Last Word – Doing Nothing

Last Word – Doing Nothing

By Sarah Taylor-Foltz ’20

In late March of 2020, I took all of the removable padding out of my clothes and sewed masks for my family members from a free pattern that I found on Pinterest. As I sewed, I felt powerful. I was joining so many other people, all in our homes, creating protective gear for our loved ones. It was an expression of solidarity; we were together, while apart. I posted a picture of the masks to my social media and delivered them to the homes of my local loved ones, contact-free. Sewing felt like the only thing I could do.

The first book I read in 2020 is entitled How to do Nothing by Jenny Odell. It is a work of nonfiction about noticing birds, the importance of public green spaces, and how, through social media, capitalism dominates our collective consciousness, our free time and our attention.
It makes me laugh to think about how much nothing I have done since the novel coronavirus came to the United States because the nothing was so necessary. According to Odell, to do nothing, to take time out for your own thoughts, is an act of resistance. I think she is correct. To allow your thoughts to occupy your mind is to reclaim a sacred space.

Odell also writes about the importance of local networking and communities working together to create and preserve community spaces. In the last three or so months, ordinary Americans have been reminded of the importance of the local. We have remained in our homes, working remotely, cultivating new hobbies like baking and gardening. We have a new appreciation for our postal workers. We wear masks in public spaces and wash our hands to protect ourselves and our local communities. People are suffering terribly because of the coronavirus, and each person’s experience deserves attention. Further, suffering on