August 3, 2013

Idleness Is Not a Sin. ~ Sonya Joseph

I love books about our foremothers—pioneer women, farm girls.

As a child, (and to this day) Laura Ingalls Wilder and Lucy Maude Montgomery were my idols.

When playing dress up I chose the calico pinafores over princess gowns and solid lace-up boots over high heels.

I wanted to eat pie and homemade jam and Ma’s famous vanity cakes (which, by the way, I finally made one day—don’t bother).

I sometimes re-read Little House in the Big Woods, a book entirely about food.  The book is spent hunting bear and deer, raising a hog, churning gallons of milk into butter, gathering berries and nuts, harvesting wheat and oats, smoking hams, storing apples and pumpkins and potatoes and onions and turnips.

Yeah, now I’m hungry and a little exhausted.

They worked all the time. In Little Town on the Prairie, Laura describes Ma as spending minutes in idleness watching Pa building their house. This is the sixth book and it’s the first time Ma is doing nothing. She never sits down except to sew, knit, churn or rock a baby.

In The Blue Castle, by Lucy Maude Montgomery, Valancy’s mother has her write down in a hated journal all the minutes she spends each week in idleness.  She spends Sunday afternoons praying over them.

In our modern life we don’t have to work that hard just to eat and stay clothed.

We can pop into Whole Foods for butter that has already been churned, nuts that have been shelled and wheat that’s in the form of just about anything.

Our clothes come ready sewn, our sweaters already knitted. If chopping veggies or boiling a potato is more work than we want, we can get food already cooked for us in the deli section. We have time saving devices, people who make careers of doing what we don’t want to. We should have so much time to spare. But why don’t we?

Because deep down we’ve bought into the idea that idleness is a sin.

We have put so much energy, money and creativity into saving time but we have no idea what we are saving time for.

We seem to have an ingrained hostility toward idleness.  “Idle hands make devil’s handiwork” is a saying we’ve all heard and although we may not agree with the concept of Satan rubbing his hands in glee as we rest ours, we do tend to fill up the time we’ve saved with more work and activity.

There are so many articles out there about idleness.

To avoid idleness we can Google lists of activities like learning an instrument, a language, cleaning our closet or scrapbooking.

For those who want to embrace their idle hours there are different lists: Watch a sunset, listen to music, lie in the sun, watch petals unfurl.

Whatever you are looking for, one thing is clear, we have no idea what we want our spare time for.

When I think about saving I think about money. I know exactly what I’m saving my money for.  I have lists and schedules for paying off post-marriage debts, a new car, travel, a condo, shoes, trips to visit my sister, donations to my favorite organizations, redecorating my bedroom—the list could go on and on.

I never think about planning for my idle time. Even on vacation I don’t plan for idle hours.  It’s all museums, landmarks, restaurants, shopping districts, boat trips and hikes.

When it’s time to rest we don’t even know what to do.

So, let’s figure it out.

Let’s plan for it.

But first, let’s get the equipment.  Yes, you need equipment to be idle.

Get yourself a really great chair.  Something you can sink into and feel your body is supported.  If you want, get yourself a folding camp chair, beach chair or lounge chair and keep it in the car.  When you find yourself suddenly driving through a beautiful area with an extra twenty minutes you’ll be able to do something about it.

Oh wait, excuse me, you’ll be able to do nothing about it.

Get out of the car, unfold your chair and sit.

Then make a new list to put up there next to your Shopping List and To-Do List.

This is my Idle List of things I can do when I’ve saved enough time to do nothing.

1. Go to the ocean and watch the waves ebb and flow.

2. Go to  the woods. Find an area with a strong scent of pine needles.  Sit and smell.

3. Several times a week, lie awake in bed just enjoying the feel of bamboo sheets.

4. Meditate once in a while without worrying about the state of my chakras.

5. Drink a glass of wine before 5pm on a weekday.

Make your own list and the devil take the hindmost.


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Asst. Ed.: Kathleen O’Hagan/Ed: Sara Crolick

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