We all need what Robert Frost called ‘time out for re-assembly’, time to face our doubts, our demons, our dreams and intuitions, and time to re-charge our batteries.
Robert Frost develops this thought further in his poem, The Armful:
For every parcel I stoop down to seize,
I lose some other off my arms or knees,
And the whole pile is slipping, bottles, buns,
Extremes too hard to comprehend at once,
Yet nothing I should care to leave behind.
With all I have to hold with, hand and mind
And heart, if need be, I will do my best
To keep their building balanced at my breast.
I crouch down to prevent them as they fall;
Then sit down in the middle of them all.
I had to drop the armful in the road
And try to stack them in a better load.
Sometimes, in periods of being alone and reflective, when our meditation can go deep, we may realise that we have things we need to shed, that we have too many possessions, too many distractions and that we can simplify our lives. Indeed, with every decade it is valuable to take a personal inventory and say: Do I really need this? Is this what my life is about? We need to take time out, not just for re-assembly but also for re-assessment.
This happened to a man I know. He used to be the stage designer for a premier Repertory Theatre, turning out new sets every three weeks. One day, as he told me, he sat on a hillside and asked himself: Is this what I want to be doing for the rest of my life? And there came into his mind the image of soil. He gave up his job at the theatre, sold his car, bought himself a bicycle and became a jobbing gardener. What he earned was modest but adequate (he was lucky that he owned a small cottage where he could also grow his own vegetables, and he was able to rent one room to visiting actors or directors.) More importantly, he is among the most fulfilled and contented individuals I have ever met.
Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey, imagines a youngster setting out on life’s journey, and the great pressures put upon us by our family and by society’s expectations. As we learn to resist these siren voices, we may begin to hear another voice,
which you slowly
recognised as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.