The Loveliness of Doing Nothing

I've spent the last four days at home in Missouri, doing nothing. By this I don't mean I've been staring at a wall, immobile and silent; in fact I've baked cookies and banana bread, co-mowed the lawn, written editorial notes on a manuscript, had lunch with the author of that manuscript, sorted through some old papers from college, gotten a pedicure, reviewed portfolios at the Kansas City Art Institute, watched "Election" and two episodes of "Sex and the City," assisted at the recital my mom held for her piano students . . . quite a number of things. But there's been nothing I've had to do, that I was under pressure to do by schedule, assignment, or obligation, and since all of these activities were by choice, they have the lightness (almost the nothingness) of freedom. Manuscripts, deadlines, negotiating, friends to see -- I love my New York life, but it's lovely to be free of the demands associated with it every so often as well.

On Tuesday, after the piano recital, I sat in the grass with one of my mom's students -- an extremely bright eight-year-old boy. We were making flower chains from the copious clovers in our backyard (going for the world-record longest flower chain, as expert chain-makers like ourselves always must), and he looked up all of a sudden and said, "This is a really beautiful place."

"Thank you," I said, surprised. Our yard was gorgeous that evening: birds tweetering, the trees and grass so green they seemed ready to burst with greenness, the clovers sparkling white in the magic-hour sun.

"With the birds and everything," he said. "And making flower chains." He looked down at the clovers in his hands. "That should be a book title," he said. "The Beauty of Making Flower Chains."

And then he pulled another clover and added it to his chain.

I love that kid.