Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Busy doing nothing?

Recently, I asked a fulltime resident how they managed to fill their days, especially in the off-season, when the town empties substantially. Her reply was that she had had to cut back on participating in things as she felt she didn’t have enough time. My initial reaction of incredulity evaporated as I recalled my own experiences.

I have found that there are several successive and distinct stages in the perception of time as you progress through a “season” in Todos Santos. Initially, time feels like a master against whom you fight, trying to cram all the myriad of activities necessary to breathe life back into the house and re-establish relationships that have been suspended over the summer. Life is a rush, a bustle of appointments jostling for space. It’s really an extension of normal life back in the North, or at least normal life for those who have careers to build or families to raise.

Usually, this phase ends in a few weeks, and I progress into the boredom stage – “so what do I do now?” There are no emergencies to address, no burning material needs to be met, and no links to be re-ignited. In fact, nothing that demands attention from the “doing” part of a person. This is the most difficult time for me; the time when I challenge why I come here repeatedly, try to think of projects (and then discard them as not being worthwhile), and generally drive Diane crazy. This year, the transition to this private wasteland took longer, probably because our arrival was punctuated with family emergencies and a trip to Guatemala. But I have been firmly entrenched in the treacly perception of time for a while now.

Eventually (and, unfortunately, even knowing that this will happen does not seem to belay the need to pass through the steps and worry at each that, this time, it won’t pass), the barren wasteland opens up, imperceptibly, to a state where time again becomes fluid. In this stage, though, time is not the master, but rather is somewhat incidental. I relax into the sustained pace of life in Todos Santos; find that the time passes almost imperceptibly and yet that isn’t a problem. And it is true that, after a while, it does appear that you need to cut back on outside activities because “there isn’t enough time”.

Since I am a transient resident, I never get beyond this stage. Before its time (or so it seems) the tyranny of the calendar intrudes and we must return North. The jolt of realization pulls me out of this dream state and back into a precursor of the frantic initial perception of time. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to remain in the protective bubble of Todos Santos. Whether there are states beyond that of doing little for a while, but having time independently running at fast forward speed?

The transitioning does give me the opportunity, and cause, to reflect on the appropriateness of my perceptions of time and the ways I spend my life. From the smug stance of the comfortably indolent stage, it is easy to see the insanity in the time-starved way we typically spend our days in North America. A life of constant activity, without time for reflection or steeped contact with friends. But equally, it is an experience of time that leads to achievements, to pushing oneself beyond levels of comfort. The quiet life of contemplation reveals a hidden side of yourself and others. But there is a fine line between contemplation leavened with gentle activity and sliding into facile laziness and rusting. Perhaps the transitioning I go through is, in fact, an ideal fertile environment?

1 comment:

Leon Basin said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing.