A swan at the Norris Reservation in Norwell.

When I was growing up, Sundays were considered a day of rest. Not particularly religious, my family observed Sundays as “family days” — time to spend together. Although sometimes we went to church in the morning, for the most part the day was dedicated to staying at home — playing outdoors, doing projects around the house, reading or even watching TV (although back then, before cable, there was hardly anything on). Sometimes we went out to visit friends, to museums, or to dinner, but for the most part Sunday was a day without an agenda. This was in the 1970s and early ‘80s, before the blue laws were repealed, before stores and other public places were open on seven days a week.

Less than one generation later, a lot has changed. Sunday has become, for many, much like every other day. Most stores are open for at least a few hours, and thus a higher percentage of the population goes to work. Children involved in sports often have practice sessions or even games. For those who are busy during the rest of the week, Sunday is often a time to catch up on chores or anything else that fell by the wayside earlier in the week.

We’re not resting the way we used to. No wonder stress levels in both adults and children are higher than ever before.

Until recently, I considered Sundays to be my laundry and cleaning day. I simply did not have time during the week, and if it was going to be done, Sunday was the day. A homebody by nature, I had no complaint with staying in. I usually managed to spend some time reading (between laundry loads), and if I was lucky, I had time for a walk in the late afternoon. By evening I’d be snuggled into my chair with a movie to watch. I might not have felt rested, but usually I was exhausted enough not to know the difference. Mondays always seemed to come too soon.

Lately, I’ve been making an effort to reinstate Sunday as a day of rest. A creature of habit, I found it difficult at first to shift my schedule. But now that I’ve grown used to Saturday as my laundry day, and found an hour here and there to do the other chores, Sundays are wide open.

For many, relaxation (as easy as it sounds) can be a challenge. We’re so used to being busy all the time that we find it hard to slow down. It’s a lot easier to justify cleaning the kitchen than it is to come up with a reason to take a nap in a backyard hammock. And so we just keep doing. Sometimes we have to trick ourselves into resting simply for rest’s sake.

Here’s one trick that works, especially while it’s still cool outside. Take some time on Sunday to go for a walk. If you’re a chronic do-er, you can tell yourself that you’re exercising, so that you don’t feel you are wasting time. Choose one of the South Shore’s many conservation areas, and spend an hour or two in the fresh air. This can be an excellent way to catch up with a friend or bring an otherwise busy family together.

If you walk at a moderate pace for even a half hour, by the time you get home, it is likely that the instinct to settle down in a comfortable chair and do nothing for a while will set in. Embrace it. Getting adequate rest is the best way to keep yourself healthy and happy.
Some suggestions for Sunday walk locations:

• The Norris Reservation, Dover Street, Norwell. Easy walking with several different views of the North River and Second Herring Brook.

• Willow Brook Farm, Route 14, Pembroke. Flat trails through meadows and woodlands with an observation tower for viewing the freshwater marsh.

• Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary, Winslow Cemetery Road, Marshfield. A variety of trails traversing old farmland and woods, boardwalks across marshes, plus a bridge over the Green Harbor River.

by Kezia Bacon Bernstein, Correspondent
March 2002

Kezia Bacon Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168.