I is for Idling

July 2, 2014

Gracious Living Day by DayIdling.

blue sky

This is the definition from dictionary.com:


[ahyd-l] adjective, i·dler, i·dlest.

  1. not working or active; unemployed; doing nothing: idle workers.
  2. not spent or filled with activity: idle hours.
  3. not in use or operation; not kept busy: idle machinery.
  4. habitually doing nothing or avoiding work; lazy.
  5. of no real worth, importance, or significance: idle talk.

When I was a child I loved to idle. I sat for hours and observed the world, observed and listened. I sat so quietly that I practically disappeared. Into a wallflower. Into a witness.

During the summer holidays, while visiting my grandparents in the Serbian countryside, I remember sitting in the shade on hot afternoons while the adults worked in the fields. Alone, or with my sister and cousins, I sat on a blanket, played, read or idled.

What I remember most about those afternoons was the thunderous noise the insects made. There was no other activity, no other sound but the sounds of buzzing, chirping, humming, rustling, whirling, whooshing. They were the whole world and they were busy. I felt so lucky, so golden not to be a busy bee but a girl quietly sitting on the blanket, looking at the clouds floating across the deep blue sky. The bees had no time. I had all the time in the world.

Is there anything as delightful as the luxury of experiencing a moment? The gratification of being a witness to a second of life: the whiff of lavender on the air, the caress of sunlight on one’s ear, the sound of a bee’s passage from flower to flower?

As I grew up, I got busy.

Not every girl grows up to be a busy bee, but I did. My parents, sister and I moved to the US and I embraced this busy new culture with all the zeal of a convert. There was so much I wanted to do, to learn, to see. There were not enough hours in a day for all I wanted to experience.

I moved far away from those idling afternoons, far away in time, far away in distance. And I forgot that word. Idling.

Many years later, when Mike and Nena were very little, and before Sam was born, I was reading them a children’s book one lazy summer afternoon. It was an alphabet book picturing little bears. Each page illustrated a letter with a scene and a short sentence.

The page with the letter I showed a little girl bear lying on a soft blanket, her arms folded under her head. A busy little bee was buzzing around her nose, but the bear did not look at the bee. She was dreamily observing the clouds in a deep blue sky.

The word for I was Idling. And next to it was the writer’s definition of the word: Witnessing Life.

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