It surprised me, that first day of our camping trip. I hadn’t expected to be so uneasy, so unsettled, so discombobulated. We are doing a short camping trip at Tawas, on Lake Huron, primarily to make sure hubby’s new truck pulls the camper without problems. That first evening was beautiful so I walked to the lighthouse on Tawas Bay and found the path to the beach on Lake Huron, hoping to get some photos in the evening light.
As I was sitting on the beach with the sun going down behind me, I attempted to get the introspective, reverent, quiet peace that is usually so easy for me to find on the beach – but I was agitated and uneasy instead. Then I remembered reading Ann Murrow Lindburg’s Gift from the Sea oh so many years ago. She said that it took her a few days to settle into the quiet routine of the sea, to be totally present with the waves and the wind and the beach. She wrote this over 50 years ago.
I was surprised at how much stress I must feel if it takes me time to get used to the slower pace of camping. The WordPress daily prompt is retrospective – what would I say about the culture of 2013. Maybe our culture isn’t so different than that of Lindburg’s 50 years ago, or 100 years ago, or 1000 years ago. Maybe life has always required that we work hard, take care of people and things, worry about…
We can’t have families, relationships, homes, and comforts without putting work into them. I have responsibilities but they are changing because of my transition to retirement and aging. I still “want” responsibilities because they keep me connected and active, but I am continually assessing how much and what kinds I want. I also need breaks from some of these responsibilities so I can re-center, breath deeply, experience me in the world.
If I trace my memory back, I realize my experience now isn’t so different than it was back in the “good old days”. Life was never simpler, it was different. There is nothing simple about preparing for adulthood, or getting married, or producing and raising three children. There is nothing simple about working a job, maintaining a home, nurturing extended family, building friendships.
At each step of the way I needed to make decisions about what was important and what I needed to let go of. No matter what stage of life I was in I needed to say no to some things and yes to others. I needed to work at keeping life simple enough but not too simple. I needed to manage my level of stress.
I am currently reading An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. She proposes that we expand our experiences of spirituality to everything we do, not just to our worship in religious buildings. She is stimulating my thinking about how to make the simplest of daily experiences into a spiritual experience. I’m not sure if I can make it work, but I am being more intentional about appreciating the inherent beauty in everything I do and see. My challenge is to see my world as God sees it. I think God has seen the world the same through all of time – there was never a simpler time from God’s perspective.
Another book that I’ve picked up again is The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz. Her research shows that we have very selective memories, remembering and combining the best from several time periods while forgetting the problems that existed. I wonder how long it will take before people forget about the frustrations, hassles, injustices, and meanness of 2013 and remember it as the “good old days” when life was simpler.