In Walden, Henry David Thoreau confessed: "I love a broad margin to my life." What an appealing sentiment, not only in the visual respect, but also as a sensible design philosophy for whole-hearted living.* What it means to make room for a wide margin, invites digressive, unhurried daydreaming.
Spanish culture embodies one of my favorite expressions of the concept. When Ariel and I lived in Andalucia, the margins were many. We took siestas in the sizzle of the day, and later, took casual strolls at midnight, stopping at cafes to sip tinto de verano (literally, tint of summer). While this schedule required a bit of getting used to, with practice, each day grew fatter and sweeter with the ritual. Most of the modern world shuns this type of laziness, but when studies show that a short nap can increase cognitive function, memory retention, and mental resilience, on balance, those busy-bodies may have got it all wrong.
Yet, as small business owners (here in America, where taking naps is for cats) the temptation to work is relentless. The fact that we enjoy our work, and don't stop until we see our reflection in the high polish we insist upon, makes it even harder to find an excuse, and the time, to stop and take a breather. Our weekends are booked with photography sessions, and our weekdays are spent editing and attending to the endless have-tos of keeping a business running. We joke that we clock in after brushing our teeth in the morning, and clock out after flossing at night. It's what we call, "good business hygiene." Of course, anything worth doing, must be done all out, and we feel blessed to have a business where we are able to do three things: (1) work together, (2) enrich the lives of others through art, and (3) give back to our community.
Through the miracle that is California, we can eat locally grown strawberries in early April and juicy watermelon through late October. Our wedding season parallels the almanac of our sunny state's long, abundant growing season. Spring through fall are the busiest seasons. Although we have weddings here and there in the winter (and do plenty of other photo sessions besides), this is our season to rest.
Just as the earth needs time to lie fallow before bearing new crops, just as a note is heard more clearly after a rest, just as animals and even insects require sleep and rest (even if only sleeping with half their brains at a time like dolphins so), so we too need to rest well to work well. Artists find inspiration in rest. A blank canvas is a pillow to dream on.
Sensing that it was a good time to take a trip (no more local watermelon), we made the short hop to Kauai'i (with plump papayas hugging the trees like pink pandas!). This green island is one of the oldest and most beautiful in Hawaii. Talking of the cyclical nature of rest and work, the isles themselves are the product of long periods of work and rest. The Hawaiian hot spot pushed magma up, forming land, and as the tectonic plate shifted, new land masses formed between oceanic gaps, creating islands.
Ariel and I are island people. Tropical sea breezes are in our blood. My mom grew up in the back of the only grocery store located in a small village in Taiwan, where the townsfolk would come to take phone calls and even get their disputes judged and decided by my highly-respected grandfather. Ariel's grandparents grew up in Puerto Rico, and owned a coffee farm. Little surprise that Ariel's dad constantly touts the virtues of coffee, and even when she was a toddler, nudged her to sip from his mug, drinking the black mixed "like candy."** While some people may feel stir-crazy on islands, we love them for the chance, at every turn, to look out and rest our eyes on the great expanse of the sea.
Hawaiians understand what it is to live with a wide margin. It's in their vowel-spacious vocabulary. Take, "Aloha." You've heard it a hundred times, but do you know what it really means? Don't grab for the dictionary, because translations fail. Everything you hear about Hawaii (think: hula girls, surfing dudes, and cocktails served in coconuts) sounds cliche, until you actually arrive. Suddenly, wearing a loud, floral-designed Hawaiian shirt feels as good and natural as letting out a long sigh. The Aloha spirit is not a travel ad campaign, but is a part of the culture. It's saying "I love you" to the clerk at the supermarket as you count out your change. "Aloha!" An invocation of the divine. Using this word zooms you through the fast track version of spiritual liberation and interconnectedness, and you come out as if you've lived through the 60s, joined a naked hippie commune, and owned a VW bus - and still have a nice tan to show for all of it.
I'll admit, we did bring the laptop and spent a week… working. But can you really call it "work," when you get to sit outside on the patio, drink endless papaya smoothies, and watch the sun paint a new masterpiece on the horizon, in purples, pinks, and oranges, at dusk every night? The important thing is we also had a lot of time for no responsibilities, just bring a towel, kind of fun. We'll post some sun-soaked photos in our blog in the weeks to come (featuring, among other things, a dramatic waterfall, an ode to tropical fruit, and a catalog of cute animals.) Now that we are back to work, we are just excited to look back and rest our eyes on the images taken on our vacation, and remember the joy and fruitfulness from taking a darn break from time to time. We hope that as you read along, you too feel encouraged to take some time off for yourself, and, allow a few pages of your life to be written with a wide, wonderful margin.
How do you keep a broad margin to your day? Feel free to comment and let's start a conversation!
Sam (and Ariel)
*Not to mention, as a lawyer, who appreciates room in the margin for footnotes and gloss that make a text more comprehensive.
** Stay tuned for photos we took of wild coffee plants growing under the jungle shade and in the high altitude of the Na-palis.