There is an art to doing nothing and I’m trying to perfect it. I have attempted in my exploration of nothingness to expand it to a blank mind, but that’s a lost cause. When I pray, God gets a lot of chatter because the body may be still but the brain just keeps on ticking.
But the act of physical nothingness is a blissful thing.
I learned on my first cruise the value of nothingness and on my second cruise put it into practice. The ship made three stops. From the moment we got on in Galveston the crew and passengers were all abuzz about venues and excursions. Alarms were set, money paid, lines formed. Me? I was practically alone in the buffet area eating breakfast, drinking coffee, watching the water, and reading.
Then I was practically alone in lounge chairs on the deck while drinking tea, watching the water, and reading.
Then when it got too hot, I was practically alone in cushy chairs inside while drinking more tea, watching the water out the window, and reading.
Then everybody got back on the boat and I retreated to my cabin and my balcony and … well, I suppose you get the picture now.
I never once got off that boat. And I have zero regrets about it. When they forced me off at the end of the week, I was rested, relaxed, well hydrated, and well read.
I just returned home from a vacation in the mountains of Tennessee. A cousin from another part of the country whom I have known all my life almost exclusively through letters, email, and more recently long text messages, met me at a rented cabin. There were two hanging hammock-type chairs on a screened-in porch overlooking the TN hills. There were no houses within view, but easy access to touristy-type stuff.
We chose the chairs.
We left the house exactly twice. Once to get groceries, once to get souvenirs for the folks we left at home. We found a nearby shop, determined to do one-stop shopping, then let someone else cook supper before heading back to the cabin and the chairs. There was a big screen TV in the cabin. I’m assuming it had a nice picture, but I wouldn’t know. We never even picked up the remote.
What I did was swing in that chair, drinking coffee, watching the mountains, talking, and reading.
Some would call me lazy and I doubt I’d argue. Some would call me uninspired and I’d probably shrug half in agreement. Some would say I had wasted my time and that’s when the argument would start.
I have no issue with excursions and touristy stuff and no judgment toward those who take part in such activities. Yet I have no anxiety or worry about missing anything because I missed nothing.
I watched the distance. I marveled as the evening mists snaked mysteriously up and out of the trees to cover the mountains before me, then in the morning watched it slowly burn away revealing infinite shades of green. I watched what was probably a hawk but what I hoped was an eagle sore over at least once a day. A bumblebee the size of a peach pit buzzed around the summer flowers outside the porch every morning. A hummingbird came once and I regretted the empty feeder when it didn’t return. At night, fireflies appeared, dotting the darkness and transporting me back to when those blinking stars lit up the nighttime lawn of my childhood.
I talked and talked and talked with a woman who has been a lifetime friend and whose expression and I can now picture and whose voice I can finally hear in my head. The richness of our relationship grew beyond measure. I’ve known her forever, but I KNOW her now.
And I talked to God. A lot. But mostly (and to His tremendous relief, I’m sure) I found myself in a quiet place of listening. I was less chatty and more reflective, more receptive. And He had things to say.
As always, God was in the small stuff. But when I sat at that cabin, looking over the valley and up at the wall of trees of those Tennessee mountains, there was no question that this was big stuff. And God was definitely in it.
So I spent a week in Tennessee and did nothing. And my life is all the richer for it.