Doing nothing and thinking nothing
My mate Henry – a recent transplant from Victoria – had Foxtel installed at his place so he can catch every AFL game when the season kicks off. As an unexpected bonus, Foxtel delivers an inexhaustible supply of Seinfeld, (Please make Seinfeld Italics, thanks) Henry’s favourite TV show. Henry reckons he can watch four episodes in one sitting if circumstances allow.
Seinfeld has famously been described as a ‘show about nothing’ because it’s more about noticing the silly details of human nature than any grand plotline.
All of which is a hugely roundabout way of introducing this week’s post, which is about nothing.
No work issues or family matters or idle fantasies occupied my mind. I was just … there
I’m delighted to report that last Sunday, from mid morning to mid afternoon, your correspondent did absolutely nothing, possibly for the first time in decades.
We don’t exactly live on the water, but we’re close enough to see an expanse of Clarence-connected waterway from the back deck, and a path winds through nearby reserve for us to walk down. So under an achingly beautiful autumn morning sky, we lugged our campchairs, the weekend papers, a thermos of tea and trusty can of Aeroguard down to the lake’s edge, made ourselves comfortable, and got stuck into the papers.
There’s only so much you can read about global affairs or the dysfunction of the federal political system before a mild nausea sets in, and before long I put the newspaper aside and just … sat there … noticing what lay in front of me.
I noticed the dome of rock, peeking an inch and a half above the waterline. Over the next few hours I’d see that rock slip beneath the water and then re-emerge as the tide cycled back out. I’d never sat still in one place long enough to observe that.
I noticed how when the larger mullet jumped out of the water, they seemed to do it in pairs. Even though they’d be five metres apart, they’d jump pretty much at the same time. What’s all that about?
I noticed the wind puff up and try to scuff the lake’s glass surface, but it didn’t try very hard. If we were still stuck in the windy days of summer, no doubt the northerly would have ripped the lake up, but on this Day Of Nothing, the wind was happy to keep itself to itself for a few more hours.
I noticed that the wake from the occasional tinny zooming past in the distance would take a minute or so to reach us - perfectly spaced mini groundswells – and the very last of those swells would be the most dramatic. I wondered what laws of physics governed this.
I spent 15 minutes doing nothing else but watching a single small crab fossick in the shallows. It flipped over the biggest rocks it could lift and started madly stuffing grit and detritus into its gob, no doubt filtering in the nutrition. And if you think I’m strange for finding that compelling, I probably shouldn’t tell you how long I spent watching a few floating gumleaves circulate in eddies. They’d drift west past my feet, back out by the fallen log out to the lake, then back to the start of their one-metre loop. One leaf did a dozen laps before beaching itself. I wasn’t sure if it was a victory or defeat, or how I felt.
I noticed that a White Chested Sea Eagle can’t fly anywhere without getting hassled by other birds, but has a handy trick of inverting between wingbeats to show its claws. I noticed that the Brahminy Kite attracts less fuss. I noticed the distant woofing of dogs, the hum of bees in a tree hollow nearby, the shifting shadows, the busy-ness of ants.
I noticed that, for the first time in as long as I could remember, I was doing nothing and thinking nothing: no work issues or family matters or idle fantasies occupied my mind. I was just … there.
I’ve given yoga and meditation a crack over the years and I’ve always been pretty crap at both of ‘em. But I think I might have stumbled on to something here. By sitting still and noticing Clarence Valley nature unfold for a few hours, I may have forgotten myself enough to catch a small glimpse of some kind of enlightenment.
Fresh eyes - Gra Murdoch