mad in pursuit

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get languidSaturday, 5.5.01
On Being Languid

I am disturbed by the demanding vision of the all-American lawn, metaphor for our relaxation ethic. Yes, it is finally spring in Rochester. Tulips are up. Cherry and apple trees are in glorious blossom. The air is warm and breezy. But, to my Ecuador eyes, as I power walk through suburban drives and lanes, it is the vast expanse of manicured lawn that dominates the landscape. This morning I saw a woman pushing a big Craftsman mower to skim off a half-inch of overgrowth. Another man pushed a wheelbarrow of dirt out to the curb to fill in a tire track so that the lawn would be perfectly smooth.

We can’t leave well enough alone. Well-tended lawns prove that we are disciplined and energetic and community-spirited. If we mow our own lawns, we can claim it as a Stress Reliever (reassuring one another that we are indeed under a lot of Stress).

To hell with it. Take a moment to savor what it means to be Languid. To be languid implies torpor, yes, and no small amount of decadence. I think of my recent days in the rainforest, where – though someone took the pains to cultivate a few flowerbeds – no one mows lawns. While the ecosystem outside my window did it’s self-sustaining thing, I poured myself a glass of wine, sprawled in an easy chair and read a convoluted book about expatriates in Paris pouring themselves copious glasses of wine and sprawling on beds and floors as they criticized the lives of those who are all talk and no action.

When was the rain going to start, I would ask myself. Sunny mountain air is a little too much call for action… all those trails to hike, all those rare birds to spot. Better a roof-drumming rain to seal off our tiny enclave from energetic pursuits. Besides, the hummingbirds are not troubled by rain and they come right to the feeders outside the window. When my wine-sloshed eyes start blurring the type in my book, I shift my gaze to the busywork of the hummers, getting my vicarious exercise from watching the poor devils poke at one another and jockey to dominate the juice.

As their whirring choreography lulls me into an even deeper state of ennui, I shuffle off to the bedroom and stretch out across the broad bed. Wine in the afternoon is perfect for reproducing the torpor of a steamy summer’s day, without the sweat. Eyes grow heavy and a dreamless sleep polishes off the day.


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