Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - February 8, 2019

Super serenity

Today is the big game. As I write this, it is still more than six hours away. I always look forward to the Super Bowl in much the same way I look forward to a Kansas State University football game.

Now you may wonder if is it the excitement of seeing who wins that I enjoy. Perhaps it is getting together with others and having a little party that makes me smile. Or do I look forward to sitting in the parking lot during home games, chowing down snacks with friends in anticipation of the athletic spectacle to follow.

It’s none of those. My real reason some may see as almost un-American! What I really enjoy is heading into town during game time and feeling I sort of have the city to myself. With so many people crammed into the stands or huddled about TV sets, Manhattan becomes unusually quiet.

It is the same each May, December and late November when many students head home on break. I love how quiet the town becomes. Oh, don’t get me wrong. When late August arrives, I also enjoy the excitement as the students flood back into town. But those quiet times somehow make me feel good.

Husband Art has commented that he notices the same effect on Christmas Eve. He always keeps his gifts at his work and despite resolving to get it done earlier the next year, invariably ends up wrapping them the night before Christmas. He usually finishes after dark has set in, and so drives through town during the time when many parents are trying their best to get their young ones into bed. Several times, he’s remarked that the phrase from "Silent Night" pops into his thoughts: “... All is calm ...”

Art has always accused me of being unusually distractible. So I often find it is hard to be productive in my university office with folks wandering back and forth past my door. He tells me to shut it, but I still hear the hubbub and wonder what I am missing. So, like many other weeks, I will go into work today - a Sunday. I love the fact that I am alone with few distractions. I am often surprised by how much I accomplish and without feeling stressed. Friday afternoons are pretty good too.

Art said when he was a kid of 4 or 5, he used to awaken just after sunrise, dress, sneak out of his room and wander the neighborhood. He marveled at how different the world seemed with no cars moving up and down the streets, kids walking to school or women hanging wash on clotheslines.

Maybe we were meant to be together because when I was a young girl growing up on our farm, I too would sneak out of the house early in the morning to enjoy a bit of quiet before the chickens were awake. The older I got, the more of a night owl I became. But those pre-dawn days were so peaceful.

After I went off to college, I would occasionally escape to quiet spots on campus to contemplate life and try to get a bit of reading done. Often I would doze off watching the clouds go by.

My two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador in the late 1970s included generous amounts of solitude walking along the beaches near my apartment. I was amused that many of my young Ecuadorean friends followed me because they thought I was lonely. They didn’t understand that I was gathering strength by feeling the sand between my toes, hearing the lull of the waves rushing to shore, and searching for shells.

When Art and I travel, I do the same thing. I love the excitement and adventure of seeing new things, meeting new people and trying new foods. But then I need a quiet “home base” from which to draw energy.

I’m pretty certain it isn’t just we two who feel this way. Friend Deb traveled with us to Wales last summer. Art and I were a bit afraid she’d think we were lazy bums not getting up until 9 or 10 a.m. most days. We smiled when we discovered she often arose even later. Yes, we still had plenty of time to travel through the mountains, eat at cafes, walk the shore of the Irish Sea, take in castles, go to a show and much more. But we also basked in the tranquility of our home-away from-home, a former chapel down a narrow road that came to an end at a waterfall. She and I spent hours on the back deck facing the small river - talking softly, listening to the water rush over the rocks, watching the bees on the rhododendrons and golden chain trees, and just sitting quietly. She told me it was the most relaxing time she could remember.

In the end, it is about balance. Until a couple of centuries ago, we lived as creatures who could do little after the sun set, guaranteeing we received sufficient time to sleep and relax. No way would I like to return to those times, but we can have too much of a good thing. We have so many labor-saving devices that we have to go to a gym to give our bodies enough exercise. Vehicles move us to where we want to go, so we must jog or take walks to compensate. In a similar fashion, we have to make certain we give ourselves the mental space to just be.

So this Super Bowl Sunday, while others enjoy a raucous good time watching the game with friends, being entertained by commercials, and munching on pizzas, chips, dips and other game day food, I will really enjoy my alone time.

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Other columns from 2019 may be found at: 2019 Index.
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