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!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Thank you, Julia! I accept you kind offer to take a much-needed break today.
    I am again at my uncle’s place in Congress, Arizona, sorting through his things in preparation for sale of many. The weather forecast today is 99 degrees (yesterday was 104), so I have been drinking a lot of fluids. A LOT of fluids. And adding hydration salts, if fluids alone don’t seem to be cutting it. I’ll take several breaks today, and I’ll think of you, and maybe I’ll even make some limeade!

    • Susan, the very day you wrote this, I was in England enduring what was, by all accounts, the highest temperatures recorded in all their history. And their recorded history goes WAY back! Luckily I was staying in one of the few hotels in Oxford that has air conditioning. I was bummed not to be able to stay at the college (by the time I registered all the rooms were full) but it turned out for the best!! Really crazy stuff was happening all over the UK — fires, melted pavement, etc. They are NOT prepared for hot weather!!

      • That was so crazy hot for England, and indeed Europe! Since my daughter has relatives in France, I was following their weather tribulations, too.

        • From the comfort of one of the only air-conditioned buildings in Oxford, it was kind of fun to be there during such a historic time, when the race for the new Prime Minister was also happening on a daily basis.

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