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Greene: Down Time


I know I’m tired when I start to envy hibernating animals. The woodchuck who decimates my spring crops is now snoozing away, resting up for this year’s gorge. Meanwhile I trudge through my to-do lists at all hours, every day. Something’s wrong. Weekends and holidays have become fair game for anyone who wants to schedule a meeting, a game, or a practice. And the encroachers have gotten very bold.

My sons - and of course their parent chauffeurs - have actually had soccer games scheduled on Thanksgiving. It was as if we were all waiting to be relieved of this tedious time off by being given something to drive to! That’s why an article by Allegra Goodman about Sabbath caught my attention and wouldn’t let go.

Raised in the Conservative Jewish Community in Honolulu, she takes Sabbath seriously. You do not do your homework, mow the lawn, cook, or in some observant families, even turn lights on or off. To me it sounds like heaven on earth. And actually, that’s kind of the idea: In Exodus, the Sabbath meant not just putting aside work, but restoring one’s spirit by keeping the day holy, extracting oneself from the rat race - in a word, making the day extra-ordinary.

But for those of us not involved in an organized religion that lays down the law about how to spend our leisure time, we might just have to formulate our own rules and stick to them – even though it’s hard to let go, if only for a day.

We like being important. We’re uncomfortable being alone. We’re afraid of missing out on something terrific - if we unplug.

Added to that, Most Vermonters have just gotten broadband and cell coverage. It seems, well, ungrateful to surrender it, even for just one day a week.

But this week – tomorrow and Saturday – we observe the National Day of Unplugging – and I think I’ll take the pledge to stay off line and off the cell for both days, itchy though I‘ll be.

Who knows? I may come up with a strategy for saying no once a week.

Without fibbing, I could say I have standing plans. I don’t have to add that those plans are actually more supine in nature: lying on the couch, reading and occasionally stirring a cup of coffee.

The point is, we need to lie fallow every so often in order to recharge. And one day isn’t so bad.

When Allegra Goodman’s children complained to her of being bored on the Sabbath, she replied as any excellent mother should: Good. This rest will foster your creativity.

There’s so much improvement needed in the world. But I try to think of time off this way: If everyone took a real break for just one day, there might be less, not more mischief.

Gee officer, I just couldn’t get around to stealing that car today, it was the Sabbath.

Stephanie Greene is a free-lance writer now living with her husband and sons on the family farm in Windham County.
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