As we wrap up another summer of freckles, sandy toes, and ice cream cones what wisdom can we take with us from our lazy days of reflection by the lake? Here are a few lessons that we learned (or remembered) this year at the cottage:
- Less is more. If we can fit 6 people and all that we need to live for 3 weeks into a mini van we must have too much stuff at home. All the fussing about with our wardrobes and our decorations and our kitchen gadgets and, yes, even our bookshelves can be a distraction from the things that matter most (which are actually not things at all). Living simply allows us to be fully being present in the moments of our lives. Consider the true cost of the stuff you bring into your homes in terms of the time and energy it will sap from other worthy endeavours.
- Water IS therapeutic. It turns out that the inner calm you derive from the sound of crashing waves on the shoreline physiologically and psychologically relieves your stress. We are more at rest when water surrounds us with its healing powers. Water also reminds us of the living water that is promised through Christ in Scripture and this elemental connection is no coincidence. As Canadians, we are blessed with beautiful waterscape that we shouldn’t take for granted as we cultivate #bluemind.
- You are doing too much laundry. Although this may also be a positive byproduct of the limited options of a simple wardrobe (see #1), we manage to do very little laundry with limited cottage facilities and somehow we still have clean clothes. I don’t know about your kids but mine have thought on occasion that cleaning up their room meant putting every article of clothing that was on the floor into the laundry basket. In response to this sweeping and unnecessary overload of the laundry basket we instituted a new rule: unless something is stinky or stained it can be worn again. (Underwear and socks are, of course, always laundered – without inspecting stink or stains!) At the cottage, this rule is diligently followed; at home, it is a work-in-progress.
- Wasting time is not a waste of time. My daughter recently purchased a shirt that reads, “I waste my time wisely” – isn’t that a great slogan? An extended sabbatical is a wonderful respite from the daily grind but we can’t always wait for a vacation to take a rest. Coming home to a Sabbath-rhythm is essential. Just be sure to waste your time wisely by filling it with the things that rejuvenate your soul.
- Boredom fuels creativity. When my kids use the b-word I remind them that I am not their entertainment director and that boredom is a gift for their imaginations. I can’t remember the last time I was truly bored but I long for boredom because it is in those moments where we pause to be still that we open ourselves up to new burst of creativity. At the cottage, songs were composed and stories were written as the kids mined the beauty from the boredom. Just today my “bored” kids decided to set up a comic book studio, assigning appropriate roles to all siblings based on age and natural talent. I would not have come up with that idea as entertainment director, I assure you, and if I had rushed in with another suggestion, they would have missed out. And this is not just about children; each of us needs a chance to be bored in order to fuel our creative genius.
- Art is imitation. When an artist attempts to capture the beauty of a landscape s/he is first inspired by the Creator’s canvas. Even the photos I took at the lake did not begin to capture the grandeur of the vibrant double rainbow or the vast starry sky – the scenes that took my breath away. Beauty and wonder surround us, no matter where we are. Look for it. Revel in it. And let even the most creative imitations remind you of the original artist.
- Even rainy days are full of joy. The sound of rain on the rooftop or droplets dripping from heavy-laden leaves are further examples of #bluemind. But beyond that, on rainy days, or snow days, or any other days that the weather drives us indoors we have a valid excuse to stay in, to stay put, and to readjust our agendas. These days permit freedom from the pressure to “get out there” and provide opportunities to “get in there”. Instead of seeing inclement weather as a spoiler of great plans, choose to see it as an unexpected opportunity for a different kind of day, one that can be full of the joys of reading and reflection.
- There is a song in the stillness. There is so much noise around and within us every day that we can’t enter into the quiet with much ease at all. On those rare occasions that we manage to hush the noise we’ll find that there are still sounds in the silence. A bird’s song, rustling grasses, and lapping waves -natural music that is muted by the usual cacophony – are rediscovered when our ears are tuned in. Life is so much richer when we rediscover the still small voice in the wind and can finally hear it again.
- A different view offers a different perspective. When we take ourselves away from the things that we typically look at we begin to see our circumstances in a new light. There is something real and honest in our need to get away to regain perspective; a different visual space will promote a different mental space. Frequent breaks from our usual surroundings will freshen our outlook and help us to see things anew.
- Families who play together stay together. My favourite moment in our entire vacation was the spontaneous outburst of the Covey a cappella rendition of Celebration – complete with back-up vocals and multiple harmonies. Though our Dutch Blitz game was temporarily interrupted by this flash mob, a fun-loving spirit that we had been searching to reclaim was revived by its energy. The fam jam on the porch overlooking the lake fostered the same closeness; banjos, guitars, vocals and a stack of chord sheets will set the stage for memories that last a lifetime. Play – games, music, sports – together and you’ll strengthen the ties that bind.
- Rent is not a four-letter word. Too often we (in North American Society) see rental options as “throwing our money away”. We choose to rent our cottage and many people have questioned us in this decision; yet, it makes all the sense in the world to us. It functions like an all-expenses-paid family vacation: we budget a set amount and show up to relax and enjoy it. When you own a property you cannot get away from the obligations to furnish, maintain and fix. We go away to get away from all those obligations at home. Why would we want to double our to-do list at a time in our lives when keeping one lawn cut is a challenge? Rental options can provide a wonderful level of freedom that ownership does not. Besides, even the things we think we own are only borrowed for a time; they’ll all go back in the box.
- Second breakfast is as important as first breakfast. Experts have always encouraged us to eat a healthy breakfast to start your day properly. But we really don’t hear enough about second breakfast. At the cottage, the day really doesn’t start with much activity until after second breakfast and this seems like a habit worth bringing home. Another expert on living well, J.R.R. Tolkien, put it this way: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
How did your adventures teach you about life this summer? What did you learn (or remember) that you want to apply at home?