Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sacramento Dreaming

Whenever I go to any new city, I immediately hunt around for its best teashop. My favorite places are a trifle old-fashioned: comfy upholstered seating, real china (mismatched place settings suit me best), tiered pastry trays, scones with Devonshire cream, and tiny sandwiches with crusts cut off. Perfect to while away an hour or two with a good friend or good book.[1]

I was in Sacramento this week, spending our ninth anniversary with my husband while he was on a business trip, and after lunch with Lisa Hendey I wandered Old Town until I found what I was looking for: The Earl Gray Manor and Tea Salon. Carefully arranged settings in art deco d├ęcor; aromatic brews (mine was lavender and mint); generous helpings of freshly prepared produce and baked goods; knowledgeable, friendly staff – and it about broke my heart when they told me they were going out of business the following week. Old Town had changed, it seemed, and business was sporadic. Times were tough, rents were high … and it seemed that most people considered afternoon tea a luxury they could ill afford. So sad.

That afternoon I had borrowed a book by Wanda Urbanaka and Frank Levering from the condo where my husband and I were staying. It was entitled Moving to a Small Town: A Guidebook for Moving from Rural to Urban America, and its basic premise is that people are beginning to realize the beauty of the slower, simpler life – a life based on relationships rather than acquisitions. One paragraph caught my eye:

“…It is our disregard for the details – for the rituals of life, the nuances of living small – that has gotten us into trouble in the cities. The devil is not in the details. The angel is in the details, the angels of significance that constitute our lives, that make everyday life sacred, mystical and holy” (p.20).

As I read, I felt a certain restlessness creep in, a disturbance in my “inner wah” that made me realize that the authors were speaking directly to me. Now, my husband and I are not exactly urbanites – we live on three acres within a stone’s throw of blueberry bogs and raspberry brambles. And yet, I do not live what anyone could consider a “quiet country life.” There is always something to do, somewhere to go, someone to tend to. And I’ve found that more and more often, it is the urgent rather than the important that has been getting a disproportionate amount of my attention. Something had to change. The time has come to let go of certain good things, that God might fill my hands with something better.

Later this week at “Silent Canticle” I’ll post more about the “letting go.” But for now, let’s just note that it is in the rush and hassle of life that we miss out on the great moments of relating, of relationship-building. If we cram our lives too full of busyness, the really important things tend to slip through the cracks all but unnoticed. And just as inevitably, our stress level rises.

The other day on “Heart, Mind, and Strength,” Greg and Lisa Popcak talked about angry mothers, how we often don’t realize just how high our “default” stress levels are because we are not tending to our own needs – spiritual, physical, or emotional/mental. We spend our days and nights in a perpetually reactive state, and do not return to a place of inner peace and rest. And so it is no wonder when we begin to fly off the handle, or react with extreme and disproportionate emotions to the stressors of family life.

Does this sound like you? When was the last time you got out your pretty teapot, poured yourself a cuppa … and just let yourself breathe?

[1] This week I learned that this delicate repast, combined with pots and pots of tea, is actually known as “low tea” because it was served on low tables (“high tea,” it seems, is a tray of meat and cheeses, such as you would serve to the menfolk after a day’s work in the fields).

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