Getting a break from the American bustle

December 26, 2012 09:59 am

On the radio this afternoon an American living in Paris said that Parisians are focused on the food and the slowing down of the season.

Really? What slowing down time?

By Thanksgiving even us, far, far away from your typical American bustle, string parties through the weeks of December, slay the tree,
bespeckle the home, bake stuff, mail other stuff, and write lists and lists and lists of the things to get done during this slowing down time.

Within the Christmas card writing, shopping, baking, and especially the mopping, dishes, and wood getting, is a ripe space to escape the busyness thrust upon us.

I used to spend a lot of time at a friend’s cabin in the Rocky Mountain foothills. The property had the supreme amenity of a spring. Collecting water in large jugs was one of the first tasks to do upon arrival and throughout the weekend.

It takes several minutes for a five-gallon jug to fill with water, so the first time I was assigned the task I tried to think of another chore I could do until it filled. But then the Zen hit me. Instead I sat by the spring, doing absolutely nothing, as the jug filled.

Now I do the same thing at home, waiting for the mop bucket to fill.

Sit and listen

These interstitial times, like waiting for the water to fill the bucket, or year-end reflection, are wonderful times to stop making lists and sit and listen to the world around.

I spent this morning on the Wallowa County Christmas Bird Count. When I asked my friend if I could join his party I was informed that I was not to ask a lot of questions. In only a few minutes I blurted out, “What’s an accipiter?” Answer: small hawk. Oops.

Talking isn’t a complete no-no during birding; sometimes consultation is necessary to determine species. Stories are told, yet interrupted by bird identifying and counting.

Seeing a cool bird was referred to as a “cheap thrill,” while others were at church or watching football, we drove around in sub-freezing temperatures with the windows down counting starlings and magpies.

Now birding isn’t done only with the eyes. Several times today we stopped and listened. There was a lot of chirruping as well as dogs barking and cows lowing.

Tomorrow I will have many hours of freeway driving to reflect before I hit the noise and congestion of the big city. At night I can hear the train whistles, early in the morning there is the noise of helicopters overhead and in the late afternoon sirens whizzing by on their way to the hospital will make the dogs howl.

Yet I will carry a piece of the pastoral stillness of the Wallowa Mid-Valley with me to crawl into from time to time to honor the slowing down time of the season.