Getting out of the house to enjoy nature kept me from posting to my blog, but it was necessary and worth it.

I didn’t post on Wednesday for a reason. After three days of doing paperwork for taxes, I found myself unable to settle down and follow my usual routine. Even though I had a draft to work with, I didn’t do the research or find the photos for the blog post I thought I’d put up yesterday. Instead, I played hooky.

Open nature journal with binoculars and pen. Journal page and photo by Kit Dunsmore

We are finally having some mild weather, sunny days with the temperature well above freezing, and I didn’t want to let it go by without notice. Instead of staying at my computer, I took the dog for a walk. I sat in a cottonwood grove with my nature journal and took notes about the wildlife I could see and hear. Crows drove a red-tailed hawk from its perch, a bald eagle drank from the lake, and a downy woodpecker flitted from tree to tree, and I was there to see it all.

Cackling goose (Photo by Kurt Fristrup)

My walk to and from the woods was also full of observations. I was surprised to see lots of cackling geese, because this species is a winter visitor that has become rare in the last few weeks. I convinced myself that a house finch excited about the spring-like weather was making the red feathers on his head even brighter with his enthusiastic singing. I watched a pair of red-tailed hawks circling one another as they soared on the wind blowing across the lake and wondered if they were mates.

A pair of red-tailed hawks (Photo by Kurt Fristrup)

While it fed my soul, being outside was not immediately rejuvenating. My first thought when I got home was that I needed a nap. It became clear that I wouldn’t be doing any writing at all that day, and I felt guilty for blowing off my blog writing. Then my friend Judy, who struggles constantly with her Inner Puritan, sent me this quote:

Today I am sad, or so I thought. But more I am tired of keeping up with all that doesn’t matter. I’m sipping coffee, listening to the rain. I like watching the leaves hang in the long weather. I like to close my eyes and feel the rain quiet the earth. I welcome that quieting. I like to have my habits of going here and there interrupted. I was caught in the rain when coming here. The cool blotches sink in all over. The many lists I carry in my shirt are wet. I take them out to dry, and all the tasks have blurred. At last. Unreadable. Forgettable. We carry these lists near our heart and finger them like worry beads. It doesn’t matter what is on them. They are the thieves, and it is the insidious virtue to have everything in order before we live that is the greatest thief. I feel the rain drip down my neck. I think I’m becoming unfinished.

(Emphasis added)

Mark Nepo

Wrestling with taxes, I did exactly what he describes: I let insidious virtue rule me. I told myself I could read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk after I finished every bit of paperwork. My brain took the suggestion quite literally. As soon as the task was completed, I was suddenly on a mental vacation, and found it impossible to do anything that looked like work.

As a responsible adult, I am haunted by “insidious virtue.” I think doing all the errands, all the chores, all the work first makes me a better person. But Nepo’s observation is an important reminder that I should not be taking breaks from work to find time for my life, but taking breaks from my life in order to do my work.

My post is late, but it was worth it. I’m noticing more of the world around me and am interested in writing again. I have gotten an important piece of my life back at the expense of sticking perfectly to my blogging schedule.

Sometimes you have to take time to do a little living.

What things keep you from living? What is your favorite way to spend your quiet times?

2 thoughts on “Resist Insidious Virtue and Live”

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