With iced tea sweating beside her and shades drawn to block the sun, my grandmother didn’t move much on Arkansas August afternoons. “It’s too hot to get up,” she would say if someone knocked on the door in the heat of the day. She seemed genuinely shocked by their industry. “What could anyone be doing out now,” she’d ask from her kitchen chair, dispatching me or a cousin to greet them. I appreciated her responsiveness to the weather and the season. The same woman who filled September through June with running a household, chairing civic groups, gardening, and working part-time for the church—accomplished while hobbling on a wooden crutch she used for over 65 years—slowed way down in the summer.
There was still plenty to do, and she got up earlier and stayed up later to take advantage of any welcome breeze. But she also read more and kept a journal, adjusted her diet, and loosened her wardrobe. What better blessing than to move without hurry?
Even the needs of our city call us in a different way right now. Last evening in Darley Park, 150 citizens gathered to pray about violence and asked Mayor Pugh to respond with a comprehensive plan of action, and then after the cameras were turned off, we walked slowly from house to house, and listened to neighbors’ concerns. Our conversations were quiet, punctuated by spaces left empty. “I’m worried about the shooting,” said a woman named Angel, “but I think more about there being nothing good for my teenage sons to do and trying to get myself off alcohol.” She asked us to pray for her health, and said she drew strength from our time together. “I didn’t know anyone cared,” she said as we hugged. It felt important to linger.
There’s a gift in these dog days, if we let them open up in their particular way. Here’s an August offering from poet Naomi Shihab Nye:
Spun silk of mercy, long-limbed afternoon,
sun urging purple blossoms from baked stems.
What better blessing than to move without hurry
under trees? Lugging a bucket to the rose that became a twining
house by now, roof and walls of vine—
you could live inside this rose.
Pouring a slow stream around the
ancient pineapple crowned with spiky fruit,
I thought we would feel old by the year 2000.
Walt Disney thought cars would fly…
My neighbor says anything we plant
in September takes hold.
She’s lining pots of little grasses by her walk.
I want to know the root goes deep
on all that came before,
you could lay a soaker hose across your whole life and know
there was something under layers of packed summer earth
and dry blown grass to moisten.
Soak your roots deeply right now… take a long walk in a part of town you don’t know, pick up a book you’ve thought about reading for years, start a conversation with some unlikely neighbor and let yourself linger through spaces left empty, stare into the distance, rest. We’ll have much to plant in September, and God willing, the seeds will take hold.
P.S. Many thanks to the 20+ parishioners who attended the Darley Park gathering yesterday afternoon. We will have a follow-up discussion on Sunday, August 27 following the 10:00 a.m. service.