Years ago, I clipped this Calvin and Hobbs cartoon, and had it pinned to the wall by my desk next to a quote attributed to somebody … maybe Eddie Cantor … about how it took him forty years to become an overnight success. I consider this particular cartoon a truly classic clipping.  My mother was a master clipper, tearing apart the newspaper every day gleaning articles, quotes, recipes, photos, and cartoons. But, where she pinned them to the fridge, or morphed them into placemats along with the little red tags from Salada tea bags, or put them into an envelope to mail off into the TYMET system … her Thought You Might Enjoy This mailings … I have learned to scan and file clippings on my computer, as it saves me from an untimely death by asphyxiation. Being smothered by an avalanche of  newsprint clippings is not a fate to which I aspire. 

However, this particular cartoon was from my early computer scanning period, back when the terror of learning to interact with computer technology gave me a rash.  So, this one was scanned, and then like most of my records from that time, disappeared into the dark abyss of an arcane computer malfunction where gigantic glitches grow, and old files go to die, where logic is a foreign language, and the Translate App has no listing for English as an option. Anyway, that is where it ended up all those years ago.  Now, two laptops later, I find it has been cohabiting all this time with my photos, just hanging out there with other M Things. Why M?  Who knows? Missing? Meshuggah? Mix-ups? Mistaken? My-bad?  Meh? I really couldn’t say. I’m sure it made sense to me at that time. But there it was, not lost after all.

It was such a nice surprise to find it, especially right now. Here are we all at last, with enough time to do all the nothing we want. But do we know what to do with all that nothing?  Isn’t doing nothing a waste of time? Or is it instead a gift that allows us to find some new format of our old selves? When did accomplishing something become the gold standard, the only thing by which we measure success? It has taken me more than forty years, but I am beginning to realize that learning to be happy doing nothing is as much a part of living a successful life as accomplishing something.

So anyway, I am practicing doing some nothing every day.

A couple of days ago, I stopped and listened to the rain beat down on the house, the garden and the sidewalk. It went from lightly pitter-pattering to heavy-duty pounding and then gentled out into something like a misty silver fog. And as I listened, I watched a couple of birds take to the puddles in front of the kitchen window and begin to sing in the shower. It was magical. They really worked hard at getting clean. It was as if they had loofahs, scrub brushes, and towels off to the side. They were very thorough about their ablutions, and as I watched they left and then immediately returned to do it all over again. When they finally flew off, I realized I hadn’t accomplished anything as I stood there listening and watching. Whatever it was that I should have been doing didn’t get done. But, in fact nothing else really needed doing at that time. Instead, that brief moment of doing nothing allowed me a lovely unexpected glimpse of another world.

Maybe by the time we get through this crisis, I will have learned how to occasionally give myself time off so I can hitch my wagon to the childhood joy of doing nothing much at all. I hope so. 


  1. What a beautifully written and thoughtful bit of prose, Constance. I enjoyed your storytelling and your vision of the connectivity of family, human and avian, in a time of little of same.

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