What do you do to replenish, relax, and renew? To sharpen the saw? The above expression was one my mother used often. When we would leave Tucson, Arizona in the summer and stay at our cabin in Wildwood, in cooler Provo Canyon, she would often say, “I am knitting my nerve endings here”. Then she would close her eyes and moan a little. I never thought about the phrase then, but in my adult life I pictured my jagged nerve endings that had frayed and finally snapped, being neatly brought back together by cosmic knitting needles as I gave attention to slowing down and being renewed.
In the deep midwinter, we have traveled to Montevideo, Uruguay to knit our nerve endings. We arrived last Saturday to 75 degree weather which felt like liquid happiness pouring down on us snow-beleaguered souls. I could just feel my Vitamin D levels rising as we found our Airbnb.
Initially, everything was shuttered and quiet in the “Cuidad Viejo”, the Old City, where we chose to live–Saturday quiet, Sunday dead. Come Monday, on our morning walk, we were surprised to see everything was opening, the pace quickened by taxis, sidewalk vendors, and many more people out and about. I was astonished because who shuts down their business for two days a week? We just thought business was really bad. But that’s the point. A different way of doing things.
Why Montevideo, Uruguay? It’s 75 degrees in February. It’s the safest country in South America, and very affordable. Craig’s brother’s family came last fall and raved about it. It’s a little country between two bigger countries, Argentina and Brazil. And it’s “a many, varied, and unusual” experience. When I taught school in the Westchester County, New York Public School system we were trained to promote curiosity in our students by asking through every lesson about the many, varied and unusual things that we were talking about. It was a way to expand the discussion, draw the student out and challenge their world view. We see things here on every side that is many, varied and unusual. The man fixing freshly squeezed orange juice out of a grocery cart to sell. The mosaic floor in our apt building that has such a beautiful old patina, the long lines at a mercado natural for vegetarian empanadas. Traveling like this resets our gratitude for our wonderful country and other things we take for granted. We get to figure out a new way of doing things and get out of our regular ruts. We were already saying there is a different pace here. We can feel it at a cellular level.
We are still doing our micro habits, our daily systems, but now for a little while we get to put a new template over them, and see things with new eyes. When we lived in Belgium with our children, we taught them not to say things were weird, just interesting. My kindergartener would announce, “That’s instr-e-sting!” when she saw something that was different from her world view, like a doorknob placed in the middle of a door. There are many “instr-e-sting” things for us to wonder and be in awe over here.
We are breathing in new, warm air. We are noticing things a little more closely, part curiosity, part survival. And we are knitting our nerve endings. What do you do to recharge, reset, renew?