BOS 07 22 2021 doublesize
First thing Monday morning, this quote from Matt Haig came up on Facebook: "You don't need to be busy. You don't need to justify your existence in terms of productivity. Rest is an essential part of survival." The quote ends: "we should see reflection and passivity--even sitting on a sofa--as an intrinsic and essential part of life that is essential for the whole to make sense." He points out that we need the pauses between notes for music to make sense. We need pauses in life as well.

Too bad I did not see that quote last week. Three times, someone asked me, "So what do you have up for the rest of today?" Each time, it stumped me. I did not have an answer. "Finish tidying" seemed inane. "Resting" seemed like a guilty pleasure. "Puttering" sounded purposeless. Only once did I have an answer: babysitting my daughter's dog. With the others, I think I just shrugged.

Partly, I was dealing with a (short term) health issue that left me exhausted. Also, tidying was taking days. We had twenty family over for a socially distanced outdoor celebration of my son and daughter-in-law's first anniversary. Their wedding had been super simple, due to Covid, and we were making this day special. The celebration had been the focus of my attention for a week. It had been lots of work to prepare, and putting everything away took a while.

Still, to my surprise, not being able to answer the question stung. A year ago, even seven months ago, I could have drawn from a list of weekly tasks to prove I was occupied. A couple years ago, there would have been a farm chore to mention. But I retired from job and farm. Now, I have to make up what to do each day. What am I accomplishing?

Part of the challenge I had answering the question was that I had already finished writing for the day. I write first thing, before anyone else is up. It's the time I can focus best. If the question had been, "what are you doing this week?" I could have answered that I am at that mind numbing phase of editing my work in progress where I am fixing my over use of was and had.

On Saturday, I decided that the next time someone asked me, I could say gardening. I do spend time each day tending to the plants around me, encouraging the vegetables to thrive. That would sound productive. Gardening is work. Lugging water buckets and hoses. Pulling stubborn weeds.  

But honestly, time in the garden is not just about work. For the anniversary, I bought several hanging baskets from a convenience store and some hooks that allow them to hang a couple feet above the lawn. Watering them is work, but it also gives me time to enjoy the lush colours.

The delphiniums I planted a few years ago are thriving. They provide a mass of tall dark blue flowers. I have staked and tied them to keep them from being too messy, but every time I walk by, I appreciate their colour. Hummingbirds appreciate them too, visiting often. I get a close-up view of the vibrant little birds. (On our road, we've all taken down our hummingbird feeders because we've had a young bear patrolling our yards, looking for food.)

Tasting black raspberries and feasting on the look of purple flowers, listening to the creatures who share this land brings joy. And noticing them requires slowing down. The raspberries hide under leaves. Finding them requires stopping to look.

At this point, I want to acknowledge that resting, puttering, looking for raspberries is a privilege. I live in a place with a large yard. I am able to take time outside--because of good health, because I am not desperately trying to make ends meet. There are people who would love to be able to rest but can't because of the responsibilities pilled upon them.

Some days, the freedom to choose can feel like a burden. I have to figure out what to do with my time. The reminder that being still is valuable, even essential, can help. Being still is still being.

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway