Tag Archives: time

Not a City Girl

Afternoon sunlight on the bench in the herb garden.

Afternoon sunlight on the bench in the herb garden.

One of the most exciting things about being retired is that I am now able to be spontaneous with my time.  If someone calls and asks me to go on a walk – right now – I can do it!  I don’t have to wait for my lunch hour or the weekend….I can get up and go. 

This week I found out that one of the people who helped me while I was being treated was going to NYC to pack up an apartment and get it ready for sale.  “Want help?” I cried.  Finally, a way to pay back some of the kindness that was given to me.

Wow!  An impromptu trip to Manhattan – down on the train Monday and back on Wednesday.  How exciting to be able to say yes, I can do this with you.  Lingering bits of guilt for not being at home or doing what I “should” be doing melted away as I realized that yes, I was in NYC.

It was a short trip but long enough for me to think about city living.  First was the understanding – I mean really understanding – that people actually live there.  I mean – they are in the city for the bulk of their time; working, playing, shopping, walking their dogs.  The city is novelty for me.  An exciting place to visit, a change of pace; but for millions of people, it is home.  They don’t get up and wander about the garden looking for hornworms, they don’t walk barefoot in the grass on the way to empty the compost bucket, they don’t pick flowers in the afternoon to put on the dinner table at night.

There is a constant noise in the city that I could not find reprieve from.  The streets are noisy with cars, the restaurants are noisy with people laughing and talking and even the apartment was noisy with the sound of air conditioning and the elevator.  I felt like I had a constant pressure on my ears as the native sounds invaded my head.

There is disconnect with the outside world.  Wednesday morning it rained and from the 8th floor of the building we were in, I couldn’t tell it was raining.  I had no idea what the temperature was outdoors although we were lucky enough to have windows that showed us whether the sun was shining.  I couldn’t look at the thermometer and decide whether I needed my sweater.

I had a fabulous time.  The food was amazing.  I watched a very intoxicated man call an ambulance for a homeless man.  I saw napkins that sold for $90 each.  I watched a woman walk down the street carrying a longbow and arrows.  I met a woman who watches the rats play in a nearby park for entertainment.  It was exciting and novel and exhausting.

There was so much more that it will take me weeks to remember it all and right now I want to get outside and pick the peaches.

Around 11

Sometime around 11

Sometime around 11

The sundial in my herb garden reads “around 11” in this photo I took the other day.  The time it reads depends on how careful I was at orienting the gnomon properly.  I suppose it could be more precise if I took my computer out and rotated the stand until the dial read exactly what the computer said – starting with the day of the week, the date, the hour, the minutes…..hmmmm….at least until the next rainstorm when the dial tips slightly in the rain.

Part of the pleasure of the structure of my “new life” is that time has because amorphous.  Days of the week are important because Saturday is the start of the weekend when my husband is home and Sunday is the day before he goes back to work.  Dates are important sometimes.  I have a paper calendar with wild animals on it that hangs in the kitchen.  I write down my doctor’s appointments, the day that some chore needs to be done, or dates with friends.  The hours on the days that I have marked are often important because doctors still follow their watches (although the guys who come to fix the furnace are not so prompt).

The rest of the time and days and weeks?  It’s not about time anymore.  These days, it’s about what I want to get done and who I want to see.  It is important that I finish picking the garden in the morning before it gets too hot.  It is more pleasurable to eat lunch when the shade from the trees out front hits the table and chairs in the yard.  The mail comes sometime after lunch so my walk to the mailbox is in the afternoon.

The sundial works perfectly for my new sense of time.  It is morning or afternoon or hmmmm…. S should be home from work soon or I wonder if the mail is here yet.  Time is much bigger and less precise.  It is harder to be on time and it is easier to get lost in time.  As the shadow moves around the dial, lengthening as the afternoon wears on, my days are filled with the experience of the day and not the marking of time.


What Do You Do?

New shelves inside the little barn

New shelves inside the little barn

How do I answer the question “What do you do?” in my new situation?  I can tell people that I am retired although I have a hard time making that word come out of my mouth.  The word retired seems too passive – to retire is to go to bed or withdraw, to retreat or remove oneself.  OK, I have removed myself from the trading time for money world but I certainly have not gone to bed or withdrawn from the world.  The word just seems to be loaded with images of sitting in the living room with my feet up waiting for someone to come visit me so that I will be entertained. 

No – that’s not what I am doing.

Someone offered “refocusing your life” but that seems odd also since I try not to spend my time focusing on my life but instead figuring out how to live each day.

