Reflections on Life While Doing Nothing
Chickens fed, eggs collected, warm day, I grab a spot under the shade of a hundred-foot Douglas Fir and lay down.
It’s my special place!
It’s my reward for a job well-done!
The three o’clock sky is alive with lazy, willowy white clouds drifting by, thanks to the northerly jet stream. My mind clears. I open the door to my imagination and Mickey Mouse ears float by, M-I-C-K-E-Y, followed by the shake of a lamb’s tail, the fender of a ’59 Edsel, cotton candy at the Western Washington State Fair, circa 1962, and a fly ball, forever uncatchable, settling in the far reaches of center field.
The highlight reel ends and a sea of blue takes its place, an ocean, seen from above, forty-thousand feet high, Eight Miles High, thank you to The Byrds, no motion can be seen on the water from that height, a gentle blue canvas awaiting the stroke of the Master, but looks are deceiving, are they not, for there is motion, that northerly breeze ruffles the tree limbs above, proving exactly that, and adding salt to that thought pudding, two white seed pods float by, fifty feet up, following the breeze, a beautiful gentleness in that vision, the entire universe shrunken to the size of those pods, sailing on that ocean, sailing . . .
The thing is, what I’m seeing would not be seen by others if they were to join me there, in that special place. I’ve known people who would look at those same clouds and see the white-flash associated with napalm a split second before a village is destroyed; others I know would see a line of cocaine. I’ve known people who would see a white Hijab, and I know a person who is clinically depressed who would probably see a deep pool of despair in that fluffiness.
We all look at the same thing but see it so differently, based on our past experiences, our past teachings, our past happiness and our past pain. And who is right, or who is wrong, in that seeing? My truth is different from your truth is different from, well, there you have it, the truth shall set you free . . . or will it, when the truth is transitory and fluctuates with each who speak it.
I’m not sure my dad, long gone, would approve of me taking that break from labor. Sun up to sun down he worked, a harder-worker I have never met, make hay while the making is good, he would say, or get off your butt, Billy Boy, there’s still work to be done.
But the thing is, he died three days before his fiftieth birthday, his body just tossing up the stop sign and saying “ENOUGH,” and he dropped lifeless in the bathtub, here’s to you, Dad, but consider this, father of mine, I have worked longer than you lived, fifty-four years this summer, a variety of jobs, anything to pay the bills and put food on the table, so Dad, my Dad, when will it be all right to take a break if not now? When will the time be right to laze under a summer sun and exercise my free will to do nothing? I’ve certainly paid my dues, my life a veritable country song of heartache and trial, love and tribulation, successes and failures, all rolled up in sixty-nine years of busting ass and stumbling over obstacles of my own making, so maybe it’s time to change my tune from a Johnny Cash gut-wrencher to a Faith Hill love song, with me as the recipient.
Dad beside me, under those firs, looking up at the white clouds, taking a rare break from busting the hump, what would he see? Would he see anything at all, that child of the Great Depression, veteran of World War 2? What videos played in his mind all those years, obscuring the truth, or perhaps magnifying the truth, with a clarity I did not see at that time?
It’s an interesting scenario, is it not?
How about you out there? What would you see if you joined me? What are you willing to see? What do you refuse to see?
A Return Trip
The next day was similar in atmospheric nature, so I grabbed my favorite spot and set about doing nothing once again. The clouds yielded similar images, lollipops and moonbeams, lambs and seed pods, a continual loop of Bill’s life, gotta change this film, what can I do to change it, what can I do, should I change it, is it necessary . . .
So I changed positions . . . moved down ten feet . . . tilted my head . . . a different perspective, if you will . . . and I’ll be damned if the clouds didn’t yield something different, purity and peace, innocence and honesty, all it took was that different perspective, wondering if it’s that easy why others don’t try it, just shift positions a bit, just be willing to alter a smidgeon, a social experiment, if you will, just for the hell of it.
I think back to my baseball days, as a high school pitcher. I was going through a rough stretch my sophomore year, couldn’t get anyone out for a couple weeks, every damned pitch pounded by opposing hitters, like they knew what was coming, the frustration growing, wondering what I was doing wrong, and the harder I tried the harder they hit the ball . . . until my coach told me to stand on the other end of the pitching rubber, just try it he said, a difference of twelve inches to the right, and I’ll be damned if that didn’t make all the difference, a completely new angle to my pitches, seems so simple now, looking back, just twelve inches in perspective.
I don’t know what to make of it all. I’m not a deep thinker, a pretty simple man really. All I know, for sure, is a midday break is just what the proverbial doctor ordered for this man, despite the disapproving looks from my long-deceased father. If I don’t contemplate my life now, when will I? If I don’t allow myself to rest and regenerate, when will I?
Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, pointed out this truth:
“We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don't allow our bodies to heal, and we don't allow our minds and hearts to heal.”
I believe that. That old scoundrel Thich Nhat Hanh sounds like my kindred spirit. Yes, I see the value of hard work. I think I’ve proven that over the years. But I also realize, today, that there is more to life than hard work, and there is no shame in hitting the brakes and just allowing the joy of living to wash over me. Without a doubt my father would not have agreed.
“There’s plenty of time to rest when I’m dead, Bill,” and Dad, those are true words but dammit, don’t you see, there is plenty of time to, and plenty of reasons to, rest now if I just allow it to happen.
I just wish you would have realized that, Dad, long ago. I would have loved a father-son talk tomorrow under those fir trees. Who knows what we would have seen?
2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)