What is a Sabbath?

Memorial Day is an American holiday started in 1865 by freed slaves to honor the military dead of the Civil War. It features parades and military connections, and can be a meaningful moment for touching grief and remembering the costs of our history. And like many secular holidays, the weekend has morphed in meaning. It is now largely considered the “official beginning of summer”—not by the Solstice calendar, but by planting tomatoes, attending weddings and graduations, and hyped up car sales and whatever else might be touted on TV (I’m not inside, not watching.) We’ve had a long, rainy winter in this region (nearly 10 inches above usual rainfall for the year) and three days of sunshine is a miracle long in coming.

The island where I live feels literally weighted down with visitors and traffic—folks determined to get out of the city and into the view and beaches. Mostly very white-legged people are strolling through Langley, the village by the sea, filling up the coffee and ice cream shops, shopping for souvenirs. They are on holiday mode—we are on “Sabbath.”

Having declared this day a Sabbath, we are staying home, away from crowds. We began with breakfast and tea on the patio—still cool enough to require fleece—then into the garden to weed, plant bush beans and squash, admire the strawberries, encourage the peonies. A gorgeous low tide drew us to the beach for a long ramble

Low tide, facing west.

and to support Gracie in gull chasing and swimming. We held a morning council in the sand, backs braced against a drift log: one speaking for 10 minutes, the listener then offering reflection and dialogue, and then the other speaking.

Mid-afternoon we are sitting in shade in the backyard, each working on bits of writing that give us pleasure. Our neighbor’s wind chimes provide musical background, and we are quiet enough to watch the life of our yard’s small birds. The lanky rhododendron bushes that hug the base of our largest Doug fir are drooping and every now and then a blossom drifts lazily down to the duff.

There is much on my heart. I don’t have to list it; you know what I mean. And you have your own list—societal and personal sorrows and outrage. Today, we have declared a Sabbath, and this means a sabbatical from reciting this list, from signing petitions for every worthy cause that clogs my inbox, from being lured onto the Internet to rabbit-hole into obsession with the state of the world. Not today. Today is rest. Today is breathing easy. Today is typing while shadows from the birch leaves play across my screen.

In the race and pace of the modern world, no one gives us a day like this: we have to declare it, design it, decide to “not do” as much as “to do.” We have to maintain the rhythm of it when the mind gets jumpy with undone tasks, or jerks into habituated distraction—Shush, come back to calm, it’s Sabbath. Let go of every litany but gratitude. Type with fingernails dirty from gardening. Comb sand out of the dog’s fur. Notice Nature’s abiding stillness and find an inner stillness to join it. Attach to heart.

Ann just wrote a blog about her “Sit Spot,” I realize I’m writing about my “Sit Day.”  What a relief—to be stilled and grateful for one whole day. Sabbath, indeed, and my offering into the week upcoming.

11 replies
  1. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Thank you for the reminder, friend, that “sabbath” can be declared and needs no page-a-day calendar.

    KIM FENTON says:

    I find myself more often asking “why am i doing this?” from answering an email or text to reading an article about politics or eating a cracker in the middle of the day, I’m asking why I’m taking the time and energy and putting it towards the task, the worry, the activity. It’s interesting not to judge, but to just ask. And more often, my “sit day” has lead to interesting writing, valuable learning from reading, or a lovely rest and thinking things out.

  3. Jeanne Guy
    Jeanne Guy says:

    Other than “…being lured onto the Internet” to read your soothing thoughts, I will not go further “…to rabbit-hole into obsession with the state of the world. Not today. Today is rest. Today is breathing easy.”

    Though we are preparing for our own trip to see friends in France, I thank you for this moment. I will breathe my way through the day, regardless of obligations.

    Much love to you both.

  4. Jeanne
    Jeanne says:

    Hard times require the mindfulness and control of action that you speak of, yes. Appreciate that you put a word to it that we can come back to when we wander. Ah, Sabbatical time. Thanks, Christina!

    JEANNE FROST says:

    How easy it has been to forget the reason for the Sabbath. A time of rest and renewal for body, mind and spirit. A time to breathe easily and be grateful for all our blessings. Thank you for this reminder to take care of ourselves so we can help others.


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