I walked out of the house with no aim other than to go somewhere and sit: no destination, no errand, not even a camera to box in my attention. I’m not noodling a conundrum from a piece of writing left back on the desk and I’m not on the hunt for sensory titillation that might serve as a topic for some new essay or blog. I’m not trying to foment appreciation.
For the first time in I’m not sure how long, I’m just sitting. On a rock, in the sun.
I don’t meditate, and maybe I resist because stilling my brain and coaching my lungs to find a therapeutic rhythm sounds like a steep learning curve, yet another task for the to-do list. So, sitting will do: non-intention as my intention, at least in moments such as this.
Writing about sitting is, admittedly, on the agenda, and so my time on this rock is not entirely unencumbered. I am laying the groundwork for later veracity. In the moment, though, the sitting is the thing, and the quiet ordinariness of the setting helps make the mundane act of not acting feel remarkable. The lichen-mottled pink granite under my butt is pretty, but common hereabouts. The sun is shining, but the heat it offers is modest; daytime temperatures are finally headed toward the 40s, readings seemly for the middle of November at high altitude. The breeze, passing by on its way to the Bare Hills, declines publicity by not becoming wind.
I have been thinking lately about sitting as a way of spending time. Not scads of time—that would just be sloth, in my book. The sitting I have in mind is not a platform from which to work or read or watch TV or hold a conversation. I’m not thinking about sitting as rest after physical exertion. No, this is sitting in resistance to restlessness, in fact: sitting for the sake of not doing. Sitting in relative stillness, for the purpose of purposelessness, aware but not attentive, seeing but not looking.
The lack of heedfulness is important, I’ve realized. Having embraced paying attention as a way of acknowledging and honoring my surroundings, I’ve fallen into the habit of noticing. That’s not a bad thing, but I’ve noticed that noticing can become a little grasping. Overindulged, it creates the expectation that my environment ought to provide something noteworthy. There’s much to be said for being open and receptive to what the world has on offer, but sometimes the world needs a break, too.
Solitude is a fixture of this type of sitting, I’m pretty sure. It would take a particular—or peculiar, maybe—type of human companion to be able to share a session of deliberately non-deliberative idleness. An animal companion, provided it has an undemanding personality, would probably be a nice addition, but we don’t have any of those around here. I took a break while I was mending the fence in the pasture a couple of weeks ago, settling cross-legged on the ground for a few minutes. Moondo and Jake each took a turn coming up to me, blowing in wonderment and concern at my unusual seated posture. Their steps were charmingly careful. It was an interval of novelty for them and vulnerability for me, but I was not in a state of dreamy reverie in their looming equine presence.
So, yeah, solitude is best. And it helps if it is autumn, too, I think. Mild air—not too hot or too windy or too cold—is conducive. The inclination to sit in undirected reflection fits the slowing pace, the inward-drawing, the drift toward dormancy of this time of year. The physical busyness of summer tasks is giving way to the internal rhythms of words stilled in written form. Sitting is like pressing the clutch in anticipation of shifting mental gears, a transitional suspension of whirring cogs.
The hard seat of a log or an uneven rock is the best bench: such sitting is a recess, not a vacation, and there’s no sense in being overly comfortable. To sit like this is an interlude; brevity is what makes it plausible, and poignant.