Time to relax

Have a seat and relax!  I'm bringing some virtual refreshments. San Juan Capistrano, California, July 2003

Have a seat and relax! I’m bringing some virtual refreshments.
San Juan Capistrano, California, July 2003

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”Sydney J. Harris

I’m guessing today is a busy day for you.  All the more reason to give yourself a quick break, or maybe even a long one.  See that bench in the garden, pictured above?  That’s your virtual space to sit down for a few minutes and relax.  I’ll bring some imaginary iced tea or lemonade or a frozen fruit slushy.

As I write this today, I’ve been watching a team of men working in the massive undertaking of bringing down our majestic old oak, which towered well over 100 feet high until yesterday.  It’s a job that is expected to take three full days, and we’re now halfway through day two.  Not only is the work amazingly difficult and risky (can you imagine climbing that high to attach a crane to a tree limb before sawing it down?) but they are doing it with temperatures in the 90’s and very high humidity.

It’s thrilling to watch them, and also interesting.  They can’t be in a hurry because a lot of care is needed with every step, and the work goes in stages.  The huge chunks of tree that go sailing in the air over our roofs have to be set down with surgical precision by the crane operator, so as not to hit fences, roof lines, or existing landscaping.

When they started, I was a bit anxious for their safety.  I kept bringing out pitchers of ice and water, and watching with held breath as one or another of them would go high into the tree branches, or stand on the ground while the crane slowly lowered a massive section of trunk.

At first I was surprised that they had such a large crew working, but then I noticed that some were busy sawing, climbing, lifting or carrying, while others were resting, wisely sitting underneath the shade of the poplar and dogwood trees surrounding the work area.  I would guess that the rest time is vital to the overall process; when work is this strenuous, I don’t see how it could continue in the stifling heat without allowing for breaks.

Among the millions who work hard every day, they are probably more aware than most that working nonstop can be dangerous.  Muscles, after all, cannot go endlessly without some relief.

But can the mind or the soul do it?  Sometimes it seems as if we think so.  Surrounded by urgency that may be real or devised, fueled by caffeine or sugar or nicotine, and kept artificially wakeful by electric lights, we might be ignoring our need for rest and relaxation.  And it will be quite risky for us to keep ignoring it.

I couldn’t remember knowing anything of Sidney J. Harris until I started writing this post.  As is my habit, I looked for information to link to his name.  It seemed ominous to read that he died as the result of a heart attack at 69, an age that sounds increasingly young to me.  I wonder whether his words about relaxation are the result of hard experience.

Let’s all resolve to remember his words, and not get so caught up in activity that we forget to take breaks.  As such paradoxical truths often go, we are sometimes least likely to rest when we most need to do it.  If you are thinking to yourself “That sounds lovely, but it’s just not possible right now,” try extra-hard to carve out some time, even 5 minutes.  The virtual lemonade will be ice cold and waiting for you!




  1. Good morning, Julia! I hadn’t heard that quote before, but it certainly strikes a note with me.
    I do remember learning about how sitting too long (which is how I work) can allow the formation of deep vein thrombosis (which is why you’re supposed to get up and stretch during long flights). Then when one finally moves, well, this is supposed to be a cheerful site … let’s just say that this may be why so many companies are giving their employees pedometers.
    Even knowing this hasn’t been sufficient to get me up and moving at lunch time, but Harris’ quote addresses the problem, shifting my perspective. Thank you!

    • Susan, you make an important point here…for so many of us nowadays, we work sitting down, and taking breaks to move around are essential for many reasons, including the DVT you mention as well as eyestrain, neck and back problems, calorie burn, etc. My FitBit has been a real eye-opener in that regard. It’s amazing how much the heart rate and calorie burn slow down anytime I sit for more than 5 minutes at a time. Sometimes I put my computer on the kitchen counter and try to work from a standing position, but that’s hard to get used to. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a music stand or small podium and trying that with my notebook, to see if it’s any easier. If anything, sitting jobs are even trickier since we don’t realize the physical toll they are taking on us as quickly as we do with more muscular work. I think I’ll take a quick break now… 🙂

