The signs are unmistakably there. When I get up in the morning, it’s still dark outside. The “dusk-detector” on our automatic garage lights kicks in a little earlier, sometimes even before Jim gets home. The flowers have settled into their full growth, and the lawn is showing some signs of browning.
There are school supplies on sale at Target.
This season is barely beginning it’s turn toward fall, even though with all the cool, cloudy days we had in June it only seems to have gotten started in earnest during the past couple of weeks.
There is a tree in our front yard whose branches completely fill the view from the window above my desk. I think it’s an ornamental cherry tree, because it has tiny red berries that (annoyingly) fall on the driveway and get mashed into a red pulp which I’m always fearful will be tracked onto my beige carpet. Right now those branches are completely laden with berries, thicker than I ever recall. My grandmother would call that a sign of a hard winter ahead- nature producing extra food for the squirrels and birds that rely on those berries for food. “You watch,” she’s say, “they’ll start eating those berries up soon, start storing away energy for the hard times ahead."
Sorry, Gram, I’m really don’t want to think about that now. I know there are still lots of good summer days left. They stretch out ahead of me, wide open, with time to spare.
Did you catch that? “Time to spare?”
Like the inevitable change of season, I have become aware of a change in my life in this past year, an expansiveness, a sense of openness and freedom. It’s partly summer, but it’s also because I’ve pared down so many of the activities that once kept me busy from morning until night.
Now I have “time on my hands."
It’s quite an interesting phenomenon for someone who once worked two jobs, played in a professional musical group, was active in church choir and committees, took care of home and hearth and elderly parents. Ten years ago I was writing about feeling the constant pressure of the clock, being harried and stressed trying to get it all done.
For this entire week, I’ve had nothing on my schedule except a dinner and lunch engagement.
Last week was similar. Next week looks to be the same.
There is part of me that’s almost ashamed to admit this. I feel guilty. My husband is working a lot right now, my son works like a fiend. The old pioneer work ethic rears up in my head and tells me I need to get busy. There must be something that needs doing, right?
And here am I, with all this time on my hands.
So I sit on my back deck reading a book, or wander slowly around the block with the dogs as they meander along. I stare out the window at tiny red berries proliferating on the tree branches. I make some lunch, grocery shop, cook some dinner. I remind myself not to rush through these things. There is no need.
Sometimes a nagging voice pokes at me - get up, find something productive to do. Yesterday it almost tempted me to peruse the classifieds for a part time job.
I say ALMOST. I believe that life gives us what we need when most we need it. Perhaps I need this time now, need it like the birds and squirrels need that profusion of berries to build up my stores of peace and fortitude, need it to pay attention to every detail of these days when I’m so often purely content, soak them up to recall when a different day comes. For as surely as winter follows summer, something will come to consume my days again- be it with work or worry, adventure or change.
This time on my hands is a gift. I plan to clasp it to me and hold it tight.