I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may)
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
I’m going out to fetch the little calfRobert Frost, “The Pasture”
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
This poem is, to me, the essence of spontaneity. I picture the speaker—probably a child—coming over to the listener, inviting him or her to come out to the pasture with him. And I picture the listener looking up from whatever he or she was doing before—reading, perhaps, or writing, or working on some kind of project—
—and there my imagination pauses, holds the image still in that moment before the listener decides.
On the surface, it sounds like an invitation to accompany the speaker to his chores. And it is—but it’s also so much more than that. The speaker is going to clean the pasture spring, but he’s also going to stay and gaze at the rippling water until it runs clear again. He’s going to bring in the calf, but first he’s going to watch how it wanders around on wobbly legs, how it almost loses its balance even from the gentle pressure of its mother’s tongue.
Yes, the speaker’s going to do his chores—but he’s also going to just be. When he invites the silent listener to accompany him out to the pasture, he’s not just inviting a companion to stave off the boredom of his work: he’s inviting the listener into spring.
When he says “I sha’n’t be gone long,” what he’s saying is, “It won’t take long to appreciate spring.” Life is long and often hard and always busy, and compared to all the years and days and hours ahead of you, it won’t take long to pause and take in the loveliness around you. It won’t take me long at all—“You come too.”
I sha’n’t be gone long…
From the day I started kindergarten until the day I turned in my last university essay, I spent about nineteen years in school.
Of course, I had vacations for summertime and Christmas, and a couple of longer breaks too—between high school and college, between the first two years of university and the last—but for nineteen years, there was always more schoolwork coming. My life was measured by courses and assignments and essays, and no matter how diligently I kept up with all of it, there was always more to do.
There’s very little room for spontaneity when you’re studying—it’s hard to sit still and watch the sun rise or set when the back of your mind is constantly reminding you of all the work you have to do by midnight tomorrow night. If someone had invited me to come out to the pasture during the last few months of university, in particular, I don’t think I’d have gone—and even if I did, I doubt I’d be thinking bout the pasture at all with the weight of unfinished assignments hanging over me.
And yet—even when you’re not studying, this hectic, restless, unceasing pace continues. I turned in my last assignment nearly four weeks ago, and though it’s certainly a relief not to have the weight of a deadline following me everywhere I go, I’ve been just as busy during these last four weeks as I was when I was studying. This is supposed to be my “vacation,” my hard-earned break after so many weeks and months and years of effort—yet I still find myself restless, still feel that I would often turn down a spontaneous invitation to watch the pasture spring run clear again.
I ask myself: what’s the point of all this rushing, all this work, all this reliance on productivity and measurable outcomes? What do I gain from dividing every hour of my day into deadlines that must be met, goals that must be achieved, tasks that must be crossed off? What’s the point of all this hurry and all this stress if there’s never a moment when I can set down my pen, leave my work where it is, and venture out into the bright, beautiful world outside my window?
Eleven weeks ago, I took a break from this blog because I needed margin. I needed space and time to finish my degree, to get through a hectic season of life without falling apart.
Now the hectic season is over, and I see how easy it would be let myself become swamped again by all the projects and to-dos and wish-I-could-dos. I see that margin is and always will be a choice—my choice. If I leave my work for ten minutes to go outside, to feel the sunshine and hear the birds sing and watch baby animals play, the world will still keep spinning, and the work will still be waiting for me when I get back—but I’ll be so much better off for having taken a few moments to open my eyes, to see everything that is lovely and good about the world around me.
I still need to publish this post to my blog. I need to format it and choose an image and write the email that will take this post to my subscribers.
But first, I’m going to go fill the dog’s water bowl and maybe throw her ball a couple of times before I wander outside and feel the sun on my skin and the breeze on my face.
I sha’n’t be gone long. You come too.
Tell me: what do you do to pause to “just be” in your life? Does this come easily to you, or is it a challenge?