GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN, N.C. -- It's always good to take a break from the madding crowd, but especially now that American politics has surpassed itself in self-mockery.
After four days avoiding television, blogs, YouTube and cell phones, it is possible to wonder how we get so exercised about the insignificant. Not that politics isn't important. The debate about what role government should play in our lives is no small thing.
And while we can't all kick back at once and hope that our enemies work out their anger issues, a little perspective is salutary and productive in a fallow field kind of way.
Some made fun of Barack Obama recently when he spoke of needing "think time." He was chatting with Britain's Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, who asked Obama whether he ever gets a vacation. Obama replied that he was planning to take a week in August and noted that the most important thing for a leader "is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you're doing is thinking."
Why that was considered risible, I don't know. Surely some extra thinking would have been helpful these past seven years. When I teach writing, I always tell my students to make time for nothingness. To unplug and stare out the window. Great ideas don't materialize on command, but usually come unbidden when we let the mind roam.
That's what Obama surely meant, and he is right. Perhaps Nancy Pelosi was right, too, when, after Democrats voted themselves a five-week recess, she turned off the lights, microphones and cameras. It's great political theater to imagine Republicans standing in the dark, orating into an echo chamber during their guerrilla session.
And one could argue that Democrats are shirking their duty by adjourning without resolving the gas and energy crisis. But isn't it also possible that taking a break from the profiling and pontificating ultimately might prove more productive than the dogfight we call "in session"?
I am sitting on the porch with my friend, Sally Hughes Smith -- wife, mother of four, artist and author. We are talking about family, love, death -- art and the art of living -- the things that really matter to every civilized human on the planet.
Sally's oil paintings are worthy of a coffee-table tome, but I wanted to talk about a slender volume she recently wrote, "The Circle," in which she chronicled her family's journey as they helped Sally's Alzheimer's-stricken mother, now 96, move from the family home to a residential care facility.