Why do we do it? Why do we race around trying to accomplish this and that? What will we have to show after all? Will we ask ourselves if we regret not having spent more time working? I don’t think so. Life is not a beginning or an end. Life is a process, and to work so hard and ignore all of the finer things along the way is really missing the whole point.
Now, this is not saying we should not work hard. Work can be fun and rewarding and challenging in and of itself. Most of us are conscientious, but we do need a moment of peace. However, more often than not, we all tend to unbalance the scales. I am merely pointing out that during the process of working hard, we need to pay attention to every single thing we are doing. If we just work toward an end and not enjoy the middle, we are not fully experiencing the rewards that everyday life has to offer.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote that earth is crammed with heaven. "Crammed," she said. To me that means heaven is everywhere-in every nook and cranny if only we look for it. Heaven may be experienced more often than we could ever imagine-that is, of course, if we ever allow ourselves to the time to do imagining!
If we do not pay attention to the peace and joy and pleasures along the way, we really miss out. Here is a prime example of what I mean. It tells of what might have been lost if two people didn’t stop a moment. Liz Latsha of The Manor House in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, told me that at her inn, relaxation is something that is encouraged, not only among the guests, but also between her and her husband, and they practice what they preach.
"As the sun goes down, or in the early morning, my husband and I have always tried to get in a walk down by the water, where we seem to do our best talking and thinking," she said. "We use the time to talk about ideas-our hopes and dreams," Liz revealed. "It really gives us the chance to get back in touch with why we are together."
Wouldn’t you know that it was during one of these dedicated rituals that Liz and Rick came up with the idea of starting their very own bed-and-breakfast!
Taking a walk along the beach is a simple pleasure than can suddenly open up a whole new world. You bet Liz and Rick feel a touch of heaven every time they walk along the shore. The result of taking time out and paying attention to what is really going on inside of you is essential.
Soothing moments and simple pleasures offer all of us the chance to get back in touch with our inner selves. When we do that, we become more focused and centered and actually enrich what we are doing. The time we spend creating something fresh and artistic should not be rushed. As you go through what you are doing, walk, don’t run.
It is good to keep a journal to record your day’s activities. See how much time you are spending thinking about everything but your inner soul and spirit. In your journal, as you make changes and record activities and observances, you will find yourself getting in touch and centered. Inns have guest books. These journals record a visitor’s impressions and beckon us to write about what we learned by staying at the inn. You would be surprised how informative, revealing, and inspirational they can be.
One of the most impressive guest books I have ever seen is at October Country Inn in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont. Here Richard Sims and Patrick Runkel have volumes of large, bound and unlined books where guests have not only documented their impressions and insights in verse, but also in art. The innkeepers leave out thin magic markers of all colors to inspire such creativity. The books are exciting and energizing to read. I remember spending a cold, blizzardy afternoon by the fire, poring through the books, looking for a new revelation. All of the expressions from strangers-people I never met but have sat where I was sitting-were teaching me a whole lot about simplicity and the joys of paying attention to my inner self. Next time you sign a guest book at an inn, realize that you are taking a step toward finding your soul and offering something to think about, too. It is a simple pleasure to sit at an inn and read a guest book all day.
Soothing moments are everywhere for the taking, especially at inns. One day during one of my visits to Clifton Country Inn in Charlottesville, Virginia, I was working on a new project-this time in the garden. Suddenly I spotted a few very large blueberry-colored morning glories climbing up a brick wall to one of the inn’s enchanting cottages. Of course, I was under a tight schedule and filled with the stress of getting the job at hand completed. In glancing over at the flowers, I thought of the oft-repeated cliché, "Take time to smell the flowers." And so I took it literally. I thought, "C’mon, why don’t you do it for a change?" So, I told the folks I was working with that I needed a minute-too bad about schedules. I walked over to one of the flowers and put my face right into its wide, trumpet-shaped mouth. I breathed deeply. The beauty of the moment-sensing the velvet of the petals on my cheeks; looking at the flower’s life-bearing potential where the seeds are produced and the pollen is generated; and the touch-cupping such a gentle living thing in my hand-it was all a bit overwhelming. I was brimming with good feelings. The flower didn’t have a sweet smell-in fact, it didn’t have a scent at all! But I got the message of the old maxim anyway, and so the rest of the day went along stress-free and on time.
One of the simple pleasures suggested in this chapter comes from the Willow Brook Inn in Canton, Michigan, suggesting that we plant a butterfly garden. I wouldn’t have known what the inn meant if I had not seen one recently at Glen-Ella Springs Inn in Clarksville, Georgia. We were filming for my TV show, Country Inn Cooking with Gail Greco. My director turned to one of our cameramen and instructed, "Get Gail goo-gooing with the butterflies."
So, I got behind this patch of flowers where dozens of small butterflies were dancing around, unmindful of our crew and me. I was fascinated by the flight of fancy they took around and around. I had never seen anything like it. Usually when I go chase a butterfly, the winged creature is off in a flash. Well, our cameraman, Tony, shot video for a good five minutes. The job was done and he was off. I lingered as long as I could. But later that evening, I felt a bit saddened that Tony hadn’t put his camera down and Richard his directorial urge aside, and taken a moment to just sit there with me and watch the waltz of the butterflies.
I think this is a good example of why this chapter is so important. Even though life’s little treasures are all around us, we have to be reminded of what they are and to go ahead and indulge them. Butterflies are free, and truly, so are you! And besides, remember that the butterfly does not count the months, only moments-and he has enough time. So do you.
If you’d like to read more of Gail Greco’s insights and tips to living well, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.