Summertime and the living is … frenetic,
frenzied, frazzled? Crazy, yes; crazed, sometimes; but almost never
“easy.” Not in this digital day, this electronic era of instant
communication, instant gratification, instant on, 24/7/365.
Phew. It makes me tired just thinking about the
frantic pace of life here in the early years of the 21st century,
especially as my family prepares to pursue our annual summer ritual: the
grueling vacation road trip. You know, to a destination where the beds
will not be as comfortable as home, where simple American food will be
sold at haughty French-like prices, and where nerves will be frayed in the
rush of cramming as any memories as possible into our precious few
days and you’ll enjoy every moment do you understand?
Then, of course, will come the real fun: looking
at the snapshots after the fact, oohing-and-aahing as we coat them with a
thick glop of sentimental revisionism. Memories of bad food or
backseat jousting between the kids will subside. The remaining residue
will be pleasant, captured and preserved in living color. Didn’t we have
the best time? What a great trip! Well, maybe this year will be different.
Maybe we’ll be able to enjoy our journey to Maine as much as the
Every age has its anxieties, of course, and
goodness knows we’ve got a wealth of them nowadays between the world at
large and the economy at home. But we’ve also got a bounty of
blessings for which to be grateful: freedoms, opportunities, and resources
that other people at other times and in other places can scarcely fathom. Yet,
all too often, we treat these blessings as birthrights.
July 4th offers us another opportunity to count
blessings, especially the blessing of freedom that was bought and has been
paid for over and over at the absolute price of life and limb.
A smaller, but very tangible, blessing is the
electric service your home enjoys. It’s a blessing wrought of
cooperation in the 1930s and ’40s among residents of rural areas and
small towns across the country, who overcame financial and logistical
hurdles to bring electric service to areas that large power companies were
not interested in serving. It’s a great story of rural men and women
taking their destinies into their own hands, forming not-for-profit
cooperatives to provide themselves with electric service. Three
generations later, local people are still providing their neighbors with
reliable, affordable electricity in almost a thousand communities across
So as we enter the heart of summertime, remember to
appreciate blessings and savor each moment, whether it’s on your back
porch or in the front seat of your car traveling to some distant place. One
of my favorite writers is Annie Dillard, who attended Virginia’s Hollins
College and lived in the Roanoke Valley for several years in the 1960s and
’70s. Her most famous book is likely Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which
mixes nature writing, scientific observations and religious musings as it
recounts her experiences living in the mountains of Virginia. Toward
the end of the book, she talks about the importance of appreciating the
moment, using Old Testament language about finding “the gaps,” or
the ability to appreciate the divine in the everyday.
She writes: “Ezekiel excoriates false prophets as
those who have ‘not gone up into the gaps.’ The gaps are the thing.
The gaps are the spirit’s one home, the altitudes and latitudes so
dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself for the
first time like a once-blind man unbound.” She admonishes the reader to
engage in this discovery of one’s self and one’s world and suggests
that this journey of discovery will lead to “splitting the cliffs of
mystery.” She closes the passage by writing, “This is how you spend
this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the
afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”
So, find the gaps. Appreciate the moment, every
moment, this season, this summer, always.