Yesterday, we had occasion to be walking around the midday hour—a respite from work—when we spied a worm making his way across the sidewalk.  Distant pastures always being greener, he had somehow got it into his head that “over there” was much better than “here” and, having surveyed the impending journey, proceeded with all the haste a worm could muster. No one, it seems, had indicated in clear terms that he was already on the healthier, bigger spread of sod.

It was a hot day—our sojourner had not checked the weather, either—and with the sun resting comfortably at its crest, the worm proceeded; and as the mercury rose, our expectations of his “making it” fell.  Around him, glued to the concrete, lay the scattered carcasses of many who were equally called, but of none who were chosen.  This was apparently not enough of a deterrent; and so he continued, in his wormy way, navigating around them.  It was impossible not to pity this small creature embarking on a death-trip.  Not being above drama, we became fascinated by what was surely his ignorance or his courage (or his foolishness, who can say?) and stopped to watch him inch slowly and slowerly to his own finality.

Had there been no one about, we would have felt compelled to bend down and whisper that he was going the wrong way.  As it happens, an elderly woman with a Pekinese was approaching, so we resorted to planting one foot squarely in the worm’s path, hoping he would get the picture and turn back.  He did not.  The old woman had begun to stare, no doubt wondering what we were staring at; and so we moved on, but not without a sense of failure mixed with a hope that, should someone wiser than ourselves be looking down on our own misguided endeavors, he will place a foot in our path and—better still—that we will listen.

Productivity Rules

Somehow or other, my e-mail address was added to a newsletter on productivity.  I am not sure how, as I certainly never signed up for it myself.  Were I more efficient, I would have unsubscribed myself—an act that surely would have saved me quite a number of seconds in the long run.  As it stands, however, I just deleted them, unread, when they popped up.  That is, until they became more frequent.  What began as a monthly affair had turned into a weekly one—sometimes semi-weekly.  Intrigue getting the better of me, I decided to see what was worth such harassment.  This particular newsletter contained a list of “Productivity Rules”.  A mere perusal indicated that I had broken nearly every one.  It seems, I discovered, that I am hardly a paragon of productivity; indeed, I found myself thinking I must be a remedial case. According to Dr. Gilbreth that day alone seemed to have gone up in flames.  I had no hour-by-hour schedule of how my day was to go.  I had not set a timer for each task to ensure that life stayed on track.  And the good doctor would probably lose five seconds to shock if he knew that, not only had I failed to “challenge myself to take action” that morning, but that I sat for a full twenty minutes in a chair watching a particularly vengeful mockingbird take after a squirrel who had lost all nerve after scaling the tree in search of fresh eggs.

I read on and was forced into the rude awakening that not only am I inefficient, but I also suffer from a dreaded case of “blue sky paralysis”.  (Any diagnosis with the word “paralysis” is enough to catch one’s attention.)  Apparently, Blue-Sky Paralysis is the affliction of thinking too big and too broad.  Focus!  We must focus! Moving down the list, I found I had no real objectives for my day other than to get some writing done and find time for a walk—the latter of which came first.  It was a wholly pleasant experience, during which I thought many things.  Many things I do not remember because I did not write them down (another offense) but I do remember they occupied me completely at the time.

I became intrigued; wondering how, at this rate, I had accomplished anything at all in my life.  It was not yet eleven and already I had broken six rules.

My offenses continued:  I had not “pruned away superfluous meetings.”  That very morning, I spent a good five minutes discussing the possibility of rain with Sam, who lives up the street.  We are in desperate need of rain here and, despite the lakes being full, we are still on water restrictions. Had I known about Dr. Gilbreth’s rules sooner, I would have come to an understanding with Sam about how long we anticipated speaking and what the goals of the discussion would be.  In this case: to ascertain when it would rain.  As it stands, we parted no surer of the rain than before. All in all, my day was shaping up to be as worthless as they come.  But then, the newsletter ended in the kind of wisdom one expects from a fortune cookie, not an efficiency expert:  “Remember,” it read, “rules are meant to be broken.”

All in all, it took me approximately eight minutes to read the newsletter and another four or so to reflect on them—meaning I gave twelve working minutes (720 seconds!) to the aforementioned advice.  Dr. Gilbreth, I’ll send my bill to your office.


Today was the kind of day that compels you to do nothing of any real consequence.  A day in which the wind’s icy fingers and the flat, white sky intonate that the papers and letters, filing and weeds, will all be there tomorrow.  Even the clouds were not moving.  The temptation, of course, was to be a good soldier and sally forth with my musket high and a jaunt in my step.  I attempted this for about an hour, but was finally won over by a cardinal atop the fence post, who chided me with pointed tweets that I was, in fact, spoiling a perfectly good do-nothing day and making him feel remorse for his own respite.  As I am partial to cardinals and have no wish to upset the locals, I put down my pen, not even bothering to stack my projects neatly on my desk.  The rest of the day was spent pondering nothing in particular, and reveling that even in the city, one can indulge the call of the wild.


Three days ago, my teakettle, which has kept me company for as many years as I can remember, twee’d its last.  I would not call ours a relationship, but I had certainly grown accustomed to its wheezing temperament and it had acquired enough of a personality to make me feel its passing was that of a friend.  The stopper cap broke at its plastic hinge, quite unexpectedly—like when a light bulb you are certain you just replaced flickers, then sizzles out entirely—dropping with great derring-do into my mug.

The parting ceremony was brief, but the mourning period lingers.  The changeling is a pot of smaller stature.  Its cap does not automatically flip up; rather, I am required to pull a lever just under the handle—like the trigger of a gun—which makes me feel as though I must take aim when using it.  It is, furthermore, an overly motivated and off-balance specimen that dips its nose forward at the first sense of levitation—clearly more rushed than I to perform and be done with it.

But perhaps the most noticeable factor that makes it clear my new kettle has not yet settled here (or that I have not settled with it), is that we lack the pleasant synchronization enjoyed by its predecessor and me.  The progression of vocal changes elicited from the departed was so familiar; I knew it would start to steam softly, that slowly its sighing would get louder and louder, and then—just when it seemed as though it was about to whistle—it would suddenly grow very quiet.  This was the moment to finally rise and remove it from the burner.  I had this down, always waiting for the calm before the storm, then acting with due haste.  I enjoy no such pattern anymore.  I have tried to listen for one, but am daily more convinced that I am in possession of a spiteful apparatus, which takes a certain amount of enjoyment out of seeing me half-rise from my chair, sit down, rise, sit, rise, walk over, modify its position on the stove, test its warmth.  Then, just as I settle back to work, it gives a little scream.  The only upside from the inconvenience I have discerned thus far is that it provides me with an additional excuse not to write, for as every writer knows, not writing is part of the process.  Perhaps, then, we are a perfect pair.

Eager Visitor

Spring got lost yesterday and wound up on our doorstep.  As much as we love her, I must admit her arrival left us less than thrilled.  She was a bit too early and, like anyone who has an unexpected guest would do, we entertained her, but grudgingly.  We opened the windows and watched the curtains billow in and out; we nodded over our books in her sun—all the while thinking how entirely inappropriate the situation was.  She, however, either did not notice or did not care, for she flaunted her warmth and blew kisses through the barren trees and across the dried grass like a guest who shows up to the party two hours early and settles so comfortably in your house that you begin to question who it really belongs to.  But as her hosts, we said nothing, waiting for her to traipse out the door and proceed to a new collection of unsuspecting souls who had, like we, been reveling in winter—which she did at approximately seven-thirty this morning. We will certainly be glad to see her in a few months, but plan on sending her a copy of Emily Post to occupy herself in the interim.