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Lekwa: Making time for our ‘unplanned’ adventures

Steve Lekwa

I was given a gag gift at a staff party many years ago. It seems I had something of a reputation for being late for meetings. The gift was a little framed quote. I don’t know who gets credit for saying it first. I only know I still agree with it and the sentiment it carries. “The clock is a conspiracy & crime against humanity & I would not own one … except I miss appointments without it.” The little quote was on my office wall for many years and sits beside me right now.

A Franklin Planner book became part of my life a couple of years after that gift. I don’t know if it really helped me be more punctual, but it seemed to constantly encourage me to write in more tasks; to fill in every available moment with some sort of activity so that no time would be wasted. It wasn’t just day-by-day planning, either. Major chunks of time were blocked out weeks in advance for this, that and anything else. I stopped using the Franklin Planner the day I retired.

I loved taking off my watch whenever I headed into the back country for a hiking or canoeing trip.

Planning and measuring my time turned out to be a bit like an addictive drug, though. Even though I resent blocking out time for activities well into the future, I couldn’t break myself from doing it. I still find myself writing commitments on calendar pages and “to-do lists” on scratch paper notebooks. There is a certain satisfaction when tasks are checked off as done, but it doesn’t compare with the pleasure of seeing a future with major blocks of unplanned time.

Perhaps my life would be better served if I’d write “plan nothing” into meaningful chunks of at least some days, or maybe even for several days. Planning nothing is quite different from doing nothing, though.

Perhaps that open day out there in the future will turn out to be a good day for a walk or bike ride. Perhaps a cold front would be pushing a bunch of ducks south that day and a trip to the marsh would be in order. Maybe the bluegills and crappies would be on the spawn beds that day and very willing to hit a fly or little jig.

It’s hard to say what any block of time might best be used for. Each day presents multiple possibilities, but it’s clear that I can’t predict weeks in advance which of many interesting possibilities should become a priority on any given day. As soon as I commit to doing something with an open block of time, all the other possibilities are out the window.

I’ve always been drawn to toddlers and their sense of timelessness. They live in the moment. They don’t plan, but they keep busy doing whatever the moment seems to call for. Tomorrow is an endless stream of possibilities for a 3-year-old, and yesterday is hardly worth a second thought.

I remember the burden that time became as I grew older and more aware of its passage. Would school never end? Why did summer seem to fly by when I wanted it to last longer?

Time flies ever faster now that I have reached “senior citizen” status. I find myself wondering if there’ll be enough time to see the grand kids grow up, to take trips to places I’ve never been and would still like to see, or even go back to places I’d like to see again.

Trips usually require lots of prior planning and blocking out good stretches of time many months in advance. I know I might miss a chance at something else once I block out that time, but there’s no way around it.

Minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years. We grown-up humans are fixated on time — measuring it and filling it. But we’re the only life forms that are so shackled to time.

Wild creatures accept each moment as it comes, and do what seems appropriate with it. So do little children. There’s some wisdom and joy that we grown-ups have lost in that.

Though I may not be able to completely let go of my addiction to measuring time and filling it, perhaps I can take off the watch and become a little more “in the moment” if I try real hard.

I made no New Year’s resolutions this year. Perhaps I should resolve to “just be” more often, keep the calendar as open as possible and let each day present its own interesting possibilities.

Steve Lekwais the former director of Story County Conservation. Contact him at 4lekwas@midiowa.net.