As a child, I spent my days buried in my books. I spent hundreds of hours in the warmth my bed, poring over stories. One, in particular, stayed with me, and that was the tale of Rip Van Winkle. It’s a quaint tale, quite different from the Disney-esque tales of adventures that are written for children. The story follows the story Rip Van Winkle. as he journeys into the woods and meets a strange man. They share a meal and giddy with the effects of the drink he settles into a comforting nap under the trees. When his sleep is finally broken, twenty years have passed and all his friends have been killed by the war. He is left alone.
One could argue that the tale of Rip Van Winkle is a little dark for a seven-year old, but I loved it. There is something oddly comforting and relatable in his story.
Time passes too quickly. You lay down in the forest. “Just five minutes,” you tell the trees. Five minutes to be alone before you have to get up and go back to living. Just five. But five solitary minutes are expensive. You open your eyes and the saplings have grown around you, and your hair encased with moss. ” You were gone too long whisper the trees, and “they’ve forgotten you”.
How many times have we wished we could stop the clock of life and take in another moment? To be able to take another second of bliss before we have to return to life.
I stand in front of my window with rain pouring down. The room is dark and so is the sky. The light from the streetlights bleeds into vivid reflections. There is tranquillity in the air and the cold wind beckons me to sit for another second. But I can’t. In the evergreen words of Robert Frost, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.”
What wouldn’t I do to breathe for a minute? Sometimes it feels like life nowadays is claustrophobic. My day is built up of deadlines. Every second is planned down to the nitty-gritty. 15 mins for breakfast, 24 mins to reach school, and 24 mins to walk back. I have never taken a minute longer or a minute lesser and I wonder why.
There is a stream by my school and I have longed to stand and watch it course its path, but I never do. The rain falls but I never try to catch a drop in my palm. An azure blue sky is ignored. Perhaps, there always was time to stand and watch, but I never took the opportunity.
Rip Van Winkle tells us the story of our own lives. We long for relaxation and happiness, but how often do we allow ourselves to indulge at the moment? We plan our vacations and adventures and set aside time to enjoy. That’s not how it works. We have to take the moments as they come. And quite often, these unplanned spontaneous moments of joy we gift ourselves are the most precious of all. Of course, they are, for we haven’t burdened them with expectations.
I’ll walk again tomorrow. Maybe I’ll stand by the water a little longer.