by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Leisure implies taking time out from being busy.

Rhetoric is an art of discourse. Davies asks the rhetorical question, “What is this life?” He implies that pacing is an essential consideration. In his book Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman imagines a world where time stands still. If time stood still, and we weren’t about to run out of it, or fail to accomplish our aims within designated time allotments, we might be better at standing and staring. When time stands still, everything around you seems to stop. I intend to stand and stare. I’ve got a lot to learn by emulating sheep and cows. Sheep and cows personify leisure.

My attraction to subtlety grew when, after practicing yoga for some time, it became apparent that transformative change occurred more powerfully in subtle realms. Provided that I pause long enough and pay attention to subtleties, then I might see where the squirrels hide their nuts in grass. 

In the fourth couplet, Davies suggests that daytime is the time to thrive, He implores us to embrace the light as we would if we were star gazing at night. I remember nights in northern Wisconsin during my childhood when we’d lie on our backs on the ground waiting for the thrill of shooting stars to appear. It never occurred to me that I was frittering away my time.

Davies says that Beauty dances. I’m consciously open and looking forward to moments when I can see Beauty dance.

In the next couplet Davies suggests that Beauty can get short changed if we only stick around long enough to glimpse its smile. Instead, he encourages us to watch it envelop the entirety of a mouth. John Prine said, “A clown puts his makeup on upside down, So he wears a smile even when he wears a frown.” If you can’t find enough time to listen well to John Prine, then you are at risk of making the mistake of thinking that a frowning clown couldn’t be smiling.

Regardless of whether you are on a figurative or literal journey of your own, I implore you to join me in my commitment to stand and stare. In another one of his books, In Praise of Wasting Time, Alan Lightman mentions the irony of increasing isolation in our hyper connected world. Becoming disconnected is the result of being so over connected. Disconnection begs for connection. Going outdoors keeps my spirit alive and my connection intact. My surroundings are my teachers. I’m more likely to encounter simple, subtle truths and to experience the rapture of being alive by taking time to stare at nature.

Published by jmlewisjr

Hello. This is Jimmy Lewis. I'm in Memphis, Tennessee. My golden doodle, Lola and I are leaving on a North American tour in May, 2021. We'll be traveling in a 2021 Jayco Melbourne 24L motorhome. We have neither time constraints nor exact destination specifications. We'll spend May in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and then head north through New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont. If Canadians resume the practice of putting out a welcome mat for Americans, then we'll cross the border.  The seed for this journey began after my wife, Sarla passed away in May, 2020. Sarla was a yogi. An early yoga teacher of hers implored her to "Have what you need, and use what you have." As I prepare to close on the sale of our home on April 30, 2021, I'm deciding what I need based on the likelihood of using what I have. I give some things away without a flicker of feeling. When more meaningful items like the piano I inherited from my parents leave the premises, I feel like I'm saying goodbye to an old friend for the last time. Sarla's death lessened my attachment to the home we had enjoyed for 15 years and life as I knew it. I didn't need and couldn't possibly use a house that could satisfy the needs of a family with four children. I'll no longer experience residence, a concept identified with staying in a specified place, as I've heretofore known it. Life will never be the same, nor do I want to attempt to shape my future into a likeness of what I once knew.   I've set my sights on adventure. I want to be challenged by not knowing who or what I'll meet on the road. The outdoors is one of my default antidotes for stress. Other than my rig, I won't have an indoors base. Whereas others might opt to downsize so that they have the stability of a landing spot, I won't be able to go "home" as I've known it. I'm jazzed about the prospect of being at the whim of the muse, to go where my finger lands on turning pages of the Rand McNally atlas. My dog, Lola is indifferent even though I've been talking to her about the journey every day. She looks quizzically at me when I enthusiastically say we're hitting the road together. I'm confident that she'll do well. We've previously driven together to and from a destination 12 hours from home. She curiously gazed out the window and occasionally snoozed in the passenger seat. She didn't express displeasure about the podcasts and music selection that I chose to entertain and inform me while driving. This trip isn't driven by personal goals. Will I learn more about myself? Will I take advantage of the opportunity to reflect? Will I be lonely? Will I be uneasy? I'm motivated by a curiosity to follow the questions.

3 thoughts on “Leisure

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