06 May

time and light

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.        

As Winter approaches and the days get shorter that uncomfortable feeling of never having enough time can infiltrate my thinking if I'm not careful.  I find myself trying to make up for it by attempting to work on too many things at once.  I end up feeling scattered and overwhelmed and struggle to actually finish anything. 

Vladimir Nabokov had a wonderful concept he referred to as unreal estate - an inheritance from his mother of an appreciation for the beauty of intangible property.

'Vot zapomni [now remember],' she would say in conspiratorial tones as she drew my attention to this or that loved thing in Vyra - a lark ascending the curds-and-whey sky of a dull spring day, heat lightning taking pictures of a distant line of trees in the night, the palette of maple leaves on brown sand, a small bird's cuneate footprints on new snow.

Vladimir Nabokov,  Speak, Memory

When I think about the unreal estate I have inherited, I remember all the unscheduled time I enjoyed as a child - playing in the backyard, swimming, reading, drawing, cloud-gazing, making wishes on dandelions and sitting in the grass looking for four leaf clovers.  As an adult, when I allow myself to "waste" a little bit of my own time, suddenly it feels like it's not such a scarce commodity.  I'm reminded of the days of my childhood that somehow always seemed longer.

Sweet childish days, that were as long
As twenty days are now.

William Wordsworth, To a Butterfly

So this morning I rearranged my priorities; putting time and sunlight at the top of my to-do list, and enjoyed the ephemeral beauty of the Autumn leaves in our garden.  The result was a little bit of Andy Goldsworthy inspired art.  I cheated a bit by utilising the holes in an old garden chair to position the leaves, but it still wasn't long before the breeze took them away.


The Word 
Tony Hoagland

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between "green thread"
and "broccoli," you find
that you have pencilled "sunlight."

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,

but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

—to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.

"The Word" by Tony Hoagland, from Sweet Ruin. © University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.