Dirty Hands, Lakes, Kitchens, and Rest

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I’m not sure I’m one who should give a speech about resting. In fact, I’m just now learning what it means to rest. How to plant myself down in a chair and not move for at least five minutes, breathing in and out — coming back to the present moment. Everything around me seems to always be moving, jostling, my mind always thinking. I am my mother’s child, my family’s next generation to carry on the transitions; it makes sense. We are hard workers who always are on the move, always working towards the next goal, always in motion, always onward.

Always onward is a good thing. I’m proud of where I come from and how my family works hard for everything that they have. It’s a Midwestern ethic that you put your two cents in and get your hand dirty in order to stake a claim on the land and have your say in the matter. However, there comes a point where I’ve given all I have and giving any more seems like it would be less than giving anything at all. This is when I know it is time for me to rest. Or at least take a step back and breath, return my focus to the right places.

Resting has never come easy for me. It isn’t for my mom, either. Her hands and feet are constantly alive: moving, fixing, typing, scraping, working hard to be able to feel vital and well. It’s ingrained into her process. It’s the same for me. I always have to be performing some sort of task in order for me to feel like I have accomplished something during the day. That I wasn’t lazy and, therefore, I can be satisfied with my efforts; not being so hard on myself for not checking off every box on my to-do list.

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This week has had a slight change of pace, from my usual rise and grind effort, though. I’ve been staying in a house that is forty-five minutes from the high rises in the city, out in the middle of midwestern nowhere, on a lake that only a few people know the name of. My fingernail polish is chipping and I don’t mind. My eyes are becoming un-swollen and I can see. My writing, unfiltered and awful yet full of a colorful essence that can be worked with and molded into something sweet to taste yet fresh and new. My hair frizzy from the humidity yet I’m leaving it be because what is the point of taming it anyway?

If I stay in a constant routine too much, if I am costly at work, I become stale and uninteresting. My conversations and efforts lack while my eye shut down and I become a person no one wants to be around. Refilling the well is a necessity that I don’t seem to take seriously enough, yet this week I can see how much it truly helps out the person who is stuck in a big muddy rut. Within this past week, all of my tiredness and exultation is being undone for me. I’m learning what it means to rest.

Sitting in a screened sunroom at 7:00 a.m. with the sun rising over the tops of the trees and sparkling over the deep blue hues of the calmed water while listening to the bird sing their morning songs puts my restless soul in a state of comfort and stillness. My eye hurt slightly but the rising sun coats them with a welcome and lets them know that it’s ok to be tired sometimes.

Soft silken water ripples and folds as I row the canoe down the lake and into a cove where sun glints and filters through the trees. My arms burning slightly because of the weight I am pushing through the water but it’s all worth it. The cicadas hum, their voices carrying high and low across that vast space and absorb into my ears. While out in the middle of the lake, we got attacked by a giant horsefly. Swingin my paddle at it, I almost tip our canoe and haul us into the water. We tried to row away haphazardly only to spin out and go in circles while the horsefly laughed and bit us more. I’m sure any spectators were in for a good laugh watching us try to get away.

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Inside my brother plays Super Mario Brothers on my moms old Nintendo 64. The retro, boxy beat comes out of the speakers; my brother’s eyes focused and intent on the screen. He makes the little pixel plumber jump from question mark box to the top of a gumba’s head, squashing it while continuing forward and getting the mushroom that will make him grow twice his original size. Part of me wants quite to read my book but another part of me realizes that every human in this room is one with a life that is so precious. I let him play.

The outdated kitchen is messy but only in the loved and used way. Cheerios out on the kitchen counter and used coffee mugs clutter the bottom of the sink. I do the dishes after dinner, getting the greasy stains off the used dishes while the room is abuzz with conversation and clatter. My lips press into a smile as I put down the soggy sponge and step back from the situation and look around me, wet dripping bowl still in my hand. Everything is as disordered and unperfect as it seems yet there the night sky outside is hovering over us, covering us in a blanket that says all is ok. All is good. I go back to scrubbing.

I took a nap yesterday and for the first time in a long time I didn’t wake up wanting to go back to sleep.

As Henry David Thoreau puts it, “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” I believe that wholeheartedly.

This is what it means to rest.

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Although I am still moving: muscles expanding and contracting while I row a canoe through the rippling water into places where the horseflies play; or paddling in a kayak in and out of the coves that are surrounded by the green leaves and filter sunshine. Although I’m still waking up early, it is to watch the sunrise. Although I am typing this, it is to write something on my own accord and not to fulfill a gap in a newspaper or assignment for a grade. Although I’m still picking up people’s plates and doing the dishes after dinner, it’s out of love instead of necessity. Although I am still in motion, it is with intended presents and not to check a list off or complete a set of tasks.

Resting is an art that I am still learning to grasp but as I sit here, drinking my lukewarm cup of coffee and exercising my figures in a way that is not so demanding, I realize that resting shouldn’t be a thing that is carried out as a check mark off on a list. It should be taken with eases in itself, it should be practiced, a process that in itself is work in the most glorious yet filling ways. It’s apart of this life. Instead of trying so hard, you just expand yourself out in the open and let it all be. Let the day of rest unfold in its present time as you find yourself in its present moment.

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