ErikaWhen I was growing up, weekend afternoons, when not spent running errands or going on outings, were reserved for “quiet time.”  In retrospect, “quiet time” was undoubtedly a ruse that gave my parents some alone time with each other.  For me, it was time to play in my room, building towers with blocks and legos, dressing up our very tolerant cat in a bonnet and placing her in my baby buggy for a ride around my room, drawing pictures, and simply enjoying pretending of all kinds.  The world I grew up in was – thankfully – a world with very few electronic devices.  There was a TV, but it was inaccessible to me, hidden as it was on the top shelf of a closet in my parents’ bedroom.  Downstairs, a radio and a record player rounded out the selection of electronic gadgets.  Laptops, tablets, smart phones – those words were not even in our vocabulary, their prototypes featured only in the futuristic world of the Jetsons.

Today, quiet times are few and far between – and sadly, most folks would agree.  How often do you lounge around and do nothing?  And by “nothing” I mean nothing – no electronics, just quiet contemplative time, perhaps in the garden or on a walk.  It is much too easy to get swept up in the minutia of daily life, distracted by the beeps of incoming texts and emails, the ringing of phones, and the incessant Facebook and Twitter updates, not to mention doing laundry, cleaning, paying bills, cooking, and shopping.  Even at work, quiet stretches of more than half an hour are a rarity.  Non-stop meetings, an endless stream of emails, and questions and comments from all around make activities such as planning and thoughtful reflection nearly impossible.

Since high school, showers have afforded me moments of silence from life’s endless chatter as well as moments of insight.  I still remember a hot shower delivering the answer to a thorny calculus problem during college.  Showers, however, are not always a practical choice when respite is required from the surrounding frenzy.  Hot water in the form of a cup of tea is the perfect alternative.

This past Thursday, my luck ran out and I had to report for jury duty.  My strong sense of civic obligation was rewarded by a quiet day of productive work away from the office.  By the middle of the afternoon, I sensed something was missing.  Why, of course!  It was tea time.  I made my way up to the window to let the staff know I was going downstairs in search of a cup of tea.  Not surprisingly, the tea selections in the courthouse café were limited, but I did manage to find a passable Earl Grey and some hot water.  The cashier seemed surprised when I tossed the tea bag after a short steeping, but I didn’t have the energy to seize the teachable moment.  Smiling, I left quickly with the infused water and headed upstairs to the jury room.  Seated once again in a comfortable chair, I set aside my work laptop and associated accoutrement and quietly sipped my tea.  I could feel myself relax.  One by one, little snippets of insight and creativity tested the waters and then plunged in.  The minutia and distractions having left the pool, there was room for the more important stuff.

Photograph courtesy of the contributor