I have officially become a “piddler”. No (giggle), not that kind of piddler. The piddling I am referring to is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “so small or unimportant as to warrant little or no attention.”
I remember years ago, visiting my parents at their farm during their post-dairy, retirement years. I always found Mom busy in the kitchen. But Daddy was rarely in the house. When I would ask Mom what Daddy was doing outside, her stock response was always, “Just piddling around.”
The implication, of course, was that since retirement, he no longer had any “real” work. Whatever it was that he was doing, my mom considered “so small or unimportant as to warrant little or no attention.”
According to the old adage, a woman’s work is never done. Even after retirement, there is still laundry, and cooking, and cleaning. So, retirement didn’t change much of anything for my mom. But she obviously felt it had changed quite a bit for my dad.
I thought about all this recently as I was walking my dogs one morning after chores. My twice-a-day, fifteen-minute walk with my dogs benefits all three of us, and has become part of our daily routine, no matter the weather. There are definitely some days when I can’t wait to return to the house. But that winter morning happened to be a brisk, sunny morning without a stitch of wind. In a word – fabulous. I was desperately looking for a reason to delay my return to the house.
I knew I had to return sometime. And I had plenty of “real” work waiting for me: laundry, cooking and cleaning. But have I mentioned that the weather was fabulous?
As the dogs and I followed the curve of the creek, I noticed that the running stream narrowed considerably immediately after it cut through what used to be a beaver dam. I decided to try to cross the creek at its narrowest point. But upon closer inspection, I decided it was still too wide for me to step, or even hop, across.
But it would be really cool, I thought, to be able to cross that creek. I stood there, thinking.
Then inspiration struck. Along the outer curve of the creek, just beyond where I stood, Danny and I had lined the creek bank with old chunks and pieces of unusable limestone. The intent was to stop, or at least slow down, erosion during high water events. Some of those stones might be useable to construct a low-water bridge!
I searched and found one long enough to bridge the flow. I dropped it in the running water, but it was still below the surface. If I crossed it, my shoes would get wet.
I searched for another to stack on top of it. It was now above the water level, but had become less stable.
So, I searched for another stone that I could use to support the structure on the downstream side. And then another.
Each time I added stones, of course I had to test my bridge. Meanwhile, the dogs were sniffing the grass and splashing in the creek right beside me. They had absolutely no concerns about laundry.
I finally got the stones into a position where I could take one or two steps to cross the flowing creek without teetering and without getting my shoes wet.
I stood back and admired my work. Then I glanced at the clock on my phone. My fifteen-minute walk had turned into an hour.
I had piddled away forty-five minutes!
It was when I sensed the guilt in me beginning to surface that I thought of my parents. Darn it! I thought. I have earned the right to piddle once in a while!
For thirty-three years I was a working mother. For the last ten plus, I have been a farmer. My summers are spent working from dawn to dusk. I refuse to feel guilty over forty-five minutes spent piddling around on a beautiful winter morning in my retirement years!
As it turned out, we had something to eat that night, and we had clean clothes to wear the next day. But those forty-five minutes spent piddling around were, without a doubt, the best part of my day.
Coincidentally, the weather is beautiful again today. So, I’m turning off my computer now because I have to go…
Well, you know.
(My parents’ work ethic was deeply embedded during the Great Depression. Read about it in the January chapter of my third book, The Return to the Family Farm.)
Next Week: Full Moon Fever