Empty Calendar, Full Days

Last weekend, we experienced one of the rarest of occurrences. There was not a thing on our family calendar. The coming weekend spread before us on paper, a completely blank pair of days. There were a couple of things we thought we might do. The annual Fall Arts Festival would be in our town, an unusually lovely art show with fine artists’ booths that wind along a path in a redwood grove. The Jewish New Year began Sunday night, and I knew I wanted to cook a special meal. But unusually, we had all of the two days and nights to leisurely do those things and whatever else struck us.

We rode bikes to the art show fairly early on Saturday. We immediately saw good friends and beautiful art and artists, some of which also appeared as old friends, as they’ve been happy fixtures at the Festival since we started attending 20 years ago, the very weekend we first moved to Mill Valley. The grove had the moist redwood-duff smell that I’ll always strongly associate with my first days here. Still other Festival memories? Being seven months pregnant and buying a backpack of books at the adjoining library sale and laughing that they were balancing me front to back, and taking Anna to the Festival the next year when she was almost a year old. (This picture was taken that day.)

This weekend, we joined younger families in taking in a sweet and magical marionette show (its qualities only enhanced by being performed in what is known as the “fairy ring” of redwoods). I marveled at how very enraptured and still the audience of small children was as they sat on their tarp and on tree stumps. Other talented friends of ours, father and daughter Austin and Caroline de Lone, sang and played a variety of instruments through a fabulous set to which other of our friends wandered over, lured by the beautiful music. We saw more friends and got into long, deep discussions under the trees.

The looseness of the day called for meandering. There was a bliss to the spontaneity and complete lack of schedule. We didn’t have to be anywhere else, then or later. Still later, we ran into another friend while buying food for a simple dinner and ended up inviting her over. This so rarely happens — people call first and plan and shoehorn events into busy schedules far in the future. And yet the way the whole day played out struck me as the way things are supposed to be. This certainly seemed like a way to build community, by taking the time to stop and engage with people we meet in our daily travels.


Sunday brought more relaxation. We read. Anna did homework and worked on her essays for college. We leisurely planned dinner and I went shopping and later made two of my favorite dishes, Chicken Marbella and honey spice cake. Michael made mashed potatoes. At one point Anna called our attention to colorful oak leaves that were falling and swirling in the wind outside, and we all talked about how much it looked and felt like Fall.

At dinner we talked about the New Year and the big change to come of college. We dipped apples in honey to signify a sweet new year. We lingered at the table an especially long time, precisely because we had time. We even cleaned up in a leisurely way.

While many people relish an empty calendar, still others are afraid when confronted with one. Both of these extremes should tell us something. Lots of us are so conditioned to being booked up that free time is a rarity, and sometimes even a burden. This weekend showed me that an empty calendar can result in exceedingly full and rich days.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman


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8 responses to “Empty Calendar, Full Days

  1. Such a lovely weekend. I honestly felt a level of stress slip off my shoulders as I read about your two, blissful days. Our Friday and Saturday were very over-scheduled, but Sunday loomed large and free. (We stayed in PJs until noon–delicious!) Thank you for a calming, joyful read.

  2. I had the same sort of weekend but I was junking in Minnesota. It felt so good to just meander and let down. Your art show looks lovely and in a Redwood grove to boot. Lucky You. :) Glad you had a couple of days for yourself and Happy New Year. :)

  3. My new FAVORITE post.

  4. We relish in those rare free-weekends – they are my absolute favorite and you are right, those free weekends tend to be richer and more fulfilling than those days we are scurrying around, trying to fit in as many family activities as possible. As a SAHM I also try to incorporate at least one unscheduled day into our week as well (we call them “at home” days, though sometimes we do decide to go out). For us, free days are calming and grounding – I notice a definite change in myself and my children on these days – as they grow older I hope to continue to have free days just to be, rather than scheduling our lives away. Thank you for this post!

  5. I love festivals and especially the art they have. Food comes in a close second. Most of the festivals I attend are in summer. I need to look around for a fall festival… enjoyed this post.

  6. Your post reminds me how important it is to slow down and breathe in. Thanks!

  7. I love empty calendars :) The day’s not really empty – just unscheduled and that’s such a welcome respite from the very scheduled school days that we normally have each week. I too have older kids and it’s lovely to revisit favorite events and places that you took them when they were younger. Wonderful post Suz – here’s wishing you more empty calendars with full days!

  8. Thank you so much for all your lovely comments, everyone! I truly appreciate you taking the time to write and especially to breath a collective “aaaaah” together. Cheers to more empty calendars and full days for us all, and the spontaneity, joy and discovery that they bring.

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