  2. Would love to comment on this, but gotta run . . . things to do: people to see, etc. etc.

  3. Cherie

    Sorry to hear of the loss of a beautiful old oak tree. I love trees!!! I bet she saw lots of things while she stood tall in your yard through the years. I have you and yours always in my prayers. Have a beautiful day! I will find time to rest today and think of you. Love and Light. Cherie

    • Thanks Cherie. I have often wondered about how far back the history of that tree might go; whether Pocahontas or any of her tribe may have wandered past it at some point. Not too far fetched, really, but probably the tree was not 400 years old, even though its home county is. Thanks so much for your ongoing caring and prayers. I think of you often with gratitude and prayers for you and Ron.

    • Thanks Cherie. I have often wondered about how far back the history of that tree might go; whether Pocahontas or any of her tribe may have wandered past it at some point. Not too far fetched, really, but probably the tree was not 400 years old, even though its home county is. Thanks so much for your ongoing caring and prayers. I think of you often with gratitude and prayers for you and Ron.

  4. Julia, I can’t imagine the engineering feat of taking down such a massive tree and doing so with such skill. I think the stifling heat of this particular summer has been brutal and has made breaks mandatory. I really consider my little breaks as luxuries, always appreciated. The bench was a great place to pause (several times today, actually) and I enjoyed your virtual company. So refreshing! 🌳🏡

    • Sheila, as always, I enjoyed your virtual company as well. Club Verandah brings a lot of joy to my days! Today’s tea flavor is Ahmad green tea mixed with good old English Breakfast tea. I’m raising my glass to you!

  5. I imagine it’s hard to lose that big old tree. I had a hard time taking some down too. I’ve watched it done too. Awe inspiring and terrifying too. You are right, rest is a must when doing precision and dangerous work. I took a nice nap after pressure washing one side of my fence today in preparation for staining. Wish someone could have brought me a pitcher of cold water. 🙂 I fueled up with it when done. Have a wonderful week.

    • Marlene, I wish I had been there to bring you ice water (and maybe even let you teach me how to use the pressure washer, something I keep telling Jeff I want him to do, but I never seem to be around when he is working with it. 😀 ) Isn’t it amazing how many different skills there are among us? I am glad someone else is willing to do that tree work. I’m afraid I’d topple off the first branch I walked out on. Hope your week is going well.

      • The pressure washer was easy once we fumbled through the directions. My sister and I did it together the first time. I’ll try anything. When I was in my late 30’s we moved to Calif and had a nasty avocado tree. I took a chain saw to it by myself and chopped of lots of big huge branches. Talk about young and dumb. The next year that tree finally had edible avocados at least so I was told. Never ate one till I left there. I know how to use a paint sprayer too. Have one and it’s next on the list to use. The whole house outside has to be painted. 😦

        • WOW, a chainsaw is something I’d be afraid to try. Maybe you pruned the tree just enough to make it productive. It always amazes me how they prune the crape myrtle around here to the point they look bare and dead, and the next year they bloom profusely. Pruning is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to me, but after several seasons of seeing how it can promote growth, I’m gradually learning to do it. A paint sprayer would intimidate me almost as much as a chainsaw, but at least I hopefully couldn’t kill anyone with it. If you are going to take on a task of painting an entire house from outside, I can see where using a paint sprayer would be essential. Hats off to you for learning to do these things for yourself.

          • Thanks, Julia. You probably haven’t seen last years posts at this time. I used a stump grinder too. When I used the chain saw on the avocado tree, it was from pure frustration. I was young and dumb. I’d be a lot less likely to do so now. Since I have limited income, if I want it done, I must do it myself. We did the butchering of apricot trees and the end result was the most fantastic apricots I’ve ever tasted. Had to make sure hubby was away. He always had a meltdown even though he could taste the results. Who knew. 🙂 I was actually trying to kill the avocado tree. Hated the mess it left in the yard. It couldn’t be done. 😦

            • Marlene, I had the same experience recently with trying to kill what I though was a nuisance shrub, only to have it spring back much prettier than it was before, so I have granted it a stay of execution for the time being. I keep wondering if there is some symbolic lesson here; if you see me with my hair cut drastically short, you will know why! (Just kidding. Kind of.) Seriously, if you can work a stump grinder too, I’m starting to think you should just come stay here for a few months and we might get this place REALLY shaped up! 😀

              • I think there are photos on my blog. I’ll look it up for you. 🙂 Yes, my sister had a go at it but I did most of the work in the end. 🙂

                • I am so glad you shared this link — I really enjoyed that post. I’m impressed that you can still remember so much German. I had to use Google translate to figure out the caption to the lovely porch picture, but I think you got it just right. I would have to agree with you that tenacity is a much-needed trait in many areas of life.

