The air hung thick and damp on the back porch of Dawn’s exotic fruit farm on the northeast corner of Australia’s Daintree rainforest. I sat on a plastic chair, one foot crossed underneath me, the other dangling a flip flop above the concrete floor of the brightly colored bed and breakfast. I began to think about what this gracefully aging Australian woman with wayward hair had just told me.
“Americans live to work. Australians work to live.”
With just three weeks left on my 10-week sabbatical on the underside of the world, I began to wonder if these words were true, and if they should mean something to me.
In the weeks that brought me to this place, I had discovered the missing art of rest. Leaving behind a fast-paced job as a writer in Washington, DC, and a life crammed with checklists and traffic jams, it took me almost three weeks to simply wash away the dust of an overly busy and “intentional” existence. And now, after trekking through the bushman’s backcountry and the rainforest’s calm, I felt free. Free to hold half a passion fruit in my palm and suck every succulent seed from its juicy bowl. Free to walk on top of the cold, firm sand and sink my toes inside crab holes. Free to take a walk without a watch.
Australia had become my glorious respite. I dozed on long train rides across dry stretches of land, fed birds from my hand, and drank countless cups of English tea with women twice my age.
I was learning to hum along with life’s slower rhythms.
I was American, but I was learning to tap into the Australian part of me. The part that desperately wanted to learn how to work in order to live.
But I knew it couldn’t last forever. I knew my Type-A personality would catch up with me one way or another.
Four months later, I would be sitting on the fourth floor of an office complex in downtown Indianapolis, with a stack of new job tasks piling around me. Not to mention my growing list of ‘to-dos’ for my upcoming wedding. Or the number of freelance writing opportunities I wanted to pursue.
My car needed a repair or two. My bank account needed some maintenance. And inevitably there was a phone call or two that I had failed to return.
Somehow in between these two life chapters, the rhythms had begun to gain momentum again and I began to fear that I would forget the still waters. Fear that I again was living to work.
So, I must ask the question: How do I restore my soul now that the clock and the checkbook again demand my attention?
Perhaps it begins by choosing to believe that there is always a still point. Always a green pasture in the middle of a deadline. Always a Shepherd for the weary and chaotic soul.