Remember when you were a kid how you’d hound your mom (or dad) during summer vacations about having nothing to do? And no matter what was suggested it wasn’t what you wanted. Even though you couldn’t exactly say just what that was.
Retirement can be sort of like that. Or not.
Katie and I have been camping in the back yard the last couple of nights. This morning, with a thunderstorm in the forecast, I went out to pack the tent up. I was feeling privileged that it was 7:30 on a Monday morning and I wasn’t sitting in commuter traffic on the freeway. The neighborhood was quiet, sun shining softly on the leaves, only the sounds of the birds to interrupt my wandering thoughts.
A chipmunk and a fat squirrel skittered away from me as I startled them mid-breakfast. A rose breasted grosbeak flew off the feeder, an oriole streaked away toward the woods.
And then part way across the back yard two tree swallows flew in formation right toward me, perhaps 6 inches above the grass. They swooped and swirled through the yard. I stood still. They circled me several times, flew low and then swept up over the tomato cages, then down across the lawn again. Like stealth bombers, their wings were silent unlike the other birds that frequent the yard whose fluttering wings and grumpy cries always let me know when the feeder is empty.
I recognized in that moment how lucky I am. I can stand perfectly still in my backyard, in the middle of a weekday morning, and enjoy doing absolutely nothing.
I’m reading a book, Slow Love; how I lost my job, put on my pajamas, and found happiness. by Dominque Browning. The author is describing her transition from frenzied work to unemployment. This afternoon I read the following passage which perfectly described how I felt earlier in the day:
“I begin to understand how nothing to do is its own state of grace, difficult to find deliberately, nearly impossible to recognize. Nothing to do means I can sit and look and let my mind wander, then empty, then fill again, with wonder or with grief, with anything or with nothing at all. “Nothing to do” is not the same as “Nothing can be done.” One is hopeless; the other the place from which hope becomes possible.”
In the heat of mid-morning, standing still in the light, I realized that nature was enjoying my yard every day. Used to be that I didn’t get to see it, but now, now that I have nothing to do, it’s all right there for me to enjoy.
Pretty darn cool.