A Close Read and Doing Nothing

On this Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2011 I could have posted something red. Instead, I am going to write about something read. We have an old joke in our house about doing nothing. It is not ours but one we heard it someplace and it has been adopted by us. The joke goes something like this…

I ask “David what are you doing?”

David replies “Nothing.”

I say “But you did that yesterday.”

David confirms “Yes, but I’m not finished yet.”

The art of doing nothing is a highly underrated creative skill. To do it well, a person may need to revise their world view. One aspect of doing nothing I like to indulge is taking the time for a close read. You see, I don’t skim very often when I read. I burrow in and engage in conversation with the authors or with the characters in the story.  I write in the margins. I dog-ear pages. I leave stickies for markers and notes. I muse and mutter. I laugh and cry. I devour the content as I read. This is what I call “a close read.”

You might ask “where do you find the time?”

Well, it comes back to developing the art of doing nothing which brings me to the circular place of my latest close read.

Waking at just before 4:00 am on Sunday, and it being so close to Valentine’s Day, I wanted to let my sweetie sleep peacefully for another few hours. Actually, even if it wasn’t close to Valentine’s Day I would do this out of respect and love. In la casa de inspiracion, with its open floor plan, this means doing nothing. Yes, I made some toast, smeared it with nut butter, and brewed a small pot of coffee but I didn’t start the laundry or turn on some music, or do yoga in the great room or phone a friend out east. Instead I grabbed my book and slipped up to the loft with my toast and coffee.

Can you guess what I am reading? It is WHERE THE HEART RESIDES: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie (1999) by Daisy Ann Hickman. Yes, that is right, the very same Daisy who comments on Creative Potager and who asked me to be a guest blogger on the Sunny Room Studio blog in January. We exchanged books a few weeks back. In the mail from Brookings, South Dakota, arrived this beautiful hardcover gem. I know there is a place for e-books but there is still something blessedly tactile about running my hand over a hardcover book and slipping its jacket off to see what it looks like underneath before beginning to turn its paper pages one by one.

So early on Sunday morning, curled up under a down quilt in the quiet darkness set slightly aside by a small reading light, I began to read. What follows, more or less in order, are a few dog-eared, sticky and pencil-marked quotes about doing nothing that can be found within the later part of the first 30 pages of Daisy’s remarkable book about her beloved prairie…

“From a great crop to a new baby or a bountiful garden, life itself seemed to be enough, and being without a new car, a new anything, was not automatic cause for alarm or dismay.”

“Especially useful in today’s society, with its plenitude of distractions, multitude of ways to avoid and hide from reality, legion of false definitions of success built into a fast-paced society to the point where values and priorities have been distorted, twisted and abolished, where many have simply given up, and where many are looking for an easy way out, a shortcut through life offering nothing but bliss and good times, I cherish the lessons of land, sky and wide-open space. Because oddly enough, with all we have created as a society, genuine happiness seems more elusive than ever: just when we believe we have found it, we being to complain as our discovery begins to feel strange, empty, or curiously nondescript.”

“So now, as we consider a perspective that results in doing more of what counts, less of what causes you to lose your way, you will be ever closer to envisioning a road map to the heart.”

“The prairie offers an enlightened alternative, one that teaches something powerful and true: Doing less paves the way for doing more.”

“Because, curiously enough, time to do less often results in something more: time to recharge and regroup; time to stay in touch with feelings, values, beliefs, and of course, people; time to let events unfold naturally, at their own unique pace; time to do things that support your dreams so you may grow old gracefully, knowing few stones were left unturned.”

“Hectic schedules, a hurry-up, do-it-now mentality, cannot compare or compete with the persistent beauty and quiet strength of the prairie. As we scramble about each day, dashing here, dashing there, the land does the opposite, and without a word speaks to our souls, touches our hearts, and reaches out, like a laser, to connect with our finer, more discriminating sides.”

“When your day is jammed full of must-do, can’t-wait items, there isn’t time for casual exchanges; there is little opportunity for the unexpected, unplanned, spur-of-the-moment cup of coffee with an old friend, the walk to the park with your son or daughter or spouse. Still, these are activities that contribute to a way of life that promotes the importance, the fundamental value, of the human connection: without fail, without exception, without excuse.”

“For encouragement, remind yourself that the less you do, the more you will do: of what counts; of what makes you feel alive and growing; of what helps you become a fully realized human being.”


(Water colour painting “Canadian Prairie” – 2002 – by Terrill Welch)

What are my intentions for this week? To do nothing – prairie fashion.

And you might say “but you did that last week.”

I think you know my response but just in case… “I’m not finished yet.”

I wish you an amazing Valentine’s Day filled with love, hope and time to do nothing.

Sprout question: When was the last time you creatively did nothing prairie fashion?

Thank you Daisy Ann Hickman for coming into my life and being part of our Creative Potager community.

© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada