A week ago on Wednesday, the autumn weather lay so softly over my piece of the world that I sat on my patio late in the afternoon and gazed at the fishing boats and the lightly rippled river and the far bluffs and the fat clouds, and I fell asleep for nearly an hour.
Well, that isn’t a bad thing. I’m an old guy, I’ve been retired for a few years, I just finished an hour walk pushing a little girl in a stroller and, besides, naps are supposed to be good for a body, aren’t they? Still, it was a bit after 4 p.m. when I settled into an Adirondack chair on the patio, and that’s pretty late for a day-time nap. There I was, though, nodding and dozing and dreaming. For all I know, I was dreaming that I was sitting on my patio watching the river, the boats, the bluffs and the clouds. It sure wasn’t the worst way to taper off toward the dinner hour.
I’d taken the little girl outside after our walk to see if the comfortable afternoon sun would encourage her to finish a bottle she was just playing around with. She had no more interest in the last of her meal outside than she had had inside, but she sure was interested in the world around her. She teased the bottle a bit with the tip of her tongue, but mostly she lay in the crook of my arm and stared wide-eyed at the sky, a half smile playing across her lips.
She gazed so intently and so contentedly toward the heavens that I thought maybe she was seeing an angel or a spirit or something. I found myself looking up, too, trying to figure out just what it was that had captured her attention so completely. The branches of a towering evergreen spread above us. Beyond that, clouds as white as the wool of a 4-H lamb drifted across a sky so blue it made me blink. That was it – tree branches, big clouds and endless blue sky. No birds, no squirrels, no spirits I could see, not even a pine cone dropping.
When I looked down again to the child’s face, I saw that she had closed her eyes and gone to sleep, the kind of deep, deep sleep you only read about in fairy tales. I thought I should give her a couple of minutes and then take her inside to her crib to make her nap more comfortable. My default position, though, has always been to let sleeping babies lie. Besides, when an infant is tucked into the crook of your arm, it isn’t easy to climb out of a low-slung patio chair. I decided to sit a minute longer and admire the landscape. Somewhere between deciding and admiring, I drifted off, too.
Both of us slept that way until Nancy came around the corner of the house to see if the little girl had finished her bottle. The infant came awake the way little kids sometimes do, with a couple of long arm stretches, some blinking of the eyes and the start of a smile at the sight of her great-grandma. I awoke the way some old guys do, startled, wondering for an instant what day it was, a little embarrassed to have been found napping while on day care duty.
I shouldn’t have been embarrassed. I had the infant safely snuggled in my arms. She wasn’t going anywhere. Neither was I. We were just having a moment. As I reflected on the moment the next day, it occurred to me that maybe what a lot of us could use in these uncertain times is a sun-splashed patio, a comfortable chair and an afternoon nap with an infant in our arms. For the hour or so that we sat together, I didn’t give a thought to anything else going on in the world. I felt no anxiety, no worry. I sat there in the moment, and when it was time, I dozed as contentedly as a baby.
Perhaps now and then we should all find an infant to cradle while we relax.