The Quiet Week
We’ve begun a new tradition this year. Well, that’s not actually true. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that we’ve codified a tradition that had been slipping in, unnoticed.
You see, I hadn’t consciously acknowledged how draining each school year is. On me. On the kids. It just takes a lot to maintain the schedules and the juggling that a school year requires.
Without realizing it explicitly, we’ve begun to counter all that crazy with tiny moments of rejuvenation. On the summers that are our very most successful, we find ourselves somewhere far away from any form of hustle. The days’ events are dictated solely by our own whims and fancies. The only semblance of schedule is a loose assurance that lunch will follow after breakfast at some point.
This year, as I considered our summer, and how I wanted to spend it, I recognized this pattern from past years, and realized that that is what I wanted first thing after school let out. And, so, the very first moment after school got out, we held our first official Quiet Week.
As a concept, it’s none too original. It’s what calls people back to the same secluded cabin year after year. But, I’ve only just now come to realize how it fits with our transienncy. Ours will never be a consistency of place. Our life doesn’t permit that luxury. And, really, for our particular kind of restlessness, I’m not even sure I’d want that even if I could manage it.
All I need is a spot away from the routines of home, that allows us to indulge in slow mornings, late nights, and unplanned days in between. A Quiet Week works in reverse of the regular momentum of life. Instead of a list of “to do”s, there’s space for undoing.
Don’t get me wrong. It takes a bit to get over the restlessness. “Get over” isn’t the right word, though. It’s more of a letting it move through you. It requires a rather uncomfortable sensation of letting the restlessness be there, but not being particularly moved by it. It’s not the sort of thing that comes naturally for me. But it is worth working for. Because, once I can let go of the restless, I’m ready for the calm.
I know the Quiet Week is finally seeping into my bones when I can be content with nothing to do but move into the shade when the sun gets a bit warm, and back into a patch of sunlight when the windy gets nippy.
All this nothing fills up the places that are depleted with everyday living. Even when that living is good. Even when I’m taking good care of myself in the midst of chaos. The Quiet Week mends the tiny fissures and rifts. When we go on from there, I feel rested. But, more importantly, I feel whole.
I introduced a new element this year. I brought a stack of notebooks and a bag of colored pencils, watercolors, pens and markers. When I pulled them out of my bag, they were greeeted with both delighted shrieks and beleaguered moans. My 15 year old petulantly accused, “I don’t wanna write a summer journal, you’ll read them”. I assured them all that I wouldn’t be reading a word, and that they are not an assignment. They are only an invitation. They’re simply a place to capture their summer—whatever that looks like for them.
Once assured that I wasn’t sneaking school work into their sacred lazy days, they have each throughly embraced their notebooks. I have a 10 year old who thinks he’s getting away with some great heist becasue he’s filling his with page after page of math problems. There are burgeoning stories happening and stick-figure portraits. One map of “the world we discovered so far” is a group project. Every old thing is going on in those pages. The (mostly) quiet moments in the evening when we sit down with these notebooks is quickly becoming my favorite part of our days.
But, don't let me give you the impression that you have to have notebooks, or any other thing to make the Quiet Week work. There is no itenerary, and no formula for a Quiet Week. It is an act of unfurling. It is unique and it is individual. I share some thoughts below on how we do this, but I do that not to convince you to do in the same way. They're only beginnings for you to shape for yourself.
How to Create Your Own Quiet Week
How Long to Stay
Obviously, it doesn’t have to be a week. You can hold a “Quiet Long Weekend”, or even a “Quiet Afternoon”. Smaller chunks of time simply mean you must be more intentional in letting go of expectations and schedules, and protecting your time. The lessons of the Quiet Week are big, and they are slow. So just keep that in mind in planning.
Where to Go
Geographic location is fairly inconsequential. You can hold a successful Quiet Week almost anywhere. The where is far less important than what it feels like. Wherever you go needs to allow time for being still. For us, that means we need to be outside of a city, preferably with some land to wander. But, we also like to have some sort of town nearby for the days that we do want to go exploring. What that combination looks like for you may be a bit different.
What to Take
Packing for the Quiet Week is all about invitations. Invitations to stop. To come to rest after the constant motion of a school year. That means we bring lots of books, games, and, starting this year, notebooks to create in. Those are tools of unwinding for us. You might have different ones. Whatever I bring is not a form of demanding. Every book can remain unopened. The games can go untouched. Bringing them is only an act of offering.
What to Do
As little as possible. The only accomplishment on the Quiet Week is to let go of accomplishing. That means even for Mom. We’re talking easy meals or eating out, if that’s easier. There’s no hint of email or obligation anywhere on the agenda. There’s little routine and they only things you need do are the ones that feel intriguing. There are no expectations of anyone. They can tap out of any activity. You can, too. The Quiet Week is less about doing and more about undoing.
What’s your experience? Have you had a Quiet Week (whether you call it that or not)? What makes the experience work well for you?