history we’re not out of songs to sing, melodies to discover. Music can quickly shift a dark mood into an illuminated one; lift a heavy spirit on harmonic wings.
Even in the middle of a workday, surrounded by the endless cycle of haunting news, I can find respite in two-minute vacations—time taken to breathe, to move down the hallway in a mindful way, to disappear under headphones for silence or a song. Time can be filled in the same way as an empty jar—even when seemingly full, it can still afford space around and within what is filling it. Yes, a jar can be filled with stones, which will still leave room for it to be filled with sand as well, then water, and all the spirit within. I do my best to remember that and fill time the same way, in the midst of my busiest days.
There is respite in connection with the ones I love too, of course. Perhaps the most important respite of all are the moments of respite shared—for there’s a loneliness to this earth otherwise, especially in this guarded age. There are so many barriers and defenses from which we need respite.
I also love most how random respite can be; how it can be unplanned, unexpected, not even sought out and still arrive. It can arrive in the midst of chaos or trouble, if I can only be present enough to notice it, embrace it, be grateful for it no matter the weird context.
For example, a few Saturdays back, it turned out to be a beautiful day for a plumbing emergency. The washing machine hadn’t been working right for weeks, and getting anyone to actually come out and fix it had proven next to impossible. That turned out to be good fortune, because it was actually not the machine at all, but a rusting valve and a loose hose. But that was bad fortune, because the ongoing leak caused water damage enough to ruin the floor, soak the insulation and crawlspace. But that became good fortune again, for when the hardware store didn’t have the proper parts, I went to the thrift store to lose myself for a few minutes in the respite of random things—and found a pair of some of the best speakers ever made, for next to nothing. As a result of a plumbing emergency, the sound in my living room is now far, far better—offering an ongoing respite of music that won’t cease when the floor is fixed.
Also, since the water had to be kept shut off, I couldn’t very well clean the house as planned. So I took a bike ride I wouldn’t have taken, on one of the most beautiful days I can recall.
I sat in stillness along the Row River, feeling the stillness rather than merely watching it. I paused with a flock of twenty turkeys then, learning about turkey social habits and hierarchy I never would’ve known. I gained some insight on creative projects. I found my respite, remembering that it can be enforced by emergency or illness or almost any experience, really. I was right where I was supposed to be.
Thus I’m grateful for the way the exertion and rest are intertwined; how trouble can have the seeds of peace in it, in balance to how everything created will eventually decay. I marvel at those moments, and feel blessed that we can share a few of those moments of respite today.