Cabin in the woods

Sabbatical is a word which, at the root, is a Sabbath. Sabbath is word which has fallen greatly out of favor. Chances are excellent that you, dear reader, append the “Black” to the word Sabbath in your mental reading of it, and it brings to mind such musical offerings as “War Pigs”. (Which, I confess, I secretly loving singing in Rock Band.)

But Sabbath, forgotten word it is, means something critically important. So important, in fact, that it lies at the heart of one of God’s ten commandments: Remember the Sabbath, and keep it Holy. The Sabbath is the word we use to describe the seventh day. In the story of Genesis, when God created the world, he worked for six days and on the seventh, he rested. Jesus, in the New Testament, turns the rigid traditions of this unworking day to human kindness. As he and his friends healed and ate on the holy day he explained, “Man is not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath is made for man.”

We do not treat resting as though it is one of the most important things God has called us to do – a critical and crucial element of the foundational Western religions. We do not rest on the seventh day, or the seventh week, or the seventh month. In a traditional sense, that Sabbatical I reference is to be taken in the seventh year. I have deeply and gravely violated this commandment, over and over. Of all my failings as reckoned by the ten commandments, this one is the worst. I’ve rarely even tried to keep it. But this winter, I was straining under the weight of my tasks and obligations, and I got to counting how little time I had taken for rest. It was nearly 10 months this year between times when I took a week off. And it’s been about 18 years since I took two or more weeks off from work. So often when I’m not working, I’m still not resting. I’m off having fun with all my measure: camping, being with friends, taking the kids somewhere, canning, cooking, gardening, gaming, hiking, etc. These are all things I love and enjoy and gravitate to. But they are not rest.

But there’s a reason we were given this commandment, the strongest abjuration, to rest. We desperately need it. I cannot speak for you, but without a real, bone-deep reset I get hollow, irritable, shallow and short-sighted. I struggle to bring my most loving self. I can barely pick my eyes off my feet and look at the glory of this world and life I’ve been called to live.

In that snapping point this winter, where I felt barely-held-together, I had this fantasy. In my fantasy, I rented a cabin near Jackson Hole – a log Aframe – with a full view of the Tetons in all their spectacular glory. I went out there, alone, in the second week of September and spent 6 weeks there watching the fall creep across the countryside. Maybe I’d even see the first glazing of white across the face of the peaks before I finished my novel and returned home. Yes yes, a great American novel fantasy is an old chestnut. But these things are popular for good reasons! Of course, you can’t write all day. So there would be the hikes I would take, attaining vast views. There would be rambles by the (conveniently close) river. I would watch the world around me carefully, touching it with wondering hands, and become friends again with nature. I would slow down. My breathing would slow. My world would slow. I would have space to remember who I am and why I choose to be that person.

But of course, there’s absolutely no way I can take six weeks off, go two thousand miles from my family and leave my husband with all the job, all the kids, all the chores that the two of us can barely keep up with. If you know me in person, you might also be rightfully skeptical about just how crazy I might go in six weeks of solitude. I am an unabashed extrovert, and I love people.

Then the project manager part of my brain raised an excellent thought: OK, if six weeks in the Tetons is not possible, what CAN you do?

I thought of what I wanted: the mountains, the nature, the writing, the slowness, the time alone, the rest. And I recalled that my beloved children were going to be at Camp Wilmot for two and four weeks. I realized that I could be gone for a week, inclusive of two weekends, and leave my husband with no more responsibility than himself. I looked for a cabin, and I found one where the dining room table has a view of my second favorite mountain: Chocorua. I booked it for a week, and ignored the draconian refund policy.

Chocorua from White Lake in November

So here I am. At a table overlooking that increasingly-beloved mountain. Alone, in a cabin (although within easy call of the hosts). I have my laptop, but no wifi. I have a crate of books (quite literally). I have printed a draft of my novel, and the ‘fridge is full of enough food that I don’t have to leave for days.

This neglect of my writing here reveals a lot, I think, about how much time and space for thinking I have had. It may even show a glimpse of the state of my soul. I _think_ by writing. I understand myself by telling you stories. I used to talk with you all the time, but lately my words have dried up. I feel like I’ve said the things that I know. I’ve come to understand that many of my thoughts are cyclical, winding their way through the seasons like the constellations. I have made absolutely no commitments this week. I have not promised anything to myself or others. Perhaps this post will be the only thing I write before I’m entirely overtaken by a much-needed lethargy. But I’m hopeful that as I renew my spirit, refresh my mind, and restore my soul in this Sabbath week – I will also reconnect with my writing, and with you.

My company this week

“Come to me, you who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

This post was made with no internet access. You are now discovering how differently I write when I can’t look up facts, cite my quotes, or double check my details.

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

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