Where Do You Rest?

We meet once a month. Eight fabulous woman writers. Wine, bread, cheese, gossip. One or two or three of us present our work, which is then hotly discussed and debated. Sometimes, we can’t agree: should there be more detail, or less? It hardly matters: there’s fierce belief in the air. And then, if there’s time, we write. Someone throws out a writing prompt or two, meant to get us started. This one stayed with me for days:

Where do you rest?

I rest in Facebook, gmail, the blogosphere. I take breaks without ever leaving the computer screen. Someone I’ve never met is “baking Christmas cookies. Wtf?” A woman I barely know is “happily going to her studio to work”. My niece “needs a couple strokes of really good luck right now..”

Richard Grusin writes, “We become simultaneously both the subject and object of contemporary media.” We are constantly seeing and being seen. We are public and private, always and everywhere.

I wonder: where did I rest before social networking? Did I spend more time in cafes, art galleries, the street? Or was I simply at that same computer screen (OK, different computer), working? Why can’t I remember?

Fifteen years ago there was no email. We used the phone. If we had to phone all the people we now email in a day, we’d fall to the ground, exhausted.

Where do you rest?

When I go to Gambier Island for a month, as I have done the past two summers, all I do the first week, is sleep. I sleep in, write for an hour, have a nap, write for another hour…you get the idea. I sleep like a professional, like it’s my job to sleep. I tell the next-door- neighbour, I. Can’t. Believe. How. Tired. I. Am. I. Can’t. Stop. Sleeping. and she says gently, You. Must. Need. It.

The bedroom in that house on Gambier has a window facing the forest. Deer sometimes saunter by, peering in at the window, like it’s their personal drive-in movie.

I sleep very well in that room.

Where do you rest?

The other months of the year my dreams are full of careening cars, lost lecture notes, a film shoot for which equipment was never booked, snarling children, and deadlines long overdue.

Sleep is not always rest.

And rest is sometimes, too, the act of cooking, of washing and chopping the purple-and-orange organic carrots I got at the farmer’s market that day, , the rinsing of basmati rice, sauteeing onions in a big, wide pan, the radio with its accompanying sizzle of ambient news.

How do you rest?


  1. Now that I think about it it, the ways that I rest have not changed that much since I was 20. The ultimate: a solo road trip or solo camping trip. In the city – a bath with a beeswax candle. In a busy place – looking out the window. Can you tell I’m an introvert?

  2. Funny I should read this now as I have just spent half the day in bed! I rest under the security of heavy blankets engrossed in a mystery novel. I find more and more I need to find refuge from noise, so when we go away for a retreat I relish the absence of the city soundscape. I rest by being off e-mail and offline.

    I find the prairie skies very restful, and I pine for them.

    My father always says “No rest for the wicked!”

  3. Well, I often think of rest as a respite from some other activity, which means that rest could be active. We go to Nova Scotia for a month in the summer and that’s about as perfect rest as I can get – no internet at the cottage, no cable tv, water warm enough to swim in, headspace to write, and time to cook, read, and play games.

    As for the computer, I like to have at least one day a week when I don’t turn it on. The (virtual) world can spin without me.

  4. Jamie…a solo roadtrip…sounds divine, something I’ve never done.

    Lori, I guess you are not so wicked…

    Claudia, I admire your 1-day a week digital detox. I left my laptop at work 1 weekend and almost went mad.

  5. When I’ve done the things I should do, been true to my word, honest, moderate enough (rare) I sleep well and therefore rest and feel rested. It happens very occasionally.

  6. I’ve had rest on my mind too. I just wrote about my recent rest, what I affectionately called my retreat. I thoroughly enjoyed my retreat and writing about it. Your wine, cheese, and women writers gathering seems wonderful! Getting away is one way I rest, but when departure is not possible, like you, I feel soothed by a little chopping, dicing, and slicing in my small kitchen. I begin almost everything I cook with garlic or onions + olive oil, and those smells calm me immediately…

  7. Hey M,

    Thanks for the nudge to scope your site. The Mumsy is so right… was she always
    so wise? Were you always so receptive?
    Please write about the 12 small dishes that comprise the meal for Christmas evening.

    thanks! erin

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