                  • I understand more than I can speak. Never stayed on one place long enough to get the grammar down. I have to look things up too. Thanks for reading.

                    • I’m just the opposite with my French. I can stumble along with enough words and phrases that a sympathetic person can usually tell what I’m trying to say, but sometimes when they answer me they sound as if they are speaking so fast that I have to run it through my brain a few times and even then I often can’t tell all of what they are saying. Context makes such an important difference in how much I can understand. In a restaurant, for example, you kind of know in advance what type of things they are going to say or ask. And grammar…I cringe when I think about how I must be destroying the verb conjugations when I try to talk! Luckily most people seem to give me some credit just for trying. 🙂

                    • That’s what I always tell people. It you at least attempt to speak the language, no matter how badly, they will attempt to help you or speak yours. Then you can both look foolish, not just one of you. 🙂

                    • So true! It’s really a great ice breaker.

  6. Julia, good morning! Oh, yes indeed! 69 is young… And rest times is important at my young age of 74!! ❤ lol

    • Merry, just make sure to get that rest and maybe we will be exchanging comments twenty years from now! We can hope so, anyway. Matt is away at camp this week so I’m taking the rare opportunity to sleep later, and it’s been WONDERFUL…

  7. Judy in Pennsylvania

    You always provide words of wisdom that open doors for reflection on ways that what you’ve written about applies to my own days. Amazing how you do that, and I’m sure it applies to your other readers as well. Loved your thought about ” Surrounded by urgency that may be real or devised, fueled by caffeine or sugar or nicotine, and kept artificially wakeful by electric lights, we might be ignoring our need for rest and relaxation.” We might add to that the artificial and dramatic stimulation of turning on the television to ‘relax’. Often the high emotion there just adds to our stress.

    Ignoring our need for real rest applies to many of us, especially those who are younger and caught up in the endless busyness of work and family responsibilities. I see it in my adult children. Now that I’m a senior citizen, things have calmed down but there are still days where I need to reflect and relax. I tend to take on fun projects that evolve into pile-ups of too many things going on at once. Taken individually, they’re all fun and enjoyable, but instead of holding them out in my hand like pearls on a string, I grab a whole handful at once and wonder why I worry I’ll drop some of them!

    Thank you for the lovely invitation for a glass of ice cold lemonade. Mmm, my favorite on a hot summer day. May I in turn invite you for a glass of Pennsylvania mint tea, presented in a real glass container and with spring of mint floating inside with the ice, and maybe a pretty silver iced-tea spoon for stirring in just the right amount of sugar? It will be grand to have you come for a virtual visit, sit on the deck under our own old oak tree and watch the bunnies and butterflies in the garden.

    • Judy, you hit on the true reason why I still don’t watch TV. I find it so upsetting and almost disorienting. I don’t see how anyone could say that TV is relaxing. Even when I’m watching a good DVD such as Downton Abbey, I find it quite stimulating. Some people fall asleep in front of the TV, but I much prefer reading myself to sleep.

      That Pennsylvania Mint Tea sounds WONDERFUL! And just a touch of sugar would make it perfect. On our recent trip to Lancaster PA, I bought my first real taste of Mint Tea from an Amish farmer at the downtown market. It was ICY COLD and certainly hit the spot on the hot day in the market, which was not air conditioned! At the time I told Jeff that we needed to start putting mint in our iced tea. Something about that mint is very cooling. I’m loving our virtual visit on your deck! Look, there goes a baby bunny chasing a butterfly! 🙂

  8. MaryAnn

    What a “delicious” post! Coming into the office, I was seeking a bit of rest. Thank you for more than I expected: a dose of wisdom while relaxing my mind & body! I am sipping your offer of “iced tea” & praising God for you & the respite!

