After numerous invitations, I gratefully accepted a neighbor’s offer to spend three days in their ski cabin in southern Vermont. My sister and her daughter joined me for what was planned to be a personal retreat for whatever activity we chose to indulge ourselves in. For me, it was beginning work on a writing project, learning more about the gazillion settings on my camera, and going for long treks through the woods to see what nesting birds might be around. To my surprise, except for birding, which you can do from a chair on a shaded porch, any motivation for these other goal-oriented tasks vanished the minute I walked through the door.
After weeks of focusing on work and home projects, my body was not about to continue marching forward to yet another goal. I entered a kind of neutral zone of doing nothing, just listened to the warblers calling out territory, watched a Red-tailed hawk circle over the tops of the tall pines, munched on nuts and dried apricots and wasabi peas. It was as if my body knew the harness of daily routine was unbuckled and had dropped to the ground somewhere along the New York State Thruway. Now was the time to get the rub marks off by hanging around the pastures of white pine, sugar maple and silver birch.
Oblivious to how addictive they can be, I had brought along a jigsaw puzzle. The three of us worked on it from the afternoon we arrived on through the next rainy day and into the second morning. We sorted by shape and color, changing seats and perspective every so often. We played with it in the morning over a cup of coffee. In the evening, we fit pieces together while toasting each other with a glass of wine. We chatted about our lives, made jokes or enjoyed the silence. When all the pieces were in place, we took pictures, took it apart, and then drove to a local general store, where we purchased another puzzle and put that together too.
Rejuvenation happens by degrees. Weekends offer enough respite to slow the engines down, but they never turn off. Despite the current speed of technology, we are still subject to our personal biology that sometimes prefers to lie down for a sweet afternoon nap instead of organizing yet another project. I was aware of the beginning of an internal metamorphosis that involved a surrender of self-imposed goals, one that allows the edges of the hours to blur. On the second day, I pulled the watch off my wrist.