Making Hay

Hay Bales in Iceland

Hay Bales in Iceland

Spring fever always hit me hard when I worked in an office. I’m not really an outdoorsy person, but I am convinced that if there really was an afterlife, one of the things we would be called on to answer for before admittance would be the sunny spring days wasted indoors. And a sunny day in midwinter? There’s no forgiveness for scorning a gift like that. It’s wrong to allow calendar-based tasks to overrule nature.

Strangely, once I started working for myself, it got easier to ignore external conditions. Completion of those desk-tasks took on a new urgency, and coupled with a freakishly warm and dry winter, I kind of forgot that one of the reasons I wanted to freelance was to have more control over how I spend my days.

Until last Thursday, when my writing partner had to cancel due to illness. I tried to carry on by myself. I picked a table out of the sunshine to avoid glare on my screen, but found myself distracted by the cafe’s atrocious music selection. I dug in my bag for my earbuds, but they weren’t there. I didn’t last the hour. Mariah Carey and the assorted solo albums of the Jackson family drove me away.

Once home, I tried again, but after an hour I had nothing to show for my half-hearted, unfocused efforts. I had given up on fiction and moved on to paid blog post on gardening. The sun was shining, my doors were open, birds were singing outside where, according to my phone, the temperature was in the 50’s. This was no ordinary January day, but I sat inside trying to write about gardens.

I turned off the computer and went outside until it was time to pick up the kids from school.

I picked up garbage that had blown in, bits of decaying plastic from forgotten toys, pieces of the old roof left behind by the contractor. I pruned a long-neglected lilac that was intruding on the driveway. I forgot to take pictures to include in a blog post about it later. I forgot to draft a blog post about the experience in my head as I was living it. I forgot to eat lunch.

My word count for the day was negligible. My deadlines were one day nearer. And I felt more like myself than I have since I caught pneumonia three months ago.

I always thought the old saying, “Make hay while the sun shines,” meant “don’t get distracted and get your work done now.” Now I think it means, “Pay attention to the conditions and do the work that fits them.”

The truth is, deadlines matter. But you can’t always trust your Outlook Calendar to tell you which deadlines matter today.

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