Sunday, March 14, 2010


A week of firsts

This past week was so beautiful here in Maine - sunny skies, warm weather, general luminosity - and it gradually became the week of spring firsts for us. The first picnic lunch at the harbor, first walk around the state park loop road (the snow finally melted), first open crocus, first library book sale when it wasn't too cold to wait outside beforehand (not that a little cold weather would have stopped us, but still), first new entry written in the garden journal, first long walks with no hat and mittens, first time in bare feet (very briefly!), first raking out of the remainder of last year's dead-leaf windrows. All-around satisfying stuff.

At the library sale I picked up a few books by William James, and so this week also found me reading his words for the first time. One book, a nice little hardcover with the irresistible title On Vital Reserves (Henry Holt, a reprint from 1922), contains the essay The Gospel of Relaxation. He says that "...the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully, to look round cheerfully, and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. If such conduct does not make you soon feel cheerful, nothing else on that occasion can. So to feel brave, act as if we were brave, use all our will to that end, and a courage-fit will very likely replace the fit of fear." (pp.45-46) To paraphrase, use your will to regulate your actions, which shall in turn regulate your emotions. Couldn't we all use a courage-fit, from time to time?

He goes on to recommend that over-busy and stressed-out and generally worried Americans need to "Unclamp, in a word, your intellectual and practical machinery, and let it run free; and the service it will do you will be twice as good." (p.70) Even if I don't agree with all of it, a lovely little screed about letting go - letting go of one's worries and cares and preoccupations with outcome. On the last page of the essay, he worries that someone hearing these words "...may be making an undying resolve to become strenuously relaxed, cost what it will..." (p.78), which made me smile, hitting as close to home as that does.

Well, worries aside for the moment, and strenuous relaxation at the fore, I'm glad to say that this week helped refill my own vital reserves. I wish the same for you, dear reader - I can't say happy spring yet, but soon - all the signs are right in front of us. Bon courage!

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