One of the challenges for me has been the lack of routine that was so easy when I got up and went to work.  The clock was very important.  I had to be out of the house by 6:50 to beat the busses so that I could be at my desk at the appropriate time.  Lunchtime was 11:30 to avoid the long line of students and have a quiet table to eat with my co-workers.  There was always a small congregation around the coffee machine in the mid-afternoon where we chatted about our lives, our children, our spouses and the general state of the world.  5:00 was time to go home and try to fit in the personal living part of my life; the part that wasn’t attached to my paycheck.  Days at work looked very similar to each other.

Now my days are filled as I please and I am in charge of what I fill them with.  There are still the daily chores; the ones that I used to do on the weekends or in the evening – cooking dinner, laundry, and cleaning.  A small part of each day is used to “keep the house”.  The rest, I am figuring out.

My energy has been returning as I recover from 6 months of chemo.  The garden is always there and patiently lets me sit or weed as I please.  Last week, the little barn needed shelves.  This week the peaches are ripe.  I only focus on the clock now to see when my husband will arrive home from trading his time for money.

Rather than closing the aperture on my life’s lense to “refocus” on something other than work; it seems like it has opened up to its widest setting.  With this new time, there is also new possibility, there is new light and new energy.  I have only to imagine.

Time Suckers and Procrastination

1.        That slippery slope

Last year I took my TV and stuck it in the closet.  I figured “out of sight, out of mind” and since it was a time in my life when I felt strongly about modeling healthy behavior and since I had a lot going on in the evenings, it was easy to forget that it was lurking a few feet away behind a couple of flimsy louvered doors.

Instead of tuning in to one of the two channels that I actually get with the rabbit ears on the top of the set (yes, there is no cable in my house, no microwave, no automatic coffee maker), I knit socks and listened to music, I worked hard on a journal that I was writing and painting in.  I cooked.  I read.  I wandered about the house a bit but my mind was mine.

I did miss movies though and thanks to my then 17 year old son, found out that I could watch them on my computer.  It’s a tiny screen but if you sit close enough, who cares?  A couple of nights each week, we would sit together and watch a movie and then turn the computer off.  He taught me how I could stream them, which increased the number of viewing options I had exponentially.

One evening as I sat waiting for him to come home from an evening out, I decided I was tired and didn’t have enough energy to be creative or even to concentrate on my book so I went online and selected a movie and watched it by myself.  When it was over, I started an online Scrabble game just to pass the time; an occupation I had discovered during a time in my life when mental distraction was necessary to my sanity.  When I heard the door open, I closed the computer before I could be “caught”.

The number of evenings when I was too tired to be creative started to increase after that.  I was still secretive about my watching habits.  If no one knew, it didn’t seem to be quite as dangerous a transgression and after all, the TV was still in the closet.  I wasn’t watching every day and what the heck, I was tired at night.

From a friend, I found that a couple of TV shows that I had watched could be found on the internet.  This was getting dangerous.  The number of shows and movies that caught my attention could now easily entertain me every night of the week if I allowed them to.  Luckily, summer came and the afternoon sunshine turned into early evening sunshine.  The porch was open and the frogs were singing their sex songs.  I was being entertained by nature and my computer use stopped.

It is now fall again.  The evenings are getting dark and sometimes I have to light a fire to keep the house warm.  The computer is out on the table in the living room because it’s my only source of music at the moment.  I have watched a couple of movies at night.  I haven’t yet taken out my knitting and my journal is hidden deep in the case I use to haul it around.

Before the cold gets too deep and the nights too dark, I have a decision to make about my time.  I know what I want to do.  I know what would make me feel good about myself.  I know that time wasted is never returned.  I know that what you practice, you become.

I know that sometimes I am too tired to be creative and that watching movies can be fun.

Decisions can be made day by day as long as my practice is intentional.  More on that in part 2.

Judging the World

As a farm girl, I raised my own dairy cows and showed them at the county fairs.  I was also trained to be a conformation judge of dairy animals.  My training took place in the early evenings at various town halls in the region.  My fellow trainees and I would be shown slides of cows side by side on a screen that had been set up on the stage in the front of the hall.  We would take turns describing and comparing the animals.  This prepared us to stand in a ring at the fair with young 4-Hers leading their animals around us in a big circle.  We would place the animals in descending order with the most beautiful and the strongest at the head.

During that training we were charged with not only judging the animals and deciding who would win the blue ribbon; we were asked to describe them without using the words good, better, best, bad, worse and worst.

I don’t judge cattle anymore but I do find myself using those forbidden words to judge the world around me.  If I happen to be having fun, I think “I’m having a good day”, if the sun is out, it’s “good weather”, if I feel crabby or sad, “I’m feeling bad”.  Instead of taking the time to reflect and describe the world around me with meaningful words, I take the easy route of judging my experience with my single word proclamations of good or bad, better or worse.

