Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Sanctuary of Sleet

WEATHER NOTICE: Today’s book signing at Burgundy Books has been postponed (new date to be scheduled soon—stay tuned).

Today’s book signing was postponed, a wise decision as the roads look pretty slick. It’s possible we’ll venture out later, but for most of the day we are “iced in”. Disappointed at first, I am coming around quickly to being grateful for the “enforced” home and family time.

I am reading The Year of Living Biblically, by AJ Jacobs. I admire this writer’s open mind. He is not religious-leaning but has a lot of curiosity about biblical rules and their origins, and he manages to remain open-minded about even the most archaic sounding dictates.

In one scene, he manages to lock himself in his apartment’s bathroom. No one is home, and he goes through the usual aggravation before finally settling down and awaiting his wife’s return. This 4-hour confinement leads, ultimately, to some rather profound thoughts. He writes, “I know that outside the bathroom, the world is speeding along. That blogs are being read. Wild salmon is being grilled...But I’m OK with it…I’ve reached an unexpected level of acceptance. For once, I’m savoring the present.” Jacobs realizes that this is what the Sabbath should feel like: “A pause. Not just a minor pause, but a major pause….a sanctuary in time.”

This is a speedy season. Despite pacing myself, there’s still that December 25 deadline to consider, cards that must make it on time, packages that must get shipped. True, the world won’t dissolve if things arrive late, but as in my work life I always feel compelled to hit those deadlines.

So this enforced Sabbath, albeit a real reformed version, is a welcome break for my family and me. I’ll give Gavin a long bubble bath later, and we’ll put up the tree that waits on our front porch. We’lI wrap our nieces gifts so they can ship to Florida on time. Yes, an orthodox Sabbath observer would be unlikely to do even these things, for they still involve work of a sort. But to us, this is a pleasurably slow day in, tasks done at leisure rather than at hyperspeed.

This is the second involuntary change in plans in 2 days. Extended family needs left us drained, and we decided not to push ourselves to the church pot luck and variety show last night. Instead, we grabbed the last pre-darkness hour to chop down our tree at Joe’s Christmas Tree Farm right here in Deep River. After a frigid walk and chopping our spruce, we sat on hay bales around the fire and roasted marshmallows, surely Gavin’s favorite part of the outing. Another unexpected break, another much needed mini-Sabbath.

I think interruptions, be they snow storms, cancellations, or mechanical failures, deserve a second chance especially during this season. They may contain a message, or at least some respite from the daily grind. Wishing you “sanctuaries in time” that allow a deep breath, a reflection, some much needed rest.

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