Too Busy to Remember

Too Busy to Remember

 If she gave herself time to think, she remembered,
and when she remembered, it was too often with regret.

     My Grandmother kept too busy to remember—every minute filled.  Walking to town, she trained her eyes to scan the ditches for buttons, dimes, Crackerjack prizes, a ball some dog had chewed, orphaned jacks pieces, Popsicle sticks and bottle caps. Into her deep apron pockets each went, joining her skinned black leather coin purse and a tatting-edge handkerchief. Back home again, her radio tuned to the Back to the Bible Broadcast, her curtains pulled wide for viewing whichever neighbors might walk by, she kept her fingers busy with tatting, beading sequined felt butterflies, knitting baby booties in bands of blue, pink, yellow and white. She crocheted the edges of embroidered sheets and pillow slips—one set for each grandchild. She was almost 90 by the time she got to my sheets. Barely able to see, she sewed stitches that got messier inch by inch.

     Now it’s me filling every minute of the day.  At midnight, I lie writing just one more line with heavy eyes. They close.  I open them.  They close again.  When I finally fold the paper and turn off the light, I give in to the agony of delayed pleasure–Sleep. Awakening, I dress and drive to the gym.  I read on the treadmill, read on the stationary bike and thigh machine, read on the leg lift.  Read until my hands are needed and holding the book is impossible.  Then I do one thing only–lift the weights, pull them down, let them bend me over, bend myself back up again.

     Over breakfast at the Mountain Inn, I switch to the paper: news, comics, crossword.  Back home, I cook, pound, dip, form, and couch paper.  I run down to the garden to cut bamboo, climb back uphill to the studio to strip leaves, bend branches, sew them to the dried paper.  In my ears, is the constant company of the radio–the blues or Uncle Jr., “Arden’s Garden” or “Talk of the Nation,” “Fresh Air” or “National Press Club,”  “Garrison Keillor” or “Click and Clack.”  From everywhere come the waves that fill my mind and fill my day. 

     I work until seven, then move into the house to cook the evening meal.  The radio in the kitchen leaks McNeil and Lehrer and  this time I  catch different details from the earlier report.  With dinner, there is a talk with my husband Bob, a video perhaps, or more time for the Sunday Crossword. After dinner, a good book.  In this way, I fill every second.  There is no precious time to waste. 

     Sitting on the garden bench, eyes closed, I listen to bamboo.  Eyes open, I watch it.  I walk to it.  Let bamboo brush my cheek.  Keep listening.  Watch the light filtered by bamboo.  Watch the redwood needles dry and  fall to catch in swaying bamboo.  Watch them settle more securely, their rust-red dryness brittle against the subtle green. The black trunks of mature plants, mottled stalks of one-year-olds, yellow blades of new growth. A scrub jay perches on the swayback crosspiece of a simple oriental arch.  Above the redwood path, a Stellar Jay scolds the gray cat who sleeps on the bench beside me. 

     The water skimmers skate the abbreviated lower pool of our wine keg fountain with its wooden spouts decayed and fallen to the ground, its three tiers silent, its pump long removed.  Papyrus bends and shivers to the sparse wind.  A bay tree shadows the remains of ferns turned red beside this summer’s green.  There is the gentle hammer of the acorn woodpecker against the gray ghost of the long dead tree.  The drone of yellow jackets in their nest below the tree house—their journeys out and journeys back again.  The loud whirring of the hummingbird.  Frantic fanning of his wings, the delicate dipping of the beak, smooth probing of the plastic petals of the sugar water feeder, then the dainty glide to ginger flower, to the pomegranate and the goldfish plant. 

     All the world is doing doing while I’m not doing anything. Not keeping myself from remembering, yet still not remembering.  I’m in my garden without doing anything.  Too busy to do anything until the phone rings, its brrrrrrrrr flooding downhill to fill the bamboo grove, its shrill voice splitting air, spilling jays from tree limbs over head.  Awake again, I push off from the garden bench,  run up the hill, reach the stairs, climb half way up, then stop.  I turn, go down again, walk slowly down the hill, sit on the bench beside the cat who has not stirred.  I hear the phone, but silence swells around it, pushing it farther into  the distance as I let it ring and ring and ring and ring and ring and ring and ring.

Ours is a society that fears most the waste of time, yet in spite of our best efforts,
we’re always running out of it. The secret to finding more time
is to give value to it precisely by wasting it.


Not a classic haibun, but close enough, I hope, For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets 

12 thoughts on “Too Busy to Remember

    1. lifelessons Post author

      Oh no. I already do. This piece which I recently discovered sorting through old file folders was actually written over 20 years ago when I was still in the states. Now I’m doing a different art form and actually have thousands of little things sorted into compartments in drawers. I’m turning into my Grandmother! Have been confronting my busyness during this time sequestered at home and trying to take more time away from writing which has become my obsession. Although I’ve come to crave time spent in the hammock, alas, I’m usually doing something.. but nature draws me away here as it did in California. When I tried to find photos of the garden where I spent so much time for 14 years, I found not one photo. How things have changed.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. isaiah46ministries

    For the longest time, I thought that doing nothing was sinful. I couldn’t justify vacations. Thankfully, I have come to understand that in doing nothing, my body is renewed and I can get more done in a more efficient way. Being still is do necessary to sanity, peace, and our well-being.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sanaarizvi

    A most touching haibun 💝 These words will stay with me for a while; “The secret to finding more time is to give value to it precisely by wasting it.” 🙂


  3. Lona Gynt

    This is lovely, and terrifying, and renewing, our lives are so full, so full, so full, that it is an invocation, “may your lives be full,” with what irony those prayers are answered, when we are still, we can be filled, rather that the corners of our schedule, I just cannot hardly rarely ever do that. but sitting still, reading the thoughts and love of poet friends, counts a bit I think. the bamboo had something to say didn’t it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lifelessons Post author

      It did. And this forced isolation has said it again…through bamboo a thousand plus miles away from that which first spoke to me. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a full life. That is what has always saved me, but I think we also need balance, and doing nothing every once in a while somehow ties us to the world in a way that being constantly busy does not. “when we are still, we can be filled, rather that the corners of our schedule,” Thanks for your words, Lona…

      Liked by 1 person


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