I loathe hot, sticky weather. That loathing permeates everything these late July days: the new puppy's antics are annoying, I dread the sensation that I may burst into flame when I walk from air conditioning into the outdoors, the thought of cooking dinner fills me with dread, and the idea of putting on a choir robe is truly daunting. So, what is a health-conscious person of faith to do with this season? Savor it, of course.
Since it's vacation season in the academic world, each Friday brings the question from a colleague, "So what are you doing this weekend?". I'm less and less ashamed that my big goals revolve around reading and napping. I am making a list of fall projects that will commence when the weather is cooler. But that's it for project-doing: my body and spirit crave renewal, and a bit of goofing off. Since my college-aged child is home for the summer, I go to stupid movies or late-night meals with him. I do show up for choir rehearsal and church, but am not sorry that there are fewer meetings that invite me to linger. And I deeply appreciate that National Public Radio and the commercial bookstores go out of their way to provide me with suggestions for recreational reading. My brain has little difficulty with this kind of savoring.
For my body, I am a few weeks into a new food discipline that asks me to eat slowly, being sure to taste and enjoy each and every bite. This way of eating has reminded me of how sweet summer corn can really be, how sensual the experience of eating peaches is, and what an amazing relief drinking cold water brings. If I walk in the early morning, I get glimpses of the twin fawns who follow their mother around looking for food, or hear the hawk in the trees behind my house. The sweaty work of pulling weeds becomes a memory in the cool bath that follows. Enjoyment and slowing down are inextricable.
As for the soul, the vicar (in the US, that's the Episcopal priest in charge of a mission congregation) left our church in early June, and her replacement will not be in place until fall. In the meantime, we have a different priest almost every week. So far, this has meant the savory experiences of learning a new preaching or worship style, and watching non-clergy leaders take up the reins of managing our common life during the transition. We're proving to be pretty good at maintaining the flow, welcoming the stranger, and naming where we hope God is calling us, and what kind of new pastoral leader we're hoping for. We're connecting more deeply than usual around our sense of grief and loss. And we're horsing around outrageously during choir practice. The heat gives us a great excuse.
So, here's a piece of poetry to close with, and savor. Wishing you the best in the heat of summer...
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
Health Programs Director
Clergy Health Initiative