Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cottage Time-out

I think the reason so many of us identify with memorable trips to a cottage, is because no matter what walk of life, a sojourn to the wilderness is accessible to nearly everyone. Whether a fancy mountain cabin or a nearly dilapidated shack, a solid shelter tucked into the woods, with access to waterfront, has transformative powers. Children easily transform their surroundings to pretend they are pirates, explorers, you name it. Adults too, even though we have mostly moved on from child's play, are transformed by a slower pace, a sloughing of redundant technology and busy-ness.

Our family was lucky enough to be invited to a cottage on a pristine lake in the mountains of Quebec. The air was crisp, never humid. The water so clean, we could drink it. The sound of the trees as the wind rushed through at night time was the best lullaby any of us had ever heard. 

I set my intention before the trip and each morning again to be a little more quiet, a little more still. Listen. Hear. Put away my reactive voice and try to gauge first whether anything needed to be said at all. This, if you know me, is incredibly difficult and counter-intuitive. Doesn't everyone want to hear all the wonderful thoughts I have in my head on the topic being discussed? My ego may have trouble understanding a negative response, but deep in my quiet, true self, I knew this trip would be a great chance to practice some quiet. 

Going mute is not my thing, nor is it even that noble of an endeavour if I'm pursuing it for my own self-interest. Practically, it is nearly impossible not to speak as a mother with four young girls. "Don't eat that mysterious berry!" and so forth. So, I set my goal a little lower. I am trying not to complain. At all. So far, the longest I have gone is six hours, (not counting sleep) but I am trying to work towards a month. I start over every time, anew.

Abby learned to kayak, solo. A natural!

In trying to not complain, I am required to evaluate what I say before it comes out. It's a strategic pause to ask myself, "but, is that a complaint?" In most cases, it is, and I zip it. This waiting, this required beat before speaking, is really hard for me, but it is also the seat of a spiritual practice I have been working towards a long time. Think before I speak. Nobody benefits from hearing my complaints, they rarely change the situation for the better, and they hardly make me feel better. So, they're out.  

Going to the cottage with my family was exactly what we all needed. Equal part measurements of adventure, new experiences, days on the lake, big meals, quiet time and deep sleeps. The girls loved nature walks, testing their balance on the paddle boards, sleeping side-by-side in four beds squished together and letting grandparents shower them with attention. I, for one, engaged my practice of non-complaining over a nice dinner date with Rich, many kayak and paddle board explorings, shared meal preparations, quiet morning yoga, and some of the deepest sleeps I have had in years. 

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