October 9, 2020
My name is Maureen McMahon, your PSD Communications Specialist. After 15 years of working at home as an editor, writer, publicist, and parent, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of intentional space. This series is meant to share simple strategies honed from the holistic living emphasis of my journalism, and are suggestions to help you navigate working from home and heightening your awareness.
Home these days for all of us is filled with competing needs, so every suggestion is of course hypothetical. All ideas are mine, stemming from my knowledge of holistic living and daily practices, and not the PSD’s. May you find a new way of working you carry with you. Thanks, Maureen
Intentional Space: fieldwork 2020
A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal
William Wordsworth - 1770-1850
A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.
No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.
If you thought of this day two hundred years ago, and then this day eighty years ago, and then fifty years ago, can you imagine the context and the requisite motions? What were people embarking on, how were they moving, and what were they moving into?
In the way that the periods of a pendulum are regular, we live through open and closing phases. In the American experience, it was fifty years from 1918 before 1968 ushered in the new epoch. We are alive approximately 100 years later. What is the opportunity out there that is the yin to nature’s current collapse of an epoch?
If you pivot to yesterday, and ask yesterday what the promise of today is, the answer would probably be, You will find it outside.
For Wordsworth, a vanguard of the Romantic Age, a walk in the forest was how he would compose. After hours of walking and listening to nature he would then write a catalog of perceptions. His poems came from memory; they sing the song of the place.
I encourage you to step out to observe nature—considering it glacially, macroscopically, symbiotically—however the quiet lens—so it can pull you in to confer a wisdom, born of direct experience, that searching from your desk cannot provide. You have to be out there to gather it. It is the fieldwork of 2020.
It is not hard to get a scientist to agree to a walk. Many of my family and friends are scientists. They prefer a walking commute. With walks the plans come together. The schedule is reviewed. The next appointment is reached. With practice and allowance, the mind can fall away and the limitations fade. A noetic moment can happen. Cause and effect can flow their explanation to the quiet observer. The hypothesis can crystallize with wrap-around clarity.
If one opportunity with walking is to organize ideas, then another bigger one for this era is to go outside for the sole purpose of releasing the mind in motion to simply see the world. To follow its leads and accept what is not up for discussion.
Here in Hyde Park you can turn your back to the city and stand on the border of the country—taking a break from all courses and complaints. You can focus on one of the most beautiful bodies of water in North America and exchange the light from technology with the sun playing on the water. In Jackson Park, just one mile east of campus, you can stretch beyond your workspace and walk miles of trails winding through formal gardens and islands. The remedy can be to listen to unbridled life in nature’s thrums and trills. You can sit on the grass and contemplate how mitigated life feels with its applications and systems for the exchange of food, entertainment, or a conversation, and decide the exchange is to just be, no login.
For intentional space this autumn, my wellness advice is to get free for an hour, or for the time being, or as a new way into awareness. Walk to move. Try walking in awareness only, pushing the boundary—seal—of our current ordinary. Walk to hear the song.
The spirit of the city is available out in her green and watery spaces, along the Midway Plaisance, in quiet spots and benches throughout the campus. Out there Chicago’s people are moving too, moving with concern, vitality, and connection.