The creativity of indolence; calming the restless soul

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The creativity of indolence; calming the restless soul

Martin London

Martin London

Matin London, Chatham Islands
Relaxing on the Chatham Islands

They say in the theatre that every action needs to start from a point of stillness. Rural locum Martin London finds inaction an acquired taste

A letter from Chatham Island. I’m back here again, my second gig. The place doesn’t take long to get under your skin.

Knowing a bit more of the local geography and sociology, the quiet times on-call here get easier to manage or should do.

How to calm a restless soul? That inner voice demanding that I use time productively. (Never mind that true rest can be highly productive.)

A story, a confession.

Many years ago, a registrar joins me at my old Akaroa practice. We set out one Monday morning on a home visit.

“How was your weekend?” I ask him. “What did you get up to?”

“Oh, we just relaxed,” he says.

Too rough for fishing
Weekends were always busy in those days

Enter my inner dialogue: “RELAXED! What does that mean?! What about a climbing trip, a new structure in the garden, going out socially? Even getting up to date with the accounts? Something to show for the weekend.”

Weekends were always busy in those days.

Between calls and activities with the kids, there was always that list of jobs we’d try to get through. Doing half of them was good going. Busy, busy, busy.

Eventually it catches up and, all at once, there is no more oomph left. I can’t face doing a thing. So I decide to do exactly what I feel like doing, and that is NOTHING! Not read. Not watch the idiot box. Not a bit of sessile weeding. Nothing.

Beach treasure – kelp-foot tiki
Find a nice spot on the veranda

Find a nice spot on the veranda in the sun and sit. And sit. And sit a bit more. And, after a full 20 minutes it occurs to me that there is something I want to do; there’s that bit of dry-stone walling I was going to complete. So up I get and do that and then return to sit.

Well, maybe for 10 minutes or so until the loaf of bread I’d planned to make beckons and I respond. And so on. At the end of the day, fully refreshed, I’ve nailed more of the job list than on all those previous occasions of my blue-assed flying around.

It seems I’m a slow learner. Back to Chatham; here I am with great splodges of freedom, again agonising about unproductive time. Too rough for fishing today. The phone stays quiet. Finished my book.

“Help-me” fishing float
Taking a walk on the wide sweep of the bay

I take a walk on the wide sweep of the bay’s beach, sort-of looking for ambergris – none that I can see – maybe a larger piece of flotsam on which to fillet the as- yet uncaught fish – nope!

Take a photo of one of the flotilla of bluebottles I’m trying to avoid in my jandals. Maybe the shot will have legs. I grind to a halt.

Warm wind. Gull cry. Low surf hissing on the sand. (A bit like the sound of cold water hitting the bottom of the pan I’ve just burnt!) No other sound. All very still. There’s nothing needing to be done. Listen. Smell. Idly gaze.

But how long can I tough it out?

And then it comes to me. Got it! I’ll go and write a column for New Zealand Doctor on the joys of being truly still. That should keep me busy and justify my indolent existence here. And I can flash a few photos I’ve taken when there was nothing else to do.

Ahhh! The creativity of indolence. You should try it!