Summertime (such as it has been in the Midwest this year) brings us a new and different pace. It is summertime because its time is unique from the rest of our year. Our schedules are actually more erratic, more full of appointments which tick away boxes in our personal lives (doctors, dentists, contractors) and our professional lives (conferences, search committees, summer teaching). So, when I moan to a friend or sister-in-law about “why is summertime going so fast?!?” I really do already have a logical answer.
We (or at least I) tend to think about time being eaten up by the acute, specific minutes of our day which are scheduled—and the time allotted to get to (or frantic housecleaning done while one is gotten to) in those specific minutes.
It seems there should be another way to think about how time passes in these summer days. Perhaps we should not think about the mundane tasks (dusting the house or driving to the veterinarian) as the focal moments in our day. What seems like the “in-between” times is perhaps where my focus should be lying.
In the seeming “in-between” times of our busy summer days are the long stretches of simply playing with our year and a half year old daughter. She asks to go outside (“IDE?”), blow bubbles, sort laundry into piles (really, she thinks this is fun), cuddle and read books, or play music (her favorite request is “TAR?” which means “Mumma, would you play Sesame Street songs on the guitar, please?”). These simple things are the bulk of her day—and she is blissfully unaware of the typing, phone calling, and cleaning that are done during her nap.
The strange thing about all these activities—is that I have been focused on the “quick succession of busy nothings,” as Jane Austen once wrote. But where is my heart’s desire? Where is peace? Where is my loving community? Not in the doctor’s office, not in the grocery store, and not even in my endless preparation for classes. My little daughter’s hand is holding mine, even reaching out for it when I let her small fingers go as I fiddle with some task. Then she calls me by name—calling me back to myself, and the community of love right in front of me.
Our treatment of time has its implications for how we understand our liturgical lives, as well. Where is our heart’s desire? Our peace? Whose hand is reaching out for ours, even when we are immensely distracted by the dirty charcoal grill and the deck in need of painting? God calls us, at regular points of the week, and moments of our day, to remember who we are—and where our loving community is.
And as my daughter stirs in this very moment from her nap—she begins to call me by name. Let me not think of this as a summons to servitude, but a call to be in relationship—to enjoy the gift of time with her.