FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THREE DAYS, I wasn’t running late. Actually, I was ten minutes early. My periodontal cleaning was at 2:00, and it was only 1:50 when I pulled into the lot.
A couple of minutes before, headed down shady Capen Ave., I’d noticed the cacophony of azaleas—purple, fuschia, white—flaming up in front of the tiny, old, wood-framed houses that lined the street. I’d been thinking how soft the azaleas smell and about the sweet, green blossoming oaks.
And thinking too that, with ten minutes, I was at a mental crossroads. One finger sign pointed towards the periodontist’s waiting room, where I could catch up on back issues of PEOPLE magazine under fluorescent office lighting. The other sign pointed me back to the quiet, sweet-scented Wednesday afternoon neighborhood I’d just driven through.
A week earlier, my friend George and I were talking about sabbaths and how we miss them—mine on Saturdays, his on Sundays. “But I’ve been taking mini-sabbaths,” George told me, describing the moments of quiet he creates during his busy days.
“It could be just a pause to look up at the sky before heading back into the office, or sitting for just a few minutes on the cafeteria patio, closing my eyes and feeling the sun on my skin.” Seemingly inconsequential, these little breaks refresh him, he said, allow him to remember—in the middle of the furor of life—exactly who he is. That he is.
So, on that April Wednesday, with those ten precious minutes in hand, I let Jen and Lady Gaga and Dr. Oz continue their glossy lives without me. Instead, I wandered past old oaks, down cracked sidewalks, passing green- and yellow-painted houses that leaned just a little to one side or the other in their dirt-and-oak-leaf yards—and breathing in the blooming of spring.
The next day, though, I was caught back up in the whirl. Glancing around, Impatient for someone in the Lowes garden center to point me towards the decorative mulch, I noticed a tiny flicker over a flat of potted heather on the table beside me.
It was bees. Tiny bees! It was the beat of filtered sunlight on tiny translucent wings. It was two … three … eight … twenty tiny bees humming from tiny purple heather-bell to tiny purple heather-bell. It was a whole garden’s worth of bees, glittering, hovering. A whole 21st century urban meadow of bees, humming, shimmering, buzzing around the three-inch plastic pots. Suspended in the middle of that ordinary Thursday afternoon, it was, in fact, an entire sabbath full of bees.
I wrote this quite a few springs ago—but today’s April early afternoon smells just as sweet. Your prompt, if you choose to accept it, is to find ten minutes this week, in the midst of all the busy-ness, to take just a tiny detour, give yourself just a few blocks’ worth of breathing space. You don’t even have to pick up a pen to write about about what you find. Those sabbath moments will write themselves directly onto your spirit, I think, where you’ll be able to read them for many springs to come.
Emily Dickinson was a wonder for appreciating the small and quiet. She made a life of it. I visited her house once, and her grave, too, where people leave treasures to her gentle memory. Here’s a wonderful Poetry Foundation article about her: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/emily-dickinson
And, to inspire your own personal, ten-minute sabbath, here’s an Emily poem:
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee—
One clover and a bee,
The reverie alone will do
If bees are few.
May the reverie be with you.
The image of VIII Fortitude (Strength) is from the VICTORIAN FAIRY TAROT, written by Lunaea Weatherstone, art by Gary Lippincott, published by Llewellyn Worldwide and used with Llewellyn’s kind permission.