21 March, 2007

Idle Occupation

Last year, Garr Reynolds, of the Presentation Zen blog, wrote an intriguing article about Brenda Ueland’s book, If You Want To Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit (here). The book was originally published in 1938, but it’s premise that we are all creative beings and we can/must write, can be seamlessly applied to blogging.

The book arrived a few days ago (new reprint) and I am enjoying one of those slow reads; savouring every paragraph, putting the book down after each chapter, giving myself time to digest the ideas presented. A joy.

Today I am reading about the imperative importance of idleness in writing. And, as so often happens in life, a dear friend writes me a beautiful description concerning idleness in her email this morning at her daughter’s soccer game,

“… I love those stolen hours when taking a child to a swimming lesson or soccer or some other thing that engages the child and leaves the adult free to read or watch or (my favorite) head out on the bicycle for an hour. Last summer Miranda had a soccer tournament on a day that was the most perfect fall day you could possibly imagine; crisp and clear in the morning and all the trees changing color and by 11 in the morning warm enough to peel off layers down to a t-shirt and bask in the sun. Her first game was at 8:00 and the next one was not until 12:30, not enough time to go back home or run any errands but still almost three hours free. We watched other games, talked a bit with other parents and friends, I watched the girls tumble around on a blanket and braid each others' hair and from time to time Miranda would come over and drop into my lap and rest there for a precious few minutes. It was a time out of time, a magical suspension in which every moment was filled with a kind of joy that can't even be described, completely free of any sense of hurry or anxiety about getting something done. So different from normal everyday life.”

My friend and I, two decades ago, used to be experts on idle occupation. We spent one cold and mushy winter reading all of Jane Austin’s work out loud. That is, my friend read out loud, and I made delicious soups and knitted the hours away. We also regularly spent hours in a local tea café, quietly working our way through all 117 sorts of tea, and talking about every topic under the sun and beyond. We were master idlers, in the good sense of idling, which Ms. Ueland expresses as:

“… the imagination needs moodling, - long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”

What we need is time to watch daffodils grow: sit reading on the sofa with the afternoon sunlight shinning in: chop up vegetables and sautéing them until they glow. I wonder how much effort I’d need to exercise, how much mindfulness, how much time “wasted” before rushed haphazard menial tasks can be transformed into idle occupations.

P.S. Here is also a wonderful illustration of idle occupation from the woolgathering blog.

1 comment:

  1. I am a natural idler. When you get to the bit in your book that describes how to translate that into wonderful, regular, creative writing, then please tell me about it.

    Growing up in South Africa, we watched a lot of cricket live, which meant sitting on a blanket or deckchairs under oak trees, sippin drinks, admiring the distant hills, chatting desultorily to friends and occasionally glancing up to watch the game. It's such a deliberately slow game that you slow down to watch it.

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