A few weeks ago I went camping. I hadn’t been camping in years, and it was good to have the opportunity to do it with people who were experienced with the wilderness.
During the day we hiked up to the top of a waterfall and looked out from the side of a cliff across a deep hollow at the tree-covered hills around us. It was beautiful and a little terrifying. One of the most memorable parts of the experience for me was simply the fresh air. It was delicious.
At night we slept under a tarp that was tied with cords to trees. The first night I slept very little, but that was okay. The cold air, the smell of nature, the bright moonlight were all inspiring, and the idea I needed for a story I had thought of writing came to me while I lay awake.
The next day, whenever I had a spare moment, I began to write the story. I had only brought one small notebook, which was actually for ideas rather than stories, but it was what I had, so I began writing in it. I wrote from the back so as not to mix the story with the pages meant for ideas. My friends were a little confused by that, but it was really fun to write on the small pages in the opposite direction of what is standard. The things I saw and did during the day filled in some of the gaps for the story, and I finished it a few days after we returned to civilization. It was just a short story, but it was a delight to develop.
Nature is so good at giving me the space I need to create. Do you ever feel your soul needs space? Details and duties often feel like they crowd my insides so that there is no room to work, but give me a wide open field and nothing to do or a moonlit forest in the middle of the night and there my heart and my brain have the freedom to roam and create.
I listened to a podcast this week. I don’t listen to that many podcasts, but now and then I take in an episode of The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. If you’ve talked to me in person the past several months, it’s quite possible I’ve mentioned this podcast to you. I find it soothing and inspiring and freeing for my soul. This week I went back and listened to the very first episode, titled Become a Soul Minimalist. In it, Emily talks about the constant inputs that our souls are exposed to, and she asks whether we have enough output. She talks about the need for silence. For me, that weekend of camping was like an extended silence for my soul, a silence that became a workshop. It gave me space to do something with the inputs of life, and that’s a beautiful thing.
I haven’t been taking sabbath as seriously in this season as I have in some past seasons, but I think perhaps that this idea I am talking about is part of the purpose of taking a day, or maybe even two days, off every week. It makes me think of that puzzle where the pieces of a picture are mixed up and you have to slide each piece one at a time into the single empty slot to arrange them in their proper places. Maybe our weeks or days need an empty space that allows us to shift all the other pieces around into something meaningful.
I don’t know what that looks like for you. For me it recently meant a camping trip with fresh air and a sleepless night that brought me a new story. I hope you will find your own ways to be silent and to find out what that brings you. Perhaps this season of quarantines and time at home can be just that.
If you’d like to listen to the podcast I referenced, you can find it HERE.