On the value of nothing — it’s worth more than you think.

empty beach, sand with stones

My favorite days are nothing days.

Most of the time, our family calendar tumbles over its own neat edges. There are swim lessons, library story times, piano, Daisies, doctors appointments, play dates, homeschool group . . . . Minutes run by like a litany, a repetition that drones. On a nothing day, the calendar square is blank, unwritten. On a nothing day, almost anything can happen.

That “anything” usually starts small. Boredom seeps through the cracks. We drift, unmoored. The turbulence settles. Jewels begin to surface.

The kids grab picture books and cozy into our bed, piled round with pillows. There’s no rush to breakfast, toothbrushes, and tasks. We take our time. We dig in the garden and inspect the seedlings. We throw down grass seed, water it, and get mud between our toes. On a nothing day, we work through our homeschooling lessons without a sense of urgency, without feeling that the ticking clock is hammering its minutes on our backs.

We go for walks or do silly yoga in the living room. Rainbow Girl, my eldest, lingers at the piano all afternoon. Boo Monkey, age four, splashes with water toys in the bathroom sink or tromps around the house in nothing but socks, shin guards, and light-up sneakers. On nothing days, my kids invent new games or songs, poems or art projects. They luxuriate in the sense that time has widened, leaving a gap for creativity to blossom.

On nothing days, I stop chasing ideas, spiral-running. They arrive on their own, swifting wings. Characters are born in mid-stride. Plot gaps fill themselves with pirouettes. Nothing days deliver me up to indeterminate time. They create space for invention and discovery, for little lights that pop and sizzle. With my hands sunk in dish water or straightening the sheets on a bed, my mind takes off. Stories rush into the breach.

Most of my days feel like a carefully orchestrated puzzle, each piece with its predetermined location, its position on the grid. There is hardly any wiggle room, no elasticity. On a nothing day, the puzzle pieces shift and ramble. They fit where they choose, or not at all. Time stretches and I breathe within the slip-stream. I think, imagine, create. I find again who I am, beneath all the muddle, the rush, the lists and schedules with all their attendant anxieties. On a nothing day, I am. What is more valuable than that?





9 thoughts on “On the value of nothing — it’s worth more than you think.

  1. “On a nothing day, I am” – that is such a beautiful image. In the quiet of nothing, we can listen. We can hear what is waiting inside to speak to us. I wish you plenty of nothing days.

  2. I absolutely LOVE nothing days and you describe them perfectly. My kids are older now, and my daughter still loves nothing days, but with little kids there is something really magical about them! Nice post!

  3. This is how I feel about summer. The feeling is palpable for me- I can taste it coming like a mixture of fresh air and sunshine crystalizing on my tongue and then melting into the taste of everything that is possible for me and my family. The idea that I can concoct stories or games or field trips or delectable meals, or not, and no one will feel let down, least of all myself. I think poor Dan must get so tired of hearing me say “the world is my oyster”, but I know that he never tires of seeing the particular sparkle in my eye that only summer can bring. Delicious post, or is that the taste of summertime…?

    • Chelle, I know just what you mean. That feeling that “time is your oyster” has heft and power. Enjoy these months lady!

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