Idling by the river

I sat a long while by the river today. The sun came and went, the sky was stacked with puffy white clouds. Birds appeared according to their individual habits. A kingfisher flew low and long over the water. A prehistoric-looking heron stalked its lunch. Half a dozen ducks came whirling in from somewhere and landed noisily on the water. A young moorhen appeared shyly and disappeared rapidly, afraid of its own shadow. A little egret feeding in the shallows looked exotic in my eyes: when I was a child they were rare visitors, but are now seen quite frequently.

The water lapped near my feet as I sipped coffee from a flask and nibbled a bit of plain chocolate. A boat approached with chugging engine, and the boatman raised a hand in silent greeting to me as he passed. I liked that he noticed me. With Hubby back at work, I’d not spoken to anyone all day. Well, not since his parting kiss at a horribly early hour when I felt in conflict between wanting to acknowledge his presence and his leave-taking but also desperately wanting more sleep!

For me this is a strange week. I’m on leave from work, and I’m deliberately trying to be idle, to do everything slowly, to savour the possibilities of having time. I’m technically signed off for ‘stress’. I’m not sure if that’s really how I’d diagnose the problem, but it’s a convenient shorthand. The duty doctor I spoke to (phone consultations still, nothing in person) didn’t hesitate. He also talked to me about union membership and employment lawyers…

Now I’m suddenly freed from the ridiculous multi-tasking impossible busyness of my day job, with its incessant video calls and instant messages, endless problems to solve and protocols to observe, the banal absurdities of ‘hybrid working’ and the challenge of managing underperformance in staff who are clearly mentally ill… With none of these things to occupy myself, I thought I’d feel hopelessly adrift. Actually I’ve taken to this lack of work like… ‘like a duck to water’ is perhaps the appropriate metaphor.

I have been enjoying a morning lie-in and a lazy coffee-filled start to the day. I’ve kept on with my yoga teaching and savoured having time to prepare my classes more thoughtfully, I’ve done various domestic chores which have been long-deferred, I’m catching up with some friends in person and some by correspondence, I savour each meal I prepare and consume.

And sometimes I just sit and think, observing the world and feeling both intensely part of it yet also curiously detached from it, or detached from my habitual way of inhabiting it. Perhaps there are other horizons I’d not contemplated before, doorways to places I’d never imagined…

But already the clock is ticking on towards the awkward return to my professional life…

One thought on “Idling by the river

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  1. This is so beautifully written, bbc. I felt like I was there with you on the riverbank. Ahhhh. The contrast between the insanity of the too often stress-filled work world and the world you inhabit by the riverbank… and how to find and walk that middle path…
    sending much love

    Liked by 1 person

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