I have no aptitude for what is called multitasking. I can sometimes sneeze and pee a little at the same time, but that’s about as far as it goes. If I owned a cell phone and tried to use it while I was driving, I’d be dead in a week. That’s if I could concentrate long enough to learn how to operate it. As it is, I can’t even follow directions unless I turn the radio down. I can do only one thing at a time. Sometimes fewer.
Sometimes, in fact, if I look up at the stars I tip right over. Every now and then I forget how to swallow. I can’t talk and think at the same time. I can’t even think and think at the same time.
I have a little room upstairs with an old monitor and keyboard set up just for writing. Dave built me a chickadee house and set it up right outside my window. We were both flabbergasted when genuine, top-grade chickadees moved in. A lot of the time I am supposed to be writing, I am actually staring out the window towards the chickadee house. I am not writing. I am not thinking. I am staring. Not at anything, either; I am staring at a point in loose focus about a yard past the chickadee house and my thought balloon is completely empty. Sometimes a chickadee inserts itself into my field of vision, and my thought balloon says: “chickadee.” That’s about the extent of it.
I garden the same way. I move slowly through the beds, just as though I were planning or problem-solving, but I’m actually just letting everything hit the retina and go right on through the back of my head, there being nothing much to stop it. The new progressive trifocals give me a form of tunnel-vision, and that heightens the effect. I wander, I “think:” penstemon. Lewisia. Salvia. Artichoke. Ants. Hebe. Shiny round chrome thing. Agapanthus. Wait a second. What? What is that? Shiny round, bright red bits, white plastic, what? It takes a full few seconds for me to recognize a child’s brand-new bike for what it is. This morning the space between the Agapanthus and the Hebe did not have a child’s bike in it, and now it does, and my brain can hardly take it in.
Turns out it’s Calder’s brand-new bike, and he and his mom Lorna left it here on their way to the coffeehouse this morning because Calder didn’t have it in him to go all the way around the block on it. I love that our neighbors think of our yard as a little park, and they do. We encourage people to amble through. Sometimes I stand by the window and stare out into the yard, and they drift into my field of vision. While I gaze, other people generously assume I am having deep and creative thoughts, but they’re just being nice. The balloon is blank. Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, Calder and his mom, nothing, nothing, Beth and her sister, nothing, nothing, chickadee, nothing. I have without effort achieved the state of mind that Buddhist monks strive for their whole lives. Striving won’t get you there. It’s a gift. It might be a gift from all those drugs forty years ago, but it’s a gift.