“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” - Flannery O’Connor
I told you a while back that writing was magic. That things are bottled up in your head, and you don’t know what you think until you write about them. In fact, I would argue that they are not really in your head – they are in the atmosphere, like water vapor, and they need you to sit at the keys in order for them to condense.
But it isn’t just magic – I think of it as my superpower. I am serious.
Example: I like to work in my yard. I also live in the inner-city. And people who live in the inner-city are not big landscapers or gardeners. I think my yard looks a mess, but all the neighbors talk about how good it looks. And, I guess, compared to theirs, it does. Most of theirs are various shades of green in the summer and brown the rest of the year.
So, I have been thinking about my yard, and the work I do in it, and how it is my hobby, and I have never had a hobby before and…
Obviously, I need to write about it. Because I don’t know what to think, or what I think. So, I sat down for 20 minutes and just started writing. This is very first draft, because most of the time, you don’t get to see this.
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I have never had a hobby before.
There is an argument to be made that my copious reading is a hobby, but some of that is work related, but I enjoy it. Or, I really enjoy the act of bookbinding, but I learned that as part of my trade when I was a used and rare books dealer – and I haven’t attempted to bind anything in several years.
The bookbinding feels more like it might have been a hobby, I think, than the reading does because it uses my hands. Any list of hobbies I can think of, the activities are all primarily physical – stamp collecting, running, hiking, knitting, scrapbooking, sailing, woodcarving.
The men I grew up around didn’t have hobbies. They had work and they had church and they had their families and that was a pretty full life. Yes, they had workshops and garages where they fixed broken shovel handles or they changed the oil on the family car, but that was economy, not a hobby.
The closest I think any of them came, and this was only a small set of them at that, was hunting. And even then, I think the hunting was less about the activity and more about the community that developed.
But barring hunting (something I found repugnant at an early age, thus calling my manhood into question before I even understood the concept of manhood), the idea or value of having a hobby was something never explained or modeled.
Which is a shame, really. Because, at the age of 41, I discovered a hobby that I enjoy, that I rush home to do, that provides me with relaxation and repose. I love to garden.
Yes, yes, I know – everyone in my childhood – every single family I can think of, had a garden out back of their house. But those were practical gardens. They were designed to provide a portion of the food the family ate for the year, thus reducing household costs.
Also, those gardens were very functional. They were designed for one thing – food production – and things like aesthetics and joy were secondary considerations at best.
But my garden, while still primarily comprised of edibles, has goals that are not just centered around production, but also include things like beauty, structure and integral cohesiveness.
In other words, I think for my forebears, a garden was a means to an end, and for me, it is a journey as well. This is, of course, a luxury I have, knowing my family will not starve if the sweet potato crop doesn’t come in.
# # #
And there it is. A hobby is a luxury. And my neighbors are stuck very much in survival mode, and mostly renters, so spending money on hobbies – especially hobbies that are tied to a given place, are just not on their radar.
Now, this might not be right, of course. But the thing is, I thought about it by writing about it. And it was in the atmosphere, just waiting to be condensed by my sitting at the keys. All I had to do was just show up.