The Importance of Doing Nothing

He thought of all the time he wasted
being good. Clutched by the guilt
of excellence. Polite.
Well-trained. But when
the long summer afternoons came,
too hot to move
from the window fan, scent
of vapor rising
from water jackets, he found pleasure
in doing the nothing that had no regrets–
wasted afternoons
under the Wisteria vine when no one
was watching. Aroma thick
as a breeze on his shoulder.
Thinking of women constantly, forgetting
to water the chickens
in the barn. He was beginning to feel
the release of duty, to feel
what it’s like to feel.
Demands waiting like barking dogs
at the periphery. His good intention
to visit the sick woman
falling aside
as he listened to the rattle of starlings
in the rafters––discovering that strange lightness
of the body. And the new importance
of oak branches
where they separate from the trunk.
How far out the leaves
begin to spread.
The startling arrangement
of moss
like whiskers without discipline.
The long plains of earth
reaching to the clouds
behind the back yard fence.
How the ground pushes back when you walk.

~David Watts, M.D. – “Another Side of Transgression” from Having and Keeping

Decades of demands and responsibilities become a falling-down fence line with no end in sight. Having been raised an obedient person with a heightened sense of obligation about constantly fixing what needs repair, I’ve done what I could, where I could, when I could, how I could, though too often ineffective in my efforts.

I’ve always moved from task to task to task – life’s string of fence posts held wires that always needed stretching and patching and straightening. By continually working, I hoped I too would remain standing and functional.

It’s clear the fence isn’t perfect, nor will it ever be. It has served a purpose, as have I. Now I wander along the fencerow, focusing on the walk and the view rather than searching out every little thing which is leaning or loose or gaping.

This walk feels good, lighter, almost cushiony, almost like rolling with joy in the freedom of it. I’m ambling along for no particular reason at all, which is almost intoxicating.

I think I’ll get used to the importance of doing nothing whatsoever.

A new Barnstorming book is available for order here:

6 thoughts on “The Importance of Doing Nothing

  1. The guard dogs are adorable. Neighbor around the corner has two long-haired Doxie’s named Bert and Ernie. Every time I see them I think of Homer and Sam. So cute!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good words. I feel Covid gave me a little of nothing in my life which was good… Days of observing, dreaming, meditating, actually nothing at times.
    I read this the other day:
    “It is said nothing is impossible. I did nothing all day yesterday!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I relate to this message, still learning to do “nothing “ or trying to enjoy the walk without the need to fix it😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Emily, I completely know what you are going through. I felt the same way when I retired from teaching. Mixed emotions for sure, but new doors opened up for me, doors that helped me settle into my new ‘not needed’. I now have time for things I’ve wanted to do for so long. And some new, unexpected joys, too!! There is a time for rest, and time for new and wonderful things I had not imagined : ) Blessings to you and yours…you”ll find your way soon enough!

    Liked by 1 person

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