On the Corner

Take time to be

by Robert Docter – 

I have concluded that an optimum life demands balance. Not enough of—or too much of anything can lead to disaster. As a result of this momentous insight, I have learned how to take a nap.

In our house it is now an expectation. During a portion of that hour or so immediately after lunch I announce my intention, gain a slight nod of understanding, inform any and all of the names of those allowed to disturb me from my slumber, clear the bedroom of anticipatory noise makers like telephones or baby monitors, punch-up the pillows and place my head firmly among them. I read for a few minutes then turn over, cover my head with one of the pillows to shut out both the light and the noisy grandchildren, and within seconds I am asleep.

If I’m not home, I skip lunch and find the softest spot available. I can sleep in the back of a car, on a bench or the floor, in a chair or anywhere. I find it remarkably restorative.

It’s wonderful. Sometimes it’s a short nap—sometimes an hour. I seem to be able to set my internal alarm clock and awaken after whatever amount of time I choose to reserve.

What’s more—I don’t feel the least bit guilty, because that nap allows me the luxury of working late into the night—sometimes the morning—on tasks I enjoy.

It must have been a warm British summer when Noel Coward wrote: “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun.” I probably have some English blood wandering around inside me, and some of you will, on occasion, find me angry, but I’m very much unlike those Coward describes in the final line of his verse: “… Englishmen detest a siesta.”

Coward must have learned how to take a nap, too.

I think it’s easier to take a nap in the summer—“when the livin’ is easy”—at least easier.

There are slightly fewer pressures to expunge from my mind.

I love the summer—the dog days of summer.

From approximately July 3 through August 11, Sirius, the Dog Star, the brightest star in the heavens, rises with the sun as it begins its daily progression across the sky and provides us with that expression “the dog days of summer.”

The phrase brings to mind a sleepy, summer, sun-baked image of a lazy dog sprawled in the dirt under a shimmering sun. That’s neither an accurate nor kindly way to describe this brilliant orb—this helper of sailors for centuries—this eye-catcher of the heavens. Thomas Hardy, in his book Far from the Madding Crowd describes the Dog Star as bearing “kingly brilliance—able to pierce the eye with a steely glitter”—a star when seen by “persons standing on a hill during a clear midnight … the roll of the world eastward is almost a palpable movement.”

Under the summer sun, some have to force their minds to thoughts of napping, what I consider my daily vacation—time away—rest—escape. They let the pressure take over. And then, with misplaced guilt they hear the dog star bark. Perhaps, they interpret its message with an image of themselves as lazy and unproductive, sleeping in the sun. Personally, I prefer the image of an eye reflecting a “steely glitter” helping me chart a positive and healthy course of action—refreshed for the tasks ahead—willing to seize these extra long dog-days of summer—these glorious, star-lit nights that maximize the time available to us with their gift.

But who is it that commands us to stay on-task–maintain focus–rest not, want not? Whose voice is that? Out of what century do they call? Out of what motive do they seek to drive the target of their own needs? Is this an artifact of culture? Is this an aberration of our ethic? Where is the gain if our commitments are of such intensity that we destroy our own health or damage important relationships?

The summer provides time for friends and family–for hours spent in different pursuits whose only goal is unexpected growth. The summer’s gift is leisure and time to listen to those around us. Wrapped in the warmth of a friendly sun, nurtured by the warmth of a loving Son, finding peace in the wealth of our relationships, the dog days of summer come to an end. The fall sends a promise of an abundant harvest as we steel a glance toward the future while basking in the riches of August.

Take naps–and keep your life in balance.


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