Make hay while the sun shines.
The words pop into my head and I have no idea why, unless it’s the light peeking through the drapes, the deep breath I draw when I know it’s Saturday, and while there are tasks – there are always tasks – I can slow down, just a little, when the weekend arrives.
Still, I wonder where the words come from. I wonder about their origin. I think about the expression carpe diem – and know it to be a different animal.
I don’t want to “seize” anything today, but I wouldn’t mind making a little hay.
We all know carpe diem – a somewhat forceful expression, meaning “seize the day” – a reminder of our mortality, and thus the need to act today rather than count on being around to act tomorrow.
How Do You Seize the Day?
This morning, instead of beginning my writing immediately – my habit – I took a little time to wander the web, read this and that, and came across both amusing items as well as a wrenching report on the achievement gap in our nation’s educational system.
As I’m reading, I can’t help but be reminded of my good fortune: my children are healthy, they’re benefiting from excellent schooling; there’s little likelihood that I will go hungry – there’s yogurt and fruit in the fridge for breakfast, and coffee in a container, when I’m ready to brew a second pot.
There are people I love and count on in my life, and they feel the same way about me.
In recognizing my good fortune, I wonder about those who can’t begin to conceive of making hay; each day is about survival.
When I consider the origin of “making hay” and so on, there’s an air of spontaneity to the expression, and an expectation of pleasure. It’s more lighthearted, though carpe diem doesn’t preclude a good time. It strikes me as a broader approach to grabbing opportunity of all sorts – targeted at accomplishment as well as enjoyment.
Searching for the origin of “make hay while the sun shines,” one source suggests it dates to 1546, and simply means:
Make the most of one’s opportunities while you have the chance.
Apparently its original context has to do with medieval farmers (who needed sunlight by which to gather their hay), so perhaps my assumption that it implies pleasurable activities is off base.
Could I be mixing up the meaning with rolling in the hay? Some idealized country scene, in which there’s a bit more time to “just be?”
When I contemplate our cultural preoccupation with “presence” – clear on the fact that it wasn’t so long ago that I didn’t have the mental space to contemplate anything beyond my boys, making a buck, and getting through the day – I return to the notion of awareness.
Awareness of what I have.
Awareness that there are millions of others with far less.
Awareness of responsibility – to contribute to my community.
Awareness that living a certain (extreme) work ethic, I needn’t entirely deny myself a little “time off.” And in considering that reality, I wish we were less hard on ourselves – those of us who work hard but never feel it’s enough – especially the women. I’d like to think we could become more comfortable with awareness – able to take it as it comes, seek it with less forceful intention, and allow it to permeate the way we experience our hectic lives, when we are able.
I look back on years of feeling overwhelmed and over-committed, and making hay was the last think on my mind – however you might define the expression.
Besides, I’m convinced I was better off not so conscious of my harried present. It made getting through the long days easier, and looking ahead was more motivating as well as more pleasant.
Back (or Forward?) to Basics
Even in the “blur” years of mothering and making ends meet, I understood my priorities: people before things, relationships before work, a balance of mining the past for its lessons and the future for hopefulness. The present had its notable milestones of course, and they were usually unexpected.
With my sons older, I’m as busy as ever (more, in some ways), but it’s easier to make room for now – including the idea of having fun. There is today’s good work accomplished, today’s entertaining conversation, today’s contributions that reach beyond my own needs, as well as tomorrow’s. And, there is the Saturday morning realization that the sun is shining.
I’ve always believed we must stay open to good things – but they will come when they come. Tomorrow may bring rain, or another clear and brilliant sky. For now, this now, it’s time to stretch my legs, breathe deeply, and make a little hay.
- Do you schedule all your play time or “hay” time?
- Is spontaneity part of your daily picture?
- When you’re going through tough times, is lack of presence – and focusing on a “someday future” – helpful?