Yesterday I set up an “anti-gravity” chair on our deck. It reminds me of patio furniture from my childhood that my parents referred to as “bar-wise chairs.” I have no idea what that meant, but I do recall the hours spent relaxing on them, as well as the times my siblings and I converted them into forts and other imaginative spaces. Roughly in the shape of a cockeyed “W”, the chairs rocked back and forth and were ideal for daydreaming. One of my fondest summer memories is lounging on one of them as the stars came out.
I don’t know if children have this kind of lazing-around time any more. Once school’s out, there seems to be an array of activities to engage them, or else they spend a copious amount of time staring at one type of screen or another. Playing on a funny-shaped chair would seem an old-fashioned, if not bizarre, way of spending the summer.
A few years ago, I first heard the term “nature deficit disorder.” It describes a loss of connection with the natural world. The price of such disconnection is deadly – a rise in obesity and all of the maladies that accompany it. In addition to these physical side-effects, losing touch with nature plays havoc with our souls. God’s world is so full of wonder and beauty that we are truly missing out if we stay indoors all of the time.
Such a disorder doesn’t just affect kids, to be sure. How many of us get mired in activity that robs us of “lazing” time. With the school year coming to an end, my round of travels has ceased for the next couple of months. Will I take the summertime as a gift or will I fill each minute of the day with more to-do’s? In his book, Sabbath, Wayne Mueller notes the importance of integrating rest into the rhythm of our lives. “The Sabbath rocks us and holds us until we can remember who we are.” This is the sensation of being, what he calls, “delightfully inactive.” One of the best places to do so is in the midst of nature.
With that in mind, I hope to be spending a lot of time in my anti-gravity chair this summer. I have work to do, but it doesn’t have to consume me. Perhaps it will help me reclaim the connection with God’s creation that is so vital to body and soul.
Encourage children in your family or parish to read about the Lives of the Saints this summer. Talk about the ways each saint maintained a connection with God through prayer and appreciation of God’s great gifts.