The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Saturday, July 16, 2011

No Focus

I woke up this morning and it was still winter (in Monterey, it is always winter and never Christmas).  But then about halfway through today, it became-if not summer-an absolutely lovely late spring day.  Clear, warm, slight breeze, all sun and varying shades of blue.  

It is so clear right now that you can actually see all the way across the bay to Santa Cruz--the first time I've been able to do that in the year that I've lived here.  Of course all this clarity of air and sparkle of sun will be short lived. Even as I was marveling at how giant this bay is and how beautiful Santa Cruz looked in the blue of distance, the marine layer started lapping at that city's coastal boundaries.  Soon they will be shrouded in cloud while I still have sun (pleased smirk). 

Since it is so gorgeous, I got all sorts of motivated.  I started sorting and organizing the multitude of bags and boxes I keep in my room to drop random stuff.  Started being the operative word here. I am very very good at beginning projects for organization and not so good at seeing them through to completion.  Often I live surrounded by piles of half completed projects.  Piles that I just shift around as guests come and go before finally dumping them into one of those bags or boxes in my bedroom.

I don't like that I do this.  I wish I could just focus on one task at hand before moving to another, but that is not how my brain works.  As I begin to pile all my already read books to got back to the shelves, one of them invariably triggers a memory or a thought about something else I have to do.  Like in Mourning Diary (Roland Barthes) there was a slip about the care of guinea pigs which reminded me that I need to feed them this morning. When I get to the refrigerator to get their lettuce, I see how a bottle of sparkly wine sitting in the door. I then turn and look at my east-facing porch that is in full sun right now but will lose it soon and decided that I should do my sketch for the day right now while I have the light.  So I open the sparkly and the patio door and see my plants which reminds me that I should water the plants.  I set down the glass, my pencil and paper, and turn to get my watering pitcher and my eyes light upon a  New Yorker which reminds me of the pile of them in my bedroom that I am organizing, so I return to my bedroom but then I hear an angry "WEEP!" from the direction of the guinea pig cage and  . . . .

You get my point.  The lack of focus isn't limited to household chores.  Once I was organizing and deep cleaning my son's room while he and his dad were out playing baseball.  They returned hours later to find me surrounded by a colossal mess (I had taken literally everything--everything, books, toys, blocks, stuffed animals--off the shelves and dumped them on the floor so that I could more easily determine where they would go once organized), reading  A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle).  But actually, I didn't start with that book.  I started by reading The The Wolves in the Walls (Neil Gaiman) then that made me want to read  The Sandman (ibid.) then I saw Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney)--which my son hasn't read yet--and started reading that (since I was cleaning his room, I thought I should read a graphic novel that he could actually read--Sandman, while awesome, is a bit old for a seven-year-old).  Then I decided I would rather introduce my son to a classic I loved when I was a kid so I started The Indian in the Cupboard (Lynne Reid Banks) which then made me want to read A Wrinkle in Time.  


Today, I didn't want to go down my rabbit hole of infinite connections and no productivity because I have a week of house guests planned starting today and didn't think it would be that fun for them to have to vacation around my mess.  I kept pulling myself back to the original task at hand: organizing my room mess.  And I did it.  With lots of aborted sidetracking where I physically jerked myself away from another activity to return to the one at hand.

So right now, my room looks clean (all the mess are in bags and boxes down in my studio).  The guinea pigs are not fed. My plants are not watered. My sketch is not done. But I do have a glass of sparkly to my left as I finish this blog.   And my guests have just arrived.



  1. Your definition of winter makes me laugh! Try two years in Cleveland, OH!

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