The Working Waterfront

Take a break, or it takes you

Resting rewards with a refreshed mind

By Courtney Naliboff
Posted 2024-02-01
Last Modified 2024-02-01

As I bustled down the school hallway between dropping students off at their elementary classroom and eating a quick lunch before recess duty, something unusual caught my eye.

A sea urchin, a resident of the ocean tank outside the kindergarten room, had pinned a piece of rockweed between the aquarium wall and its underside. I paused, curious as to whether it had snagged a snack or if it would continue on its way.

As I watched, the tiniest, sharpest teeth slowly appeared around the circumference of its mouth. Like needles in a sewing machine, they lengthened to pierce the rockweed, then retracted back into the mouth’s edges. The action repeated. The margins of the rockweed began to narrow as the urchin ate its fill.

I continued down the hallway, intrigued and refreshed. The minute I spent watching the urchin’s eerie, amazing lunch break buoyed me for the rest of the day.

As I watched, the tiniest, sharpest teeth slowly appeared around the circumference of its mouth.

Taking a break—a short one to observe the wonder around me, or a long one to relax—isn’t always something that comes easily. I’m in thrall to Newton’s laws: if I’m in motion, I stay in motion. Conversely, if I’m at rest I tend to stay at rest, which means that if I have things to do it’s better to avoid it all together.

Of course, avoiding a break for too long usually means that a break will come to me whether I want it or not. This fall I had a minor surgery, and while I did take a few rest days after, I returned to work with an excess of optimism.

Eleven days post-procedure I was back on the couch with my heating pad, sleeping through Halloween after I discovered too late that getting up and down off the floor for my elementary music classes was actually very challenging and painful.
Penrose and I endured round two of COVID after Thanksgiving, like much of the state, although neither of us felt very ill.

This made rest challenging, but still necessary, as I found out after Zooming in to several music classes and then immediately lying down and falling asleep.

This year’s Christmas and New Year’s holidays provided a welcome break. We didn’t once leave the island, but we did go for walks, eat meals with friends, have a Bait Bag photoshoot, and put together an 1,810-piece Lego version of The Great Wave of Hokusai.

It felt great. A little indulgent, maybe, but not too slothful.

Now I’m back in the thick of it, bouncing from class to class to meeting to deadline. Maybe this time I’ll remember to take a little break here and there? I suppose if not, a break will come to me.

Courtney Naliboff teaches writing, theater, and music and plays in a band on North Haven. She may be contacted at