Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Art of Puttering

I am at the perfect point in my life to putter. Children off living their own exciting lives, no clients clamoring for last-minute changes to their marketing materials, no dogs to tend to -- just an easy-going husband and days without demands. And so, I putter.

Yes, I get things done. But they are usually not the things on my "to do" list, but rather things that occur to me as I move about the house and garden. I'll notice a grimy spot on the door out to the garage and find a Magic Eraser and, like magic, I've made it disappear. But then I'll walk around finding other spots that need a bit of a scrub. Then, I'll open my spice drawer and see that I've spilt thyme all over the place, and that I have two half bottles of cumin, and that I'm almost out of my favorite Krazy Jane salt. So I'll spend an hour or three typing out spice labels on an old typewriter and alphabetizing my spices. (This is only remarkable in that I'm not known for my organizing skills.)

Or today for example, I noticed that my bottle of mouthwash was simply disgusting and so I funneled the rest of it into a pretty, recycled maple syrup bottle. I kid you not. It was very satisfying.

Puttering doesn't have to be a solitary activity. Sometimes I putter with Ed. We'll go out with the intention of doing one small job and end up hours later trying to remember why we went out in the first place. But, in the meantime, we may well have cut down dozens of invasive honeysuckle bushes, mulched around all the trees up and down the drive, picked up a load of long-ago cut wood, and laid down cardboard in the garden to thwart the weeds. We only stop puttering because it is time for lunch.

In a June 2011 New York Times editorial, puttering is described as "small-scale, stream-of-consciousness problem-solving." That's what I do. I solve one problem and then calmly move on to the next one that presents itself to me.

I got to thinking about puttering after reading this post today by one of my favorite authors: Anne Lamott. She says: "I pulled on some baggy pants, in case I accidentally ate a few more cookies than might be ideal. THEN, and only then, I got up, and went to the kitchen, where I put the coffee on, and did the sacrament of putter while it brewed." The sacrament of putter. I like that. Yes, I think there is something almost religious about the art of puttering. Something meditative. Something calming and centering.

In my old life (pre-Farm Dover) I was constantly multitasking, constantly beating myself up for not getting enough done in a day, constantly behind on every work project, every home project, every child project. My whole life seemed a mess of "I'm-behind" projects.

When I putter, I never multi-task. I just do what I want for as long as I want and then move on to the next thing that captures my attention. And yes, I do realize that this is a luxury afforded me at this particular time in my life.  And I'm grateful for it. But I have to tell you, I'm getting really good at it.


I'm writing this in our study, with a fire going. Ed is in the main living room watching a UL football game, but just stopped in to see what I was up to (and bring me a piece of chocolate and refill my wine glass). "I'm writing a blog on puttering," I tell him. "The most important thing is to keep your head still," he tells me. 

1 comment:

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