It is an ordinary Saturday: food shopping, laundry, a trip to the library, cooking, eating, watching a movie, sleep. I pick up a copy of Aldo Leopold’s book A Sand Country Almanac from the library and stick it on my shelf. I read a little, not Leopold but something else. I read around 20 pages and move on to the next thing. It is then that I realise how I parcel up time, how I allow a little bit of time for this and a little bit of time for that, just a little maybe 20 or 30 minutes a task then move on. The only activity I don’t parcel is walking, walking is somehow beyond time but I parcel it in a different way by only doing it at specific times: a day off, Sunday after dinner. If I walked on the everyday it might be all that I do.
I realise that all the books I read, everything I’m attracted to, is about immersion. I read about Dillard immersing herself in nature, Thoreau immersing himself in the self-sufficient life; I read about Davidson immersing herself in the desert and her camels, I read about Tesson immersing himself in the forest. I read about Maitland immersing herself in silence and I think about the desert fathers and how they immersed themselves in the desert and silence and God and I am jealous in a way I can’t describe. I read about immersion, but I cannot immerse myself. Maybe I read about it because I cannot immerse myself, but why can’t I? Nothing compels me to do this and that and the other things. Nothing prevents me from spending an entire day reading, or lying in the grass or staring at the stars; nothing prevents me from staying awake all night just to experience it, to feel how it is to breathe the cold night air and watch the stars turn and see the Milky Way in its living glory or spend the night counting meteors. Nothing prevents me from spending day upon day writing; sure there are practical considerations – bills must be paid, food prepared and eaten, the children must go to school though only because the state compels it, things need to be cleaned and maintenance needs to be done. But these things do not have to be all. These things do not define us, however much they try. Their claim is only as much as we allow it.
Perhaps, in my reading, I am learning how not to allow it.