Old Moon

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Are Mindless Tasks a Help?

There are some times in your life when you can't keep track--of time, of tasks, of conversations even. There's a group of landscape maintenance workers buzzing and roaring around the house today. Each of them plods or rides along, heads down, eyes ahead like donkeys intent on getting one foot in front of the other. I wonder if their minds are as blank as their faces. Is there some unacknowledged collateral benefit in mindless activity? I'm reasonably sure the answer to that would be a qualified yes. However, surely it must depend on the mind that's unoccupied during the performance of these repetitive, uninspired and uninspiring jobs. The world is so full of them and the people who perform them, it astounds me to think about it.

Right now, I believe that in some circumstances, this half-unconscious trudging from one end of a day to the other might be a blessing. What I can't believe is that a lifetime spent like that can be anything but a curse.

Do you have an Oriental rug? A handmade basket? Even an Aran Island sweater? I knit (I used to knit a lot), but I can't do anything interesting without extreme concentration, and even then, I find mistakes that have to be corrected. How long does it take to get so skilled that you can stop paying attention? If you reach that stage, can the work become a kind of meditation? Try to imagine the hours and days, even years invested in producing beautiful crafts. Is the guy behind the walking mower making up poetry or a protest essay in the din of his machine?

That's the rub for me. I'm trying to make this little piece of disconnected verbiage fill that need for distance. Somehow, writing doesn't seem to fill that bill. A long time ago, there was a man who invented what he called "automatic writing." The name is self-explanatory. It was supposed to be helpful for the mentally ill. That is not what I want to do, not just out of the fear of embarrassment, but because it would be too self-serving and of no interest to a reader.

Maybe when enough time has passed after the loss of the person who was half me, not just mine, I'll find out how to use this craft of putting words on paper (or into the ether). If some day I think I can, maybe that's how I'll know I'm returning. Maybe what I should do is go and prune the pyracantha. It should take a long time.

4 comments:

Glenda C. Beall said...

This is one of the best pieces of writing I've seen in a while. You said so much in this short essay.

JLC said...

Once again you show how good a friend you are. Thank you.

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

Joan,
I know how you feel. It takes time after losing a loved one, but each day gets better and better. This is an excellent piece of writing.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Joan, this is really a lovely piece of writing. I'm going to refer to it on my blogs. It's so like a poem. Might I reprint it on my blogs? With your permission?
Thank you. It's been a long time since we exchanged comments. I send you my warm greetings. Kathryn