Last week I took a vacation with some good friends and noticed this habit I have of judging.  We all had bicycles with us and every bicycle was different.  I sat on the porch of the little cottage that was home for the time being and with time spread out before me like a soft carpet, I looked at the bikes.  My first instinct was to think about which bike was the “best”’ bike.  I noticed myself trying to do this and decided that instead, I would describe each bike, as it was, without placing a judgment on it.  I noticed the color, the tires, the type of frame and even looked at the wear on each bike.   I took the time to describe what I was seeing to myself in words.

Here is what happened to me.

Instead of seeing one bike as good and dismissing the other bikes as somehow inferior and so not worthy of my attention, suddenly all of the bikes deserved my attention.  Each one had qualities that were worth noting.  My attention to the detail in the bikes became more pointed.  My curiosity about the bikes was peaked and I found myself using my imagination to explain some of the detail that I explored.  By describing rather than judging, my world opened up and became more interesting and more appealing.

I’m back from vacation now and back in the busy world of work and commitments.  It is certainly more challenging to be mindful of myself and the world around me when time seems less like a carpet and more like a treadmill.  My experience with the bikes stays with me and reminds me of the possibilities and the pleasure that is there for the taking if I am willing to stop, move out of the habit of judging and take the time to describe.

Back to the Real World

Wow!  Two weeks of vacation.  It’s an amazing thing, changing my schedule so drastically.  There is no automatic pilot – getting up in the morning, running the shower while I put the water on for coffee, reading the paper, driving to work, doing my thing there and driving home to make supper and then the evening’s activity of art or reading or conversation or friends.  Vacation is all about changing location and changing mindset by moving out of the daily ritual.

Interestingly enough, as much as I move out of the pattern that is my daily life here in NH, I willingly move into different ones depending on where I am.  It seems that that morning ritual is particularly important to me.  I develop one at each place that I stay for more than a couple of nights.

The Shin Pond ritual involves putting on my bathing suit, packing up my headlamp and clothing for the day, walking down the path to the main cabin, starting the coffee, going for my morning swim, taking my coffee to the end of the dock with the current book and watching the day start over the pond.  At the ocean, it’s more civilized, less complicated.  I make coffee, wipe the deck furniture of its morning dew, pour the coffee and settle on the deck to watch the lobster boats go out for the day.  I usually have a book in hand there as well.

There is something comforting about starting the day with a simple task and then enjoying the morning as it slowly unfolds that appeals to me.  That early quiet time sets the tone for the day and allows me to begin with a peaceful mind.  Early rising often means that I am the first one awake.  I love the quiet while everyone else is still asleep and I have the whole day to look forward to.  I love being the maker of the coffee.  I love watching my fellow vacationers sleepily emerge from their rooms to join me in my reverie of the beautiful place we are sharing.  Vacation lets me stretch that morning time into hours rather than minutes.

Ahhhhh….I’m still feeling the peace.

Useful Distractions

I’m going on vacation next week.  It will be the beginning of a long series of days away from home and off the job.  It is my current excuse (along with a major reorganization of the house) for not printing.

Here’s the thinking:

If I go into the studio and get started on a series; if I really get excited about it; I most likely will have to abandon it in the middle because of my vacation plans.  Interesting idea, don’t you think?  It is completely and totally an excuse to not get started with something new.

So, what have I been doing?  This weekend, I picked two gallons of blueberries and froze them.  I baked bread.  I put up fourteen quarts of pickles and I tore apart the studio.  Since these were all things that need to be done, I’m not feeling too bad about printing time.  The studio is now such a mess with all of the reorganization that it will be a major project to put it together again.  I have so far given away four full size garbage bags full of fabric and there is a lot more waiting its turn.  That part feels really good.  Soon furniture will be rearranged and my bedroom will hold all of my sewing tools and the studio will be free to be a printmaking haven.

Useful Distractions is what I call life stuff that needs to be done and gets put in line in front of the art. You know what I’m talking about:  the dishes, the garden, the children, the house, the husband.  It can be big things like spending the day with your family or something tiny like picking flowers for the kitchen table.  The list can be endless if you let it.  I keep promising myself that the time will come soon when I will be alone in the house and thrilled to have my art take up more space in my life.  I think it will be true.  I hope that I am not too much out of practice.  I fear that the transition from mom to empty nest, may be painful because I am out of practice taking the time to work on my art.  I don’t want to substitute one set of Useful Distractions for another.

To make the transition smoother, I have planned my vacation as time for me and my art.  I am taking lots of supplies with me and I intend (see how I’m saying this out loud to make it real?) to work on ideas and nurture my creative self while I am gone.  One week, I have invited my art group to come stay with me.  I’m anticipating projects galore!

Where does time for art fit into your life?  How do you prioritize it so that your Useful Distractions don’t take over?