To Do: some unimportant things, not at all urgently

Excuse me. Sorry to interrupt the inner monologue. Apologies for butting in on the ongoing To Do List. Obviously you have other priorities. There are, of course, ‘better’ ways for you to be spending this time.  

Thing is, though, sometimes it’s good to prioritise the non-urgent. To contemplate the unimportant. To be thankful for the small. This is a Public Service Announcement.

Sometimes it’s good to sharpen all your pencils. Watch the coils curl and drop. Smell the wood. Push the sharpened point into the pad of your finger. Use the new pencil on a new page in a pad. What a lovely invention. Good one, humans. Nice work.

Consider the beautiful invitation to adventure that is the Australian path to the beach. Scrubby bush carved out by bare feet and surfboards. Signs depicting dangerous animals. A kid’s hat perched on the fence post in case someone comes back for it. Best of all maybe, that spot of blue glistening through the tunnel, which, when you enter it, goes instantly dark and silent, like a secret from the rest of the world.

A new haircut. Nothing like it. Feel it lift you into another version of yourself.

Poetry. Stay with me. Song lyrics count. William Butler Yeats reckoned he was going to set himself up in a small cabin with nine rows of beans, where he would “live alone in the bee-loud glade”. Now, next time you’re somewhere thick with undergrowth and you hear the low drone of bees, try and stop yourself thinking the phrase “bee-loud glade”. Pretty hard not to. And not to put too fine a point on it but your old mate James Joyce famously described a wintery coastline as “the snot green sea, the scrotumtightening sea” so there’s not much doubt poetry can paint a mind picture. It’s got attitude too. Don’t mess with Dorothy Porter when she declares she has “no head for heights/ but plenty of stomach for trouble”. Seriously, if you know a line of poetry, or a bar of a song, the words can sit alongside you sometimes, when you thought it was just you sitting alone.

Banksias are so weird. How great is a world where banksias are just a normal thing, exploding like hedgehogs from the branches of trees, turning into different versions of themselves, propagating like gorgeously designed seed pods sent from outer space.

Marmalade is nice. Even if you don’t like marmalade, you like the word marmalade. If you don’t like the word marmalade I can only suggest you have a nice cup of tea and watch a David Attenborough documentary and see if you feel better after a lie down.

Sometimes, the power goes out. No I realise that isn’t always absolutely amazing. But when the power goes out, or there’s a fire drill, or something happens that makes all the humans have to partake in a compulsory group activity, it really is quite an excellent example of humanity at its best and its worst. The nervous giggling, the team bonding, the problem solving, the “hilarious” gags people make at the expense of whoever is to blame. And there’s always something that can’t be done. Computers can’t be used, or the cards won’t work that are supposed to get you into the building, or you have to find a candle in a house you’re staying in that’s owned by someone’s uncle. We live in a world that prioritises convenience so much that, when we are without it, a small part of us feels relieved. It’s out of our control. We are under no obligation to Do All The Things. When the power goes out, or the server’s down at work, or you have to evacuate with everyone on the seventh floor down a stinky stairwell, you aren’t allowed to make the usual choices you make, and so you swim with the tide. You talk to someone called Todd who is a graphic designer from way down the other end of the building, and forevermore, when you see Todd in the lift, you and Todd behave as though you have survived something together. There’s a deep understanding between you that nobody can take away, because of a fire drill. So here’s to the power sometimes going out.

By all means go back to the To Do List. By all means, deal with everything life is throwing at you, but remember the poetry and the marmalade and the banksias, and take every opportunity life offers you to front up to a beach track and feel the rest of the world fall away.

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

This article appeared originally in The Big Issue Australia. Please support Big Issue vendors when you get a chance.