Yesterday I visited the National Gallery of Art with Meta and my mother. It was pretty much a short and targeted visit. I went to see Impressionist paintings there in preparation for my visit to Paris next month where I plan to visit a number of famous collections of Impressionist art. A few years ago I had a wonderful time visiting the Impressionist collection at the Art Institute of Chicago. Yesterday was a chance to refresh my memory and rekindle my interest in the artists and paintings of Nineteenth Century Paris and I only had to drive a few minutes to do it.
Meta and I live less than ten miles from the National Gallery of Art and yet I only seem to get there about once every year or year and a half. I’m sure that my experience is not much different from that of others who live near renowned museums or other favorite tourist spots. We just don’t seem to get to the places we like as much as we think we should. I tend to visit the museums in downtown DC when someone visits us from out of town but rarely go there on my own just for fun or relaxation. Why is it that we don’t go there more often for fun and relaxation?
Whenever I used to visit Washington as a tourist or to visit friends in the area I almost always visited the National Gallery. One of my fondest memories is a visit I made to the Gallery with Meta way back when we were engaged to be married and her parents and siblings were living in Baltimore.
So why don’t I visit the gallery more often? Perhaps the larger question is, why don’t I take more time to do the things I enjoy when I can? A time of sabbatical allows me to reflect on such things. When I began my sabbatical one person at St. Peter’s wished me on my way with this sentiment: Go have a good time and when you come back hopefully you can teach the rest of us how to take time off—to take time to truly detach from work. In other words, we want you to rest so you can teach us how to rest.
Life is busy. There always seems to be something that we have to do. And often it seems that we have to do it immediately. It doesn’t seem to matter what stage of life we are in. I know folks who are retired yet their daily schedules are full to the max. They are so busy, they say, that they never seem to have the time to do what they truly enjoy. Our lives are busy because we fill them with things to do. Some of them are necessary and others are the result of the choices we make. Some reward us, others do not. Some things we do for ourselves. Some we do because we know that we must share our time and talents with others. I, for example, would be busy at church even if I were not ordained. Being a Christian is part of who I am and who God has called me to be. I was engaged in the life of the church long before I was ordained and most likely I will be long after I retire. So I do that for me and for others and I find great reward in that.
I have found that the first few weeks of sabbatical have not been all that easy. It is really difficult to let go of work and the structure it gives my life. Early on I decided that I needed to get out of town for the first week and an half so that I would not be siting around the house trying to figure out what to do next and repeating old patterns. I went to visit friends and family in New England. Some of what I did there is documented in my previous blogs.
Each day I’m trying to do something that gives me enjoyment. Today I took the subway downtown and sat in a cafe near Metro Center and wrote on my laptop. I worked for about an hour and a half on the article I am going to present at an ecumenical conference at Georgetown and Marymount University in May, wrote some of what you are now reading, got a refill cartridge for my pen, grabbed a quick lunch, and took the Metro to the Library of Congress to request some academic books in German and English. I did not have time to see the books I requested – one has to wait for them to be delivered. I will return to look at them tomorrow or the day after. I am looking forward to that but not because it has to be done. It’s just something I’d like to do. That makes all the difference.