projects and writings of T.A. Burkholder
My father’s nickname for me as a kid was DL, or Dead Lazy. Of course, I hated this, even if from an objective point of view, it might have been true. I blame it on a Leo Lionni book I loved as a child called Frederick. It’s about a field mouse who sits and absorbs sunshine, colors and words while the other mice stay busy gathering food. In the winter, when they run out of food, Frederick sustains them with memories of warm days and beautiful flowers and poetry. No, my parents weren’t hippies, but somehow this book snuck into the mix and clearly had an impact on me.
Lately, I’ve been thinking more about my laziness and what exactly that means. Maybe because of the new responsibilities I wrote about in my last post. Maybe because I’ve been confronted recently by friends who’ve expressed a mix of curiosity, confusion, mild astonishment or mild admiration at the way I live. Knowing about my lack of domestic skills, my meager writing efforts, my overrun garden and mellow work schedule, one friend asked “What are you diligent about?”
Good question. One that’s been stuck in my head for a few weeks. Where does my effort go? When I try to answer that question, I can see how my effort is of a different caliber. There’s no striving or ambition. There’s no list of accomplishments I wish to achieve. Even the new things on this blog have mostly been mild in terms of the exertion they’ve required.
Case in point: This week, I went to see the Oregon Practice Shakespeare’s production of Taming of the Shrew in Cathedral Park. Shakespeare in the park may have been a new thing for me, but I’m an expert at lying in the grass. I’m highly skilled at cloud watching. Plop me down under the majestic St. John’s Bridge in order to do it and I’m as happy and satisfied as someone else would be winning a race or getting a good review at work. So what if I didn’t make it through the whole length of this entertaining but very very long play? I got a couple hours of delightful language in my ear and soft earth under my bare feet and a dramatic, shifting sky above my head.
So maybe that’s part of the answer; I’m diligent about my leisure. So many of these posts make that obvious. I think it’s important to just be in the world and absorb it’s beauty without having to accomplish something. Steady streams of people show up in my massage studio having failed to find this kind of down time. They race to finish all the tasks at hand or to fill their days, and the days of their children with one activity after another. The difficulty of that settles in their body. Surely it settles in their minds as well. It’s one of the things I love most about my work: giving people a block of time during which they’re responsible for nothing and have nothing to do but breathe.
There are other answers to what I’m diligent about. Leisure isn’t my only or even my most pressing concern. My relationships hold that spot: how to learn from them, make the most of them and bring them what they need. I thought about this as I stretched out in my spot in the park. The only thing that would have made a good afternoon great was if I’d found a friend to go with me, someone to whisper jokes to or someone who would stretch their legs out next to mine and settle into the important work of comparing the shape of our feet resting in the cool grass.