Idle is a much maligned word, often defined as lazy or slothful. And, yet, in our fast-paced society, with the world-wide web at our fingertips, we need time to ease off the throttle and lay down our phones. We need time to calm the waters, time to still the waves. We need time to pause. Pause engenders breathing space, stillness, interlude, and respite. Even the ocean, with it’s never ending ebb-and-flow, allows for a pause between tides; this oceanic pause is called slack tide, when water flows neither in nor out. I remember long-ago summer afternoons, when my shadow and I jumped from square to square in a game of hopscotch; the chalked boxes lopsidedly scrawled onto the sidewalk. School was out and summer stretched before me as welcoming as a picnic, spread beneath my favorite oak. Crickets, stars, and fireflies filled the nights; and a contented sigh filled my heart. I relished this summer pause between grades, and, invariably, I felt a pang as the days shortened once again and the leaves on the oak blushed with color. As an adult, I still relish pauses in my life. Times of idle speed that create no wake. I find that carving out stillness and breathing space allows my mind to stroll through my imagination, coaxing new thoughts and ideas from their hiding places. Pauses allow me to glimpse deeper pools of well-being and clarity. I often walk to a nearby park and pause on a bench before returning home. In a sense, that’s what pauses do; they return us home to ourselves.
Readers tell me they pause to reread Shifting Shorelines during morning coffee, before going to bed, or when they need a lift.