Sitting with Dragonflies


Originally Published November 2010


On Saturday, a friend posted the following on his Facebook page:

“Tired today. Plan on doing NOTHING!”

Two hours later, a new post appeared:

“OK, so ‘nothing’ didn’t last long…kitchen is cleaned top to bottom and I’m on my 2nd load of laundry and off to clean the bedroom and bathroom…always something.”

There IS always SOMETHING isn’t there?

At a women’s group last week, we were asked to think about what we would do — what our hearts most wanted — if we could choose anything, with no regard for obligations, cost, or time. Something “just for us.”

“I’d take a month off,” I said. “And spend the time at home, just doing nothing.”

And then I elaborated: “You know, clean the house, reads some books, do some writing, go for long walks, organize the art room, finish a collage, get out in the garden, have friends over for dinner, move the furniture….”

Now, if I had not been the first one to respond, I — like the other women in the room — may have had time to think of something a little sexier:

Travel to Paris.
Learn a new language.
Finish my novel.
Drive cross-country.
Overcome fear.
Lose 15 pounds.

But none of these — my interesting-as-a-cardboard-box list or the yummy-sexy-life list — can remotely be considered nothing.

Just this past weekend, I was in Massachusetts with the intent to do nothing but visit with friends and relax. As is always the case when I go away, I brought my trusty backpack, filled with all sorts of nothing…the short story to edit, the book to read, the unfinished journal entry, the art supplies—just in case.

Just in case, what?
Just in case I end up doing nothing?

So, what is “doing nothing” anyway? Are there different interpretations—can there be? Is one woman’s nothing another person’s tyrannical to-do list? Are we genetically predisposed to different levels of nothing?

A magical woman I knew used to talk of sitting outside and letting dragonflies dance in her hands. “I can hear their wings flutter,” she would whisper, as if sharing a secret.

The secret is this…nothing is not nothing.

Doing nothing is simply the freedom and time and space to do something. To do those somethings that ground us, that help us rebalance, that bring us joy. Cleaning the house? Maybe. Or reading a good book. Going for a walk in the woods. Or simply sitting with drangonflies.

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Photo by Olga Gerasimova, courtesy of iStock Photos

7 thoughts on “Sitting with Dragonflies

  1. It’s never nothing. It’s always something. Or at least that’s what some people might call the nothing that you’re doing. But that nothing that you’re doing though it may look like something to them is the nothing that makes me feel good about yourself. My making any sense?😉


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