Focusing (or not)

There are certain things I like to do each day to make me feel as if it’s been worth the effort of dragging myself out of bed. I’m not a morning person and other than that delicious cup of coffee first thing, there isn’t much to lure me from the warm covers. The workday is something to be gotten through, unfortunately, and mostly I look forward to my time in the evenings. I stay up too late trying to fit in all the things that make a day worthwhile to me. When the weather and increased daylight allow it, I’m outside for as many hours as possible. Weekends and other days off from work are filled with as many postive and fun things as I can manage. I go to bed early and contented on the weekends.

I’ve often thought that I’d be happiest in a job that allowed me spend most of the workday outdoors. This realization only really came to me after I finished two degrees, both of which confine my days to a desk or a classroom. Before deciding to start my master’s so that I could teach and have the summers off, I used to daydream about a job picking vegetables. Or delivering mail. Anything to avoid sitting at a desk all day surrounded by people and their negativity. And office politics. I taught full-time for a few years and enjoyed summers free of any responsibility but to my own joy. I then decided to teach just part-time and took courses in horticulture and volunteered with a few favorite environmental organizations. I took a second part-time job with the park system as a naturalist. I learned to play the tin whistle, although not well.

Then other stuff came along and I had to go back to full-time work because, while I was having plenty of fun, I wasn’t making enough money at any of it. Being a grown-up stinks. So now I have the full-time job and all the drudgery that entails, plus I teach part-time, and still volunteer for a few groups. I’ve had to let the tin whistle fall by the wayside. I wasn’t making very much progress with it anyway, plus it scared the bunnies. My point (I think) is that all of our lives are very full and that’s a good thing. At least, for me it is. I’m not really focused in my interests and I’m as likely to pick up something new as I am to let something go when I find that it’s not working for me. Must be the Gemini in me.

One constant in my life and something that keeps me focused is nature and a love of the outdoors. Everyday I try to find some little bit of time to spend there. I look to it for optimism and strength. I look to it for the beauty that is so often lacking in other aspects of daily life.

Five beautiful things that I’ve spotted recently are:

  • 9 deer browsing in the woods where I like to walk the dog. I’ve never seen deer there, and was happy to see 5 of them with antlers proudly raised to watch me as I passed by.
  • Snowdrops blooming in a neighbor’s hillside garden, amid ice-covered branches that fell in the recent icestorm.
  • The endless shades of brown in a field of corn stubble, weeds, and winter trees.
  • Sandy Hook Bay is mostly frozen; if I focus on the near distance instead of the houses and naval base on the far shore, I can imagine that I’m looking at glaciers in the Arctic. Some seals would add to that effect.
  • The crows who have been warily visiting my feeders this week, snatching up peanuts and stale bagels. They never seem as beautiful as they do in the stark days of winter.

A multitude of small delights constitute happiness. -Charles Baudelaire

22 thoughts on “Focusing (or not)”

  1. Your five beautiful things are just that…beautiful. Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive (especially in the winter, for me), but you seem to be doing a pretty good job of it.

  2. Laura, I almost stated in my blog tonight that I’d wish to work in a nursery part-time. There aren’t enough hours in the day to stop and enjoy what we see… The other day I was taking Chloe to the vet and passed a beautiful pond with several deer grazing near it. I would have stopped but I had to get to work, eventually…

    You do a great job of managing your time and cheer us with your views. Hang in there. Spring is very close!

  3. My wish for everyone is that they can find something that they love to do, get paid for it and be fulfilled. I am lucky that I found RAPTOR, and who knows? Something might just come along like that for you, too.

  4. From your lips to God’s ears, Susan! LOL

    Laura, I feel exactly the same as you do. There are some great benefits to my job, including the ability to walk to work through Central Park each day, but it’s not really fulfilling. Over the years I’ve wracked my brain to figure out what I could do that would be more edifying but no such luck. You’ve got my empathy!

  5. Nature does refresh and energize us. I do love my job, but some days I look out at the grounds man, who maintains the 17 acres outside, and wish I had his job. He used to be a nurse in the hospital and he traded his stethoscope for a riding cart!

  6. I know how you feel, girl! I would love to have a job that felt more meaningful and that would be more active. But there’s always those pesky bills to pay.

    Find joy where you can. Keep working to fund your real life. And count the days to retirement!

    LOL about the bunnies being scared of the tin whistle! 😀

  7. Your blog is beautifully written and elegantly inspiring.

    I grew up in NJ (Margate); lived in NYC (Manhattan) for over a decade. Now I live in Brussels, Belgium (for more than 8 years.)

