My son and I took time off from lessons today, which was the proper thing to do under the circumstances. Sunshine, quiet, no appointments or errands to do until 4:15 pm. While I thought he was sleeping in because of restlessness in the night, I went outside into the October sunshine to work over and plant a few more rows of winter peas. Loosen soil, pull, shake off and back-hand weeds into the compost, rake smooth, hoe long grooves, pour seeds from the jar into one hand, pinch and drop an inch and a half apart. Spacing by instinct–peas like to be close, and an inch and a half suits the size of these.
My daughter’s half grown husky trotted over to watch, stepping around and directly on my work, dog-smiling, sniffing, trying to figure out and participate in the fun. Must be digging of some kind, she thought, but what’s the prize? She’d stop in front of my kneeling form, crossways a few inches from my face, sniff, look at me, and wait for a clue. I had to push her aside several times or distract her by tossing something. She got particularly excited by pulled up plants with lots of soil on the roots. She’d grab them and shake wildly, soil flying in all directions.
I work around a few grown plants which, propped up with stakes and ties and now framed by rich, smoothed soil, look colorful and regal, making their last stand. A few sunflowers, seeds ripening for the chickens or jays, three pepper plants laden with green fruits which I hope will turn red before rotting, a few speedwell and other flower volunteers which promise an early spring bloom, and some broccoli plants, looking worn by several months of production. I’ll feed and mulch them and hope for more side shoots this fall. A few strawberry plants have to be weeded, and it takes concentration to tell berry plants from the roving buttercups that have the same habits and almost the same leaf shape. On closer inspection, the buttercups’ hairy stems give them away. They pull up easily if grasped just below the soil’s surface, with a satisfying, muffled pop.
Finally I take a break and check my son’s room. He is not asleep after all, has not been for some time, but is reading in his upper bunk, no doubt hoping I will not call him for table time formal academics. But we’re playing hooky today, I tell him with a smile, and explain what that means. Why not? There are teacher work days, snow days, holidays, sick days, mental health days. But even at my age I take pleasure in walking away from the routine, the obligation that has become oppressive, the to do list. The lesson today: the importance of hooky. No one wastes a hooky day–we suddenly realize what we really want to do, and independently go about it, with quiet delight.
Some time in my grade school years, I remember asking Mom to wake me up on Saturday as if it was a school day, just so I could realize it wasn’t, and sink back into delicious sleep. These days, sometimes making a list of what I should get done has the same effect–I realize it can all wait, and off I go to accomplish completely different things, which I was not allowing myself to tackle because they weren’t urgent enough. Only important. True, one ought to fulfill duties, set goals and pursue them, take care of mundane and practical responsibilities. But it’s important to take one’s mental health days too. If only I could have a whole week of hooky.