I ran across the best quote in a book I was reading earlier:
“I arise every morning torn between the desire to save the world and the desire to savor the world. It makes it hard to plan the day.”
~ T.H. White (author of The Once and Future King)
Can anybody else relate? I definitely can! — especially in light of the last few weeks of social distancing. I know that for most people this has been a extremely hard season of life, potentially being cut off from soul-feeding work, from loved ones, for normalcy and predictability.
However, I have also heard reports of people finding solace in their newly expansive days: taking long walks, doing jigsaw puzzles, stretching their bodies, reading books with their children, gardening, baking bread. I know that hasn’t been true for all, but the slower pace has been beneficial in its odd unexpected way for many, even as it has mingled with grief and frustration and fear. I hope that this positive taste of slowness is something that lingers, with renewed appreciation for all these simple joys that can be cherished at home alone or with our closest loved ones.
Casey and I have not been able to dip quite as deeply into the wellness of slowness out here on the farm. In some ways, much has been been “pruned” from our lives. We stay on the farm almost all the time, eliminating a lot of driving time that was just a normal, expected part of our daily life. But, even then, with all the hats we wear, our days have been extra full. As you know Casey is both a farmer and a County Commissioner (and the board chair this year), and he has taken on full responsibility for the county’s coronavirus response. He spends hours every day reading the latest research and news and corresponding with people in the county and state about what needs to happen next, whether that’s offering grants to small businesses or contact tracing or connecting local manufacturers of PPEs with buyers.
Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing to homeschool the children (something that was already normal for us but has less built-in breaks now that we can’t do our extra-curriculars), helping the McMinnville Women’s Choir fundraise (since we had to cancel our concert), and helping to running a local election campaign that I am passionate about. It’s been a LOT.
Oh, and also? It’s spring! So there’s plenty for us to do on the farm too. Because each of Casey’s hats (commissioner/farmer) are so different, the balance works for him. I can tell you from first-hand experience of knowing Casey since he was 19 that “resting” is not really a thing for him. He has a lot of natural in-born energy, and he’s like a work dog that will start chewing on the couch if it can’t work. When we were in college, he’d regularly start his day working in the biochemistry research lab at 6 am, then attend his classes, then go on a ten-mile (or longer run), then do some homework, then make dinner (and then fall asleep on the couch in the evening).
I, on the other hand, feel more stretched thin in my many roles. Casey and I both savor the world, but we do it in different ways. I love having quiet time to just sit. Or, yes, take long leisurely walks or even do puzzles while listening to audiobooks! Looking back on recent years, I think I’ve let a lot of this savoring time slide. Surprisingly, when the kids were young, they actually forced me to do more slow-paced things like going on weekly nature outings that were deliciously slow (kid-paced) and forced me to really see and hear and smell and touch (and sometimes even taste!) all that was around me.
Those outings and similar occasions when all I “had” to do was be with the children were really lovely (especially once they were at least old enough to not pinch and bite each other or need me to wipe their butts — I will be real about that!).
But as the kiddos have grown older, we’ve prioritized more structured activities for them and when we are on the farm, they’re so much more independent that I find myself filling those lazy afternoons now with work (such as helping with a campaign). Also, the quarantine itself interrupted two much-needed “mini-vacations” Casey and I had planned this spring, and of course we just filled that time with work!
The obvious answer to T.H. White is that we don’t have to choose either in life. A full, well-lived life will probably be comprised of lots of both saving and savoring. And, in many ways each contains part of the other. Why would I care to save a world I didn’t savor? How could I savor a world I didn’t help take responsibility for? But, there’s probably a really important balance-point to be found in every life. Some of us, like Casey, can probably lean more heavily toward the active work part, finding energy in that act itself. Others of us, perhaps like myself, need to build in more of the savoring in order to remember why in the world we were doing all that work to begin with!
I’ve always loved the concepts of keeping a Sabbath or taking sabbaticals. Our faith traditions have built-in reminders that we do need pauses, time to just cherish the gifts of our life rather than always racing on to the next Very Important Project. I also appreciate the idea that the work we do can have rhythms, whether that be daily (time for each in the day), weekly (taking one day off out of every seven) or more seasonal (vacations, sabbaticals). Scheduling, of course, is the very conundrum I think White was talking about! It’s not that life can’t have both saving and savoring; it’s more an issue of how to schedule both. But, regardless, I think it is essential for all of us to step back to assess, rest, and actively just enjoy these lives we get to live
(Which is also part of why our family takes summer off from learning even though many other homeschooling families go year-round. I love seeing the kids embrace their free-time in the summer, and I love seeing how many huge leaps they make when they jump back into school work with fresh energy and a slightly more developed brain.)
Looking past election day (May 19!) and the end of our family’s school year, I am already planning to shift the balance for the next season of my life — namely, this coming summer. Because I’m a list maker, I’ve even started making lists of how I want to spend our days, shaping them on the assumption that we still probably won’t be leaving the farm as much as we might normally do in summer. Farm work will of course be a priority, but at this point much of that work feels like it falls more heavily in the savoring category for both Casey and me — it forces us outside, working together, in the natural world. Since it isn’t the same 24/7 work it used to be, we find ourselves very renewed by it. But I also plan to go on bike rides with the kids, knit, play music, work in my own garden, and even (yes, I put this on my list) “read and/or take naps in the hammock.” (Apparently I have to put naps on a list in order to give myself permission to take them!)
I’ll be honest that I’m pretty exhausted by this entire spring — by the uncertainty and the unexpected work to do without the usual joys of singing with friends. I’m sure many others feel the same (certainly all the parents out there who are having to work remotely while also take charge of educating their own children!). It’s been a trying season in so very many ways.
I encourage other people to think about what could be removed from their plate in the coming weeks or months. I’m mentally preparing myself for potentially another year with quite a lot of cancellations and possibly massive disappointments. For sure no summer trips to Europe (or for me Minneapolis) or even to go camping at Silver Falls will be happening this summer. There will be relationships stretched thin by distance. There will be continued uncertainty and fear probably for awhile yet to come … but the world is still here for us to savor. I’m working on what that looks like for me — what might it look like for you to savor, even now?
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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Meet this week’s vegetables: