Trees have gotten my attention as I contemplate rest. In New England the hours of sunlight decrease as we get closer to winter. The chemical processes in the trees' leaves using carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water slow down and stop. Cellular changes seal in the nutrients to prepare the tree for winter rest. The preparation is evident in the leaves changing color and falling off. I observe that trees can have different colors and timing to change and drop their leaves. Trees have a time of dormancy or rest in the winter. Tree roots continue to be active all year long. Humans benefit from the cycle the trees follow. For example, empty branches allow sunshine to go through during winter and the leaves return in time for when we want shade. Empty trees endure less stress from snow and high winds without their foliage.
What can I learn from trees? Maybe I would do well to shed some things to prepare for rest. My roots can stay active. I want my roots to go deeper into my relationship with God who seems to help me rest. It may not be possible to rest for an entire season, but perhaps a shorter time-- days, hours, or even minutes. Shed some stuff, rest some parts, then when the time comes, restart activities. It sounds good to me.
As I continue to contemplate rest, I thought of rests in musical compositions. The painting above shows the hands of composer, music interpreter, and friend Geri Metcalf Rosser. Rests within a piece of music help to make the composition. The singer or player does not have to finish the piece in order to rest. Musical rests happen during the work.
Rests can be very brief, but are still an important part of the complete work. The sketch shows eighth, quarter, half and whole beat rests (left to right). I saw quarter rests between many of the “Hallelujahs” in the Hallelujah Chorus by George Frederick Handel. Between the repeating words “And He shall reign forever and ever” I saw rests of eighth, quarter, half, and whole beats. The piece of music was written for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices to sing together. Some rests were for one, two, or three parts and some for all four parts to rest at the same time. The orchestra must have a whole set of other staffs with rests to observe.
I like the idea that with God reigning there will be more rests. When I or someone else is trying to reign, rests may not be possible. I want to pay attention to rests. I think rests have been under rated. Here's a link to some of Geri's music; she has a Youtube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4x6qUA8jMU&list=PLSZEQyvjRPVKSA4BOwPrKlWIAZrNdx3C4&index=19
Being a grandparent can be restful. Maybe playing with little ones helps distract from other stresses. Also caring for them for a limited time is a lot easier than full time. Here Grampy and grandson are walking in the rain. I took the picture so I, too, was walking in the rain with baby granddaughter in a stroller. We watched these grandkids a couple of days each week while their parents worked or went to school. We stopped because of covid-19. Recently we have resumed some visits. The routine of nap, snack, play, and clean-up are helpful and restful to me. Also after being with them for a while, I am ready to rest. Good rest.
We hope for rest beyond the grave. This painting is of the grave of my father's cousin L. May Jaques in Randolph, Massachusetts. She died as a baby--probably of SIDS--in 1916. Eventually May's father and mother and her two older sisters went back to their native Switzerland, after having lived in Boston for a number of years. Their ongoing grief upended their lives and plans.
The number of deaths Covid-19 has caused is difficult to grasp. Losing a loved one during these times is also especially difficult with distance and protocols in place. Each family's grief is real and unique. Taking time to grieve may seem difficult, but is necessary. Grief can come in various times and ways. I hope we can find comfort and rest as we grieve. May God help us experience rest in the present and not only wait for after the grave.
It says in the Bible that God rested. God rested after he created the heavens and the earth.
When he rested, did the plants stop growing? Did the sun stop? The moon? Did the tide stand still?
And by the way, did God plant seeds so all the trees grew at the same time, or were some trees adults and some babies? Like was the canopy and undergrowth that way from the start, or did that develop over time?
Were all the animals and fish babies? Adults? It must have been strange while things got settled. Or maybe the balance and order was already part of the creation. I’ve heard people say that Adam and Eve didn’t have belly buttons. Of course they and we don’t know, but it is a strange thing to consider.
Anyway, back to God resting. When God rested, did the animals and people feel abandoned? Did God just turn on his answering machine and take off somewhere. Was he tired? Did he need to rest or was it just for fun? What difference does it make? I don’t think he needed it, but wanted it. He is God after all with all-power, all-knowledge, and all-presence. Did he put his feet up somewhere and read a book? How would God rest? Play a game? Paint a picture? Does God have feet to put up?
God set an example for us to rest. In fact I understand that he wanted us to take rests from our work each week. If God rested, who are we to think we do not need to rest? We need to sleep every day. I don’t think God sleeps. There is a verse in Psalms that says the Lord neither slumbers nor sleeps. So how did he rest?
I wanted to paint an illustration of God resting. I prefer to not have a physical representation of God, so I tried to think of a picture that maybe showed creation as completed so he could rest. I have photos of beautiful flowers and mountains and sunrises and sunsets, but then I thought how could God be resting if these beautiful things were going on. Also one photograph had some beautiful woods that had some dead wood in it. It hardly looked like new creation, which got me wondering what could possibly illustrate God resting. Aren’t these beautiful things possible because God is working? So I am caught in the amazing idea that God rested. And I don't have a painting to show it.
Apparently God’s rest does not halt nature or life. It may help me to know I can rest and trust that life will go on.
So much to do, so much to see, and so much to think about makes rest improbable. When I make a to-do list, I like to put "rest" on that list. I have fatigue issues and need to attend to them. Choices enhance or disturb rest. Scrolling through whatever on the computer late at night doesn't help my rest. Eating late is a choice for not so good rest. I want to make choices that help me find moments of rest. This painting if of my sister-in-law and my dog who were both enjoying a midday rest.
A walk in the woods along the Maine coast with one of my brothers and some other family members was such a break from my usual sights and sounds of living in the city. It was restful and refreshing. For some this may have brought on anxiety and stress. The sights and sounds, and also the uneven ground and meandering path gave me perspective and pause. We can follow our preferences for rest and find a safe and non-rigid way to refresh and reset. With pandemic safety practices, we need creativity and persistance to find some rest.
Resting together, here, are my son and his wife at a summer cottage on Cape Cod. This was before children. Babies and young children change the look of rest. For me resting near someone is challenging, because tuning out noises and movement is difficult. I am slow to fall asleep. My husband falls asleep quickly and then makes noises. Napping together can be challenging. We can, however, support each other to get rest. While many people have been staying-at-home to slow the spread of Covid-19, we may have needed extra understanding, humor, and support to be able rest (and live) in unity.
This painting was done from a photograph my sister took of her left-handed-carpenter son's injured thumb during the rennovation of her kitchen. Although delay of work was necessary, the desired outcome included his complete recovery, ability to function fully in his future carpentry work, and a completed kitchen. The kitchen got done, and it looks great. His thumb healed, and his work is still exceptional. If he had ignored the necessity to rest it, the outcomes may not have been so good.
I think we can learn some things here. Health professionals say we need to practice social distancing to stop the spread of Covid-19. The desired outcome includes health for all residents of our communities, businesses that can function well while keeping clients, staff, and customers safe, and a better functioning society for the future. We can choose to ignore it, or we can accept the delay of plans and inconvenience to wait for the best outcome.
Looking through my photos, I found several that show rest. I painted this picture of my sister resting on my other sister's couch at a lake in New Hampshire. We had gathered there for a couple of days of retreat, which we do from time to time. The change of pace was welcome. The cat and my sister found an ideal spot to rest. Yes, that is a fluffy white cat on the couch with my sister. Our pace is changed now because of Covid-19, yet I still hope to learn about rest. Rest cannot be mandated. But I can choose to rest--physically or mentally--- even for a few moments in a day.
LeTtiNg iT gO BLoG
Linda T. Hurd.