Let's all kick back
Good advice, but who has the time, right? That’s the point.
I’m embarrassed to say that “The Art of the Wasted Day” is on my to-read list. Not embarrassed that I want to read it, but discomfited that I have a to-read list. That’s because author Patricia Hampl derides to-do lists in this book. She puts it more poetically, describing a to-do list as “a scrum of tasks jittering down the day.”
As an older woman looking back at her life, she wonders how she spent so much time “awash in the brackish flotsam of endeavor, failure and success, responsibility and reward.” She is especially troubled by the “foolish vanity” of work and how we get caught up busying ourselves through the days.
This has led her to see time as a precious — and limited — commodity. What she wants to do, especially now that she is older, is waste some time, lazing in daydreaming, abandon and tranquility.
Good advice, but who has the time, right? That’s the point. I like this quote by author Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our life.” And I like the late Wilma Mankiller’s native wisdom that happiness comes from a life in balance.
One recent Saturday afternoon I saw that a little girl had set up a lemonade stand in a neighborhood park. Wise little girl. She knows that play is thirsty work. Sadly, we often make play hard work.
When I told a woman how much I like Oklahoma sunsets, she said I should make that my special time of day. “Look at the sunset and let it remind you that God loves you.” I try to do that every day: Take a few minutes to admire our spectacular sunsets — some days as pastel as a nursery, other days as red and gold as a Victorian bordello.
Oklahoma sunsets have so much variety and color, I need a color wheel to identify all the shades. Oops. There I go again, making work out of something as simple as looking at the sunset.
A really effective alarm clock, someone said, would have the sound of a dog about to vomit. We would hear that and leap out of bed on full alert. Sad that we need alarm clocks, but we do because most of us are so over worked and over scheduled that we are sleep deprived.
One thing so appealing about historical English movies is the idealistic scene of people drowsing in hammocks, drinking lemonade on a great lawn or playing a casual game of croquet. “The two most beautiful words in the English language,” Henry James said, are “summer afternoon.”
Of course, Mr. James did not live in Oklahoma in July. Or August or September. Beautiful, yes; verdant with bountiful gardens, joyful with vacations, outdoor sports and outings to the park, but also laden with outdoor chores in the heat, the heat, oh God, the heat.
July is a great time to slow down and putter. Puttering is a luxury. The verb putter (not the golf club) means to doodle, fiddle, fritter, poke and tinker. Puttering means to move slowly from task to task, and then be surprised at how much can be accomplished without fierce energy.
Health professionals tell us that play and creative activity are good for our physical health, our relationships and our emotional well-being. Not always competitive play, just joyful, pleasurable activities. And yet, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It can be hard when an active work and family life slams into lots of leisure time. I know people who died of retirement.
An authority with the National Museum of Play — who knew there was such a thing? — says that play can be as easy as talking to your dog.
All my dog Zeke wants to talk about is squirrels, and we exhaust that subject by breakfast. Bucky is more sensitive, and talking about current events distresses him.
“Bucky,” I said, “how about a playful walk?”
“Too hot,” he said. “Let’s take a nap instead.”
“Good idea.” And so we did.