My birthday was earlier this month. It was lovely, with friends and family around me. And not one, but two birthday cakes. In the wake of another birthday, I am slowly and surely coming to acknowledge the earth-shaking importance of two practices: rest and play.
Of course, I have always known that sleep was important (even though regretfully in all too short supply). And much of the joy I have known has come from occasions related to leisure…from vacations and holidays and concerts and other special events that lit up my life.
But now I am coming to see and know that not all rest is sleep. Sometimes rest is hanging out on the couch, with a book or a magazine or a movie or the dog or maybe just hanging out doing nothing at all. Rest can be walking around the neighborhood or even the mall, just looking around. Rest is time that calls for nothing except breathing.
Not all play is recreational sport or holiday party. Sometimes play is taking pictures with my phone…of the ground or a fence or a leaf. Sometimes play is writing a poem or singing along or even watching TV. Play can be almost anything that isn’t work, and even work can be play if chosen freely.
Rest and play are often dismissed in our adult lives. Once upon a time, they were required activities. I am finding that I miss them now.
Last month I was on retreat, on the Hudson River about an hour north of Manhattan. The autumn leaves were beautiful. It was Fall there, with an upper case “F.” The retreat was led by Jennifer Louden and Marianne Elliott and Tracey Clark. There were invitations to writing, to photography, to yoga, to dancing, to silence and breathing. Resting and playing. New friends. And in the spaces between all these invitations, between rest and play, between such beauty in each leaf…grace abounded. Peace and mercy and compassion and grace. The whispers of God.
Very soon Advent will begin and the holiday season will arrive. Next week is Thanksgiving in the United States. Harvest time. A time to consider rest and play, to notice and reflect grace all around us.
May we know this apparent grace in the moments of today, and all the moments of our lives.