Saturday, September 3, 2011

Functional Bodies 2: In Praise of Puttering

I am the laziest person in my immediate family. I'm not being falsely modest; it's plain unvarnished truth. I wrote about my brother's phenomenal energy in my last post. Mom? Yeah. I once bet Mom that she couldn't sit still for five minutes. She lost. Both my parents are inveterate putterers, always thinking of something that needs doing and then doing it. Mom putters both indoors and out, while Dad focuses much of his attention on their gorgeous backyard. Weeding, trimming, pruning, planting, deciding to dig up half the plants and do something else. It never ends. I am the only one in my family who has the ability to sit down in the middle of the day and watch, say, seven hours of college football. There's Dad with one of his puttering tools.

While I was getting a fantastic workout at the new theatre space last weekend, I kept thinking, hmmm, I should be doing this sort of stuff around the house too. And we're having some friends over to BBQ tomorrow afternoon, and of course the patio was all overgrown with weeds and scattered with pollen and whatnot, because my parents managed not to pass the gardening/puttering trait on to me. An opportunity to practice this whole being active around the house thing! So as soon as I got up this morning, before the heat kicked in, I rounded up the shears and the brooms and the big recycling bin for yard trimmings and got my putter on.

The only things that really grow in our backyard are the things that decide to. Our efforts at planting things have met with consistent failure. Tomatoes? Nope. Lemons? Very few. Lime? Likewise. Sunflowers? Droopy. However, we are constantly under attack by star jasmine, ivy, mint, and this insidious creeper that looks a little like a strawberry plant and just grows like stink.

Normally I would attack that shit with a vengeance, slashing and ripping and pulling until I dripped with sweat and had to pass out. But today I consciously took a leaf (as it were) out of Dad's book and decided to work deliberately, putteringly. I worked slowly,
rested frequently, sipped iced tea constantly. (This is not something my Dad would do. As a Welshman, he finds iced tea to be offensive.) I took an hour or so to listen to Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me, then headed back out. By the time I got out there, the sun was high and the patio was getting pretty warm. So I kept puttering, kept resting, kept wielding the shears and pulling up the ivy and assorted weeds. I left the mint mostly alone because it's flowering now and the bees love it. We need to promote the bees, so I left the mint.

I swept, I used the hose on the patio, I swept the water off the patio. It was very hot now so I turned the hose on myself a few times. Some more resting and then a long, cool, well-earned shower with plenty of loofah and ShiKai body wash. (Not a paid endorsement, I just love it.)

About 3.5 hours of work. Arms, shoulders, legs are all tired, but with no sense of imminent injury. Enough energy left to shop, make a (simple) dinner and even, later this evening, get a batch of vanilla into the ice cream maker.

Tomorrow, another kayaking excursion, this time with my high school friend and literary agent. Minimal house tidying, definitely no yard work.

But because of puttering, I should be good to go out on the lake tomorrow.


  1. "there's no place better than your own backyard." - Robert Earl Keen, Jr."

  2. Hi Jayne,

    wanted to post a belated thank you for writing the Slow Fat Triathlete. I mentioned you in a speech I did last week:

  3. Hey Sarah, many thanks! Mentioning me in a speech, that's pretty cool.

  4. I also had a number of people tell me they were going to get your book as a result. ;)