Friday, December 21, 2012


A friend called this morning to tell me about an interesting article she'd read. "I know you enjoy thinking about philosophical things," she said, and then proceeded to tell me about how the author of this article makes the claim that being busy all the time is, in actuality, a form of laziness. "He implies that we stay busy as possible mentally and physically," she said, "so we don't have to actually think."

As I listened to her phone call, I was loading dishes into the washer, had a load of clothes going, lunch on the stove and was still wondering what I was going to do with the rest of the day once the immediate tasks were complete. This was Friday, day 3 of a two-week vacation. And good heavens, did I desperately need something to do, because since I walked out of school on Tuesday afternoon, at almost 5pm, I have done  nothing but think...

…and it's unsettling. Really. I believe the guy who wrote the article my friend referred to might be onto something. On the whole, my life is good, and I can't really complain. But at the same time, 2012 was not my easiest year. I handled the tough things in my favorite way - staying busy. Busy as a parent, busy as a teacher, busy here at home. Since summer ended, I have painted most of the walls of my house and did a faux-rock finish on my patio. I've caught up on home repairs, tackling most of them myself because I'd rather pick up hot coals than ask for help. I've completed a ridiculous amount of writing assignments and an insane amount of knitting projects. I've built Lego structures with my son that the company would probably patent if they saw. And that's just during the weekdays. The weekends become a whirlwind of activity, day trips and overnighters.

It’s a flow, and I’ve been going with it. Until now.

Life comes to a screeching halt somehow when the biggest demand of one’s time – work – is suddenly absent from the day. I’ve finished the holiday shopping. All of the presents are wrapped. I’ve not been asked to contribute anything to the Christmas dinner (huge surprise there, as my culinary skills are far from renown.) So there we go...all that actually needs doing is done. My son plays with friends and I sit, keeping watch. The sun dips behind a cloud, the wind scatters leaves, and my mind wanders. I call to my son, and we take a long walk in the woods we love. When we get to the pond, we sit a while. The geese we knew as eggs are adults now. We throw them bread. They know us on sight and come running when we appear. Next year, they’ll leave this place. Only the parents will remain. For some reason, this saddens me. Summer was long. The young geese are familiar.

“What’s the only constant in life?” I ask my son. “That things are always changing,” he responds. We go see The Hobbit. I love, love, love going to the movies, simple pleasure that it is, and I especially love seeing fantasy movies with my son, because as a child, these were my favorite films. Amazing scenery, storylines loaded with villains and heroes, traditions and histories and loyalties. In movies like The Hobbit, the loss of a friend is not something to be taken lightly. I think on this a while. But mostly, I think about the opening lines of the film, when the main character, Bilbo Baggens, is reflecting on his youth. “In those days I was always on time. I was completely respectable. And nothing unexpected ever happened."

I’m rarely ever on time. I think I’m respectable, or try at least I try to be, given my profession. But my life’s been full of the unexpected, one twist being that I’ve no real idea anymore what I want. Or rather, I know what I wanted, but I think I’ve pretty much blown all and any chance in hell of having it. So what now, I wonder, sitting outside on the longest night of the year. What does one do with hard-won knowledge?

I found out two days ago that a piece of my artwork was selected for use in an international datebook and calendar that is sold and distributed all over the world. I submitted to this back in summer, and had completely forgotten about it. I’ve loved this publication for years. It’s a tremendous honor to know my work, Mother/Child Song, will be in the 2014 edition.

But until the writing of this blog, I’ve only mentioned the accomplishment to 4 people. They congratulate me, not having any idea how competitive this process actually is, or that this year was the first time I had nerve to actually submit my work. I don’t make a big deal out of it…truth is, I dislike the spotlight and don’t desire it at all…something it’s taken me a long time to learn. I’d prefer to be behind the scenes, behind the curtain, watching someone else enjoy the spotlight. I don’t want the Oscar anymore…but I’d very much like to be thanked in the winner’s acceptance speech.

And that’s it. So simple, like most of my dreams always were. In my blind and passionate pursuit of them, I should have taken time to examine them more closely. At the beach, on my birthday, I picked up dry sand and watched the wind sift it out of my hands. One tiny, stubborn grain remained. I closed my fist around it. Hope, I thought to myself.  Try as I might, I could not let it go.

It’s dark, and I need to go inside. I don’t like thinking so much. I finish up knitting a hat, a clever design of my own, a hat altered so that it will fit my hair when I have it up in a bun.

I think about the handmade yarn swifter that I want so much. Then I remember Christmas Eve is in two days, and I’ve not done the holiday cleaning yet. So I start making a mental list of all the things tomorrow will involve…shampooing carpets, washing walls, getting our lovely home ready for the New Year.

I’m looking forward to it. There will be a sweet Zen to all the scrubbing, shining, and polishing we’ll do. Not to mention there likely won’t be a moment of downtime to dwell upon what tiny grains of hope remain and how they persist...even when nothing unexpected happens.

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