    • Thank you Mary Ann! I always enjoy being with you and still look forward to when we can visit in person…but until then I treasure our virtual visits! I appreciate your presence here.

  9. Gee that’s a pretty spot for a break Julia. I always admire the pretty buganvilia that grows with ease in California. It pops up even in the most mundane of places, like bus stops or gas stations. I’m a bad one for pressing through a chore without a break. Breaks are my undoing. If I sit down for even 5 minutes, I don’t want to go back to what needs to be done. I’ve never been much of a relaxer. It’s one reason I didn’t enjoy our resort stay in Mexico. Being bored out of my mind and not planning to just lay in a Palapa all day, I’d go for a long walk on the beach, past all the hotels and people watch on the way. I read 3 novels during my non-walking part of the day. I found a ‘tropical sun holiday’ too mundane for words. I like Ellen’s line in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming”. That’s me too 😀 xox K

    • The California missions have such beautiful gardens, but even before I saw the first real CA garden, I instantly fell in love with the bougainvillea that were blooming everywhere in huge masses of flowers. As you say, they seem to grow without any attention or intention, decorating highway medians, gas stations and otherwise unsightly fences and structures. To this day I miss seeing them, and wish they would grow in our area.

      You sound like Jeff about not being able to relax. I can’t remember ever having much uninterrupted time to just lie around, but my fantasy is that I’d totally love it and never get tired of reading, dozing, taking photos and sipping tea. I certainly know that even in our everyday life, I can out-relax Jeff any day! 😀 I’m glad somebody else is willing to do some of the busy work. But the older I get, the lazier (or is it more exhausted?) I seem to be.

      • You didn’t seem like much of a relaxer when I was visiting but then again, I guess we didn’t give you much of a chance either. I really have to focus to get as much done as I want to in a day. I get distracted so easily it seems. Putting away groceries in the pantry the other day. I noticed a few crumbs and ended up moving everything around, re-organizing the shelf and wiping it down. 15 minutes later, “oh yah, shoot I forgot to put the milk in the fridge”. Then I took some recyclables out and ended up sweeping out the entire garage. Oooops, there goes another 40 minutes. This is how my typical day goes and so the list the next day gets longer. Distractions are my nemesis these days 😀 xoK

        • I’m so relieved! I thought I was the world’s laziest hostess while y’all were here, just sitting and gabbing away, pausing only for food and tea here and there. 😀 I am also relieved to know I’m not the only one who gets sidetracked…some days you could almost follow the trail of half-finished tasks I leave, one of which led to another in just the way you describe. I’ll stop to take care of something for fear I won’t remember to do it later, and then end up forgetting the primary thing I was trying to do. Then the second task will get interrupted and so on. I don’t know whether it’s funny, pathetic or both, but I prefer to laugh at it as much as possible. 😀 I keep trying to convince myself that if we stay safe, fed and free of infectious disease, the rest is negotiable.

          • LOL, infectious disease! You crack me up Julia. Yes, ‘The Bar’ is very negotiable here at my house. I have three plants I bought in june that I’ve been keeping alive that aren’t in the garden yet….fall? Maybe. xk

            • Well, just think how developed their root structures will be when you finally get them planted! I just love it when they pop right out of those little plastic pots…

  10. Heba

    Great quote Julia! Thanks for sharing it.
    I can definitely feel and imagine those words. I remember my husband a week ago asking me to stop for 10 minutes to relax while I was doing some household chores, in an attempt to refresh my energy 🙂
    I’m sorry to hear that such a tree had to be taken down. It must have held wonderful memories.
    Have a restful day 🙂 !!!

    • Hi Heba, it is wonderful to hear from you! Yes, we sometimes need to be reminded to HOLD EVERYTHING and be still for a few minutes. I tend to get very frazzled and distracted if I don’t coach myself to take breaks, especially when I’m stressed out. The tree is gone now but the memories remain, and truthfully, there are so many others that the yard doesn’t look nearly as bare as we had feared it would. Thanks so much for stopping by the comments section!

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