“Make space in your life for the things that matter, for family, friends, love & generosity, fun & joy. Without this you will burn out in mid-career and wonder where your life went.”
— Jonathan Sacks, English Orthodox Rabbi (1948-2020)
“Successful technologies often begin as hobbies. Jacque Cousteau invented scuba diving because he enjoyed exploring caves.”
— Freeman Dyson, English American physicist (1923-2020)
For the last 20 years before COVID, I had loved my job doing research. Digging, twists and turns, the “ah ha” moments, and following trails even when they ended at a dead end were all captivating. Doing research, writing a column, caretaking a home, along with a family, six ducks, four rabbits, eight goldfish, two cats, errands, chores, exercise classes, visiting friends, and church activities took up all my time. Now and then I would bemoan to Sam that I had no hobbies. If I were to quit the research job, what on earth would I do for pleasure? Though taking care of all of the above was a choice and a pleasure, what else could there be for me?
Then the Pandemic arrived. Writing this column and many other things could be done from home. So, we became homebodies. Sam continued to fish and provide fish dinners. Fishing is a practical hobby. It is done outdoors; it is quiet and peaceful; if it’s a good fishing day, the freezer is packed and meals are provided. It requires a talent of sorts — there are lots of things to learn about fishing. On my oath none of those techniques am I allowed to share here in this column.
So, forced to find other opportunities I began to think about hobbies I would enjoy. There are so many activities I cannot do well or enjoy. I don’t enjoy fishing and that’s really a good thing. I should have hobbies of my own. I don’t care for crafts because I don’t like clutter. What would I do with all the crafts? I cook well enough that we don’t starve, but I’m not really a good cook and don’t bake. Sharing my cooking disasters would fill another column. There was the time I caught the dish towel on fire.
Then one day as I crossed the lawn picking flowers I had planted, gathering dandelions and clover for the rabbit, filling the birdfeeders including the new hummingbird feeders, feeding the goldfish and watering the container plants, I realized these were the hobbies I enjoyed. And being at home allowed me the pleasure to enjoy what was previously a chore to complete and get to work.
As the Pandemic continued through winters, I picked up a book I had read years ago by Billy Graham’s daughter Ann Graham Lotz. It came with a study guide I had not studied. With time on my hands, I studied the guide and answered the questions thoughtfully. I came to realize I needed this sort of study. I needed to be asked questions so I could research. Research became a much-loved hobby, not a job. I was starting to get somewhere.
During the Pandemic our libraries closed. I reread my own books then I was graciously given a Kindle. I read 36 books by one author and countless others. I stumbled on situations I knew nothing about and that led to more research. Sometimes everything you’re looking for is smack dab in front of you.
Shannon Bardwell is a writer living quietly in the Prairie. Email reaches her at [email protected]