Sipped and Savored

Sometimes I become disoriented in terms of time -- not just misjudging the hour of day, but also miscalculating how I'm situated within a given month.   I'm shocked by the fact that we've reached the middle of October.  The middle of October!  How has this happened?

In my mind, fall has just begun and the semester has barely started.  In reality, however, leaves already have turned colors and the semester, rather than being in its infancy, is wrapping up its eighth week of classes.  (This faulty internal clock also likely explains why, despite spending 37 years on this planet, I feel like I'm in my 20's and assume that the 90's were just ten years ago.)

But back to October.  I love fall so dearly, yet each year I find myself propelled through the season rather than sipping and savoring its delights as much as I'd like.  For example, while I'd love to spend my time gallivanting through the golden-leafed, blue-skied splendor of a perfect October Saturday afternoon, I'm often curled up at my kitchen table grading a stack of essays or speeches, periodically glancing out the window.

Each year I grapple with this paradox of fall:  It is the best of times.  It is the worst of times.

Each year I relearn how to come to grips with this tension, to learn to live happily within it, and most often, this happens when I get outside -- even if for the slightest diversion, even if I need to go out of my way to create that diversion.  Because, really, how can your soul not be strengthened when you periodically surround yourself views like these?

Some of my best times in the past month have been the simplest outdoor moments: cutting the grass and watching the lawnmower chew the fallen leaves in my path, turning over our garden and smelling the earthy aroma of soil and tomatoes that never quite ripened, trimming back our bushes for the upcoming winter and noticing the crisp air.

Even today when my indoor life threatened to overwhelm -- barrages of emails, another two stacks of assignments collected -- I stumbled upon an unlikely diversion: my annual flu shot.  It forced me to walk off my beaten path across campus where I found this bench.  It beckoned me to sit.

So I did.  Just for a moment, I stopped my hustle to sit on the bench and watch a few errant leaves float their way to the ground.  Life felt a bit easier.  The inbox and the ungraded essays and the newly-submitted assignments lost their power to dictate how I was viewing my day.

This is why I'm writing this post now.  When I grow busy with teaching and parenting and daily demands, I can lose touch with the activities that bring me the most clarity and pleasure, one of which is writing.  I've had so many things I've wanted to write about lately, but haven't.  It felt irresponsible to blog when so much else needed to be done.

But, when I look at it from a different angle, perhaps it's irresponsible not to write.  Perhaps it's irresponsible to squander moments of fulfillment in exchange for perpetual productivity.

Maybe the month of October is meant to relearn this lesson: life is best when sipped and savored.

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