    Anyway, it’s nice to have stumbled across a blog written by a fellow New Jerseyan 😉

    God bless,
    Trish (

  8. I think you are right in that we have to find joy and beauty where we can. My husband is another who’s work is not what he’d rather be doing. I don’t think it’s that uncommon. I frequently remind him that he has to find other ways to feed his soul. I’m glad you’ve found your beauty and that you share it with us.

  9. Part of today’s Heartfelt Blessing said, “May you always be willing to let go of that which no longer serves
    so you can get a better grasp on those things that do.” As long as we can continue to see the beauty around us, we are ahead of the game. Your blog shares the beauty Laura, and enriches my soul.

  10. Laura, this is something that I’ve been wrestling with for years. And I’ve been thinking about your post all day. Since you have your masters, can you teach a plant id class or a bird id class or something like that at your community college? That way you could be outside for class as much as *you* want.
    My day job was ripped away from me and I’m now trying to decide what to do for my new day job. I know what it’s like to dread every single work day and to suck as much out of the evenings and weekends as you can. You’re very talented. I’m sure you’ll come up with a partial or full solution.

  11. Laurie: I’m trying!

    Mary: I think we’re ahead of the game if we notice the pretty things, even if we don’t stop – so many people don’t even see.

    Susan: Timing is everything. I’ll second your wish.

    Beth: I wouldn’t say that my jobs aren’t fulfilling – I like both well enough. If I had it to do over again I would have made different choices when I was in school, that’s all.

    Ruth: Thanks for that perfect story. Maybe I’m just feeling that the grass is always greener somewhere else.

    Bunnygirl: If you heard me play – you’d understand why it scares the bunnies! The tin whistle reminds me of when I was in grade school and learning to play the clarinet – I had no control over the instrument! I love it though and would love to have more patience with myself.

    Trish: Hi – thanks for visiting. I don’t know that I’ve ever actually been in Margate, but I’d know Lucy anywhere!


    Lynne: Thanks – I know I’m just whining. But it feels good to do sometimes.


    Endment: The quote I found in “Finding Water” – I’m giving that a try.

    Jayne: Lovely bit of wisdome there, and thanks for your kind words. 🙂

    Robin Andrea: It’s easy to forget and get caught up in negative stuff. I need to make a list like this more often to remind myself of life’s blessings.

    Pam: I’m a wanderlust at heart and not happy (or interested) with one thing for very long. One of my life’s challenges.

    I don’t have a strong enough education in science to do any of those things well. I could go back to school, don’t know that I’m committed enough for that yet.

    Thanks, though. Most everything happens for a reason – I’m sure you’ll find a good answer soon too.

    FC: Keeps me out of trouble!

  12. I made more as a tech. illus. But, floral design was more satisfying. So, it worked out anyway.
    We do what we can.

  13. Laura – those five beautiful things – you are a poet. I’m trying to make myself do less blogging and more organizing and cleaning – then I read your post and think: I could have missed this. So I lay the blame for the waiting pile of laundry at your talented feet ;0)

  14. z (the artist formerly known as silverlight): giggle! I can see how you might be more happy with flowers all day! I think it’s perfectly wonderful to sacrifice money for happiness.

    Endment: I’m so glad to see you posting again.

    Cathy: Please don’t blame your dirty laundry on me! I’ve got plenty of my own! lol! I spend too much time at this also, but it’s fun, isn’t it?

  15. -I find that if I don’t give a 100% inspired effort at the workplace ,I will have a negative feelings about my job and my personal effort. When I am in the midst of “giving it my all”,I feel fine. It is difficult to get in to that frame of mind day in and day out over a period of years. The mere anticipation of going in to work can suck the lifeforce right out of you.–Your comments are inspirational but these are the type of thoughts that go through my head when I’m out in nature.-What is special about them, is that you are able to express those feelings in words.-That is something that is something I find very difficult to do. It feels almost too personal to put in writing.- You’re writing some really great posts.-I see why you have a following.

  16. Larry: Thanks – we’re all friends here and I love the play of ideas from a diverse group of people. Thanks for your comment.

    I feel like I’m past giving 100% plus at my job – I do my best – but any more than that doesn’t seem to earn me any points with anyone – maybe just more work! I don’t work corporate though, so I’m sure that makes a difference.

    I think personal integrity is very motivational, yet I understand how that desire for perfection can wear a person out.

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