Lines to Love: In the 100 Aker Wood
There’s a somewhat bittersweet nostalgia that crops up at this time of year. The final weeks before Labor Day herald the ending of the summer recess in my mind. How many of you recall those youthful years when summer meant fun and freedom? When I was a child, summer held tremendous majesty because it was a time when there were no set schedules, when grand adventures could be had at any moment. Their grandeur could be a cross country flight to spend the summer in California with my grandparents for a month or it could be something as small and simple as an orange creamsicle. But, in my mind, nothing takes me back to my childhood more than the books and, more importantly, the characters I fell in love with as a child.
This past weekend, I had the unexpected pleasure of traversing memory lane all the way back to when I was a wee one. Last week, my baby brother had a week of vacation. Since he’s working nights full time and paying his own way through college- taking summer courses during both sessions as well as during both semesters, this week vacation allowed us the time to catch up and indulge in those activities that we so enjoy doing together, especially watching movies.
My brother is very conscientious. He selected movies in theater that he was pretty certain I would enjoy. Though he’s ten years my junior, he’s heard the embarrassing stories my parents have told him about my childhood. (All right, I don’t consider them that embarrassing.) One of those stories is how I was adamant- as only a four year old can be- that I would grow up and marry Christopher Robin. He was my first love. Armed with that knowledge, my brother knew it would be an easy sell to get me to go see the new Disney live action film, Christopher Robin.
I loved it, and not just because Christopher Robin happened to grow up from an adorable little lad into the rather winsome Ewan McGregor. The film reminded me why Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear and Piglet and all the others in the 100 Aker Wood were so important to me as child.
A great deal of the movie touched my heart and kindled remembrances of A.A. Milne’s stories, but one part stood out. One quote.
Perhaps what we all appreciate so much about Winnie-the-Pooh is how he phrases profound wisdom couched in seeming silliness. While that above line isn’t in any of A.A. Milne’s Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, it does echo similar sentiments found in them, such as:
Circuitous wisdom, yes, but wisdom nonetheless with the added boon of leaving you with an amused smile on your lips.
The film starts with Christopher Robin about to embark for boarding school. He’s bidding his friends from the Forest farewell. Then we watch- through a series of beautifully illustrated panels in the style of Ernest Shepard- as Christopher grows from the imaginative boy who wiled away the hours in the 100 Acre Wood to a grown man who has put aside childish things in favor of being responsible. In short, he’s become stodgy. While he loves his wife and daughter, he’s got his priorities completely tangled up.
One day, his daughter finds the childhood drawings of Winnie-the-Pooh and himself. Through a series of events, this drawing affects the re-awakening of Pooh in the 100 Acre Wood. The wood is foggy and frightening and deserted. So Pooh does what a bear of very little brain would do; he goes in search of Christopher Robin and walks through the door Christopher always used to visit. When he gets to the other side, however, it’s not to the little cottage in Sussex where Christopher lived as a boy, but to London where he currently resides. From there, the adventure unfolds.
But what is front and center is the fact that Christopher Robin is consumed with finding an answer to solve a business problem for his bosses. He’s looking high and low and everywhere in between, but nothing is apparent. He’s more frantic than ever, and in his franticness, he’s become short tempered and mean. And he’s lost sight of what is important in his life.
That’s when Winnie’s wisdom shines:
When you do nothing it leads to the very best something.
Translate that to today. For us grown-ups, the summer no longer equates to that carefree freedom. We don’t get summers off. Work still makes its pressing demands on our time, and, more often than not, even when we are on off time, we’re still thinking about the problems and issues cropping up on the job. And while our summer nights should be filled with music, as Longfellow wrote, we’ve let our cares infest our nights as well as our days.
That’s where Winnie’s words come in.
When you do nothing it leads to the vest best something.
In other words, rest. Stop striving all the time. A cursory look at the etymological foundation of the word strive will clearly highlight why it’s so important to rest. Strive comes from the Old French word estrif which means fight, battle, combat, conflict; torment, distress; dispute, quarrel. See that progression? While striving to make a better life is important and worthwhile, if you don’t allow yourself the necessary rest, you can descend into distress and querulous behavior. It can lead to strife in your life. To avoid strife, you need a break. You need to rest. You need to do nothing. You need to be like Pooh.
I know this is true, especially in my writing. When I’ve hit a brick wall with a short story or a blog post or a chapter in my novel, I find that the harder I try to make something happen, the worse it gets. But, if I just set the writing aside, perhaps pick up a book or go outside to sit in the sunshine or take a nap, in short order, the solution somehow presents itself.
And just look, you’re in luck. The summer is the perfect milieu to loaf and laze and recharge your batteries. If you take a page out of one of Tennessee Williams’ plays, summer is the time to pour yourself a tall glass of something cold and sweat away the hours rocking back and forth on the front porch. And, if you don’t have a front porch, you can always head to your local theater and see Christopher Robin for yourself. It’s well worth the watch and the reminder to take it easy on yourself. To quote discourse between Pooh Bear and Christopher:
So, today, enjoy the little moments. And do remember what the Bible says:
But, please, let me be clear. I'm not encouraging slothfulness. It's important to honor your work commitments. But, if you're worrying overmuch about a particular problem, step back from it for ten minutes or so. Do something completely unrelated, even if it's just taking a breath or a walk to the break room. That's what it means to step away and do nothing. Took a page from Pooh in The House at Pooh Corner. Don't you just love his reaction to the worrying and fretting of Rabbit?
Don’t let the cares infest your day. Instead, get into a comfortable position by not heeding them. In other words, relax.
Now, dear readers, what's you're favorite way to do nothing?
And just because I have to include a line from Winnie-the-Pooh which has nothing to do with this post, but that I love, here's this gem: