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The Forced Pause, the Gift of Rest

Bryan Bliss

Winter Weather

I walked to the grocery store in hopes of finding a power outlet to charge my laptop. Or better: a rogue bit of Wi-Fi that might allow me to e-mail my editor and assure her that, despite the 18 inches of snow being dumped onto our small town, I would be making my deadline. It was not a peaceful walk, the sort you’d expect as snow slowly pillowed on the ground and the entire world went quiet.

No. I went to the store looking for time – looking to work. But all that awaited me was a couple of college kids wearing Adventure Time pajama bottoms and a cashier who kept checking the windows and reminding everybody who came through her line that she – emphatically – “did not need this.”

Rabbi Abraham Heschel said time was the first thing God made holy. A day. The Sabbath. And yet, most of us are extraordinarily bad at accepting the gift of rest. Artists, it seems, have this affliction in spades. There is always one more sentence to be fine-tuned. One more stroke to apply. The reasons to work – to tinker – are countless.  The world applauds busyness. We are encouraged to reject, as Barbara Brown Taylor calls it, the grace of simply “sitting on the porch” because “a field full of weeds will not earn anyone's respect.”

As I walked home, I noticed the light. It was inverted, turning the night into a strange, off-color day. I was alone and frustrated to be going back to a house that had no power, that forced rest upon me like a sickness. But as I walked – as the mounting snow forced my pace slower – I couldn’t help but notice the silence of the empty streets. The sound of my breathing, heavy in the cold.

(Photo by Charles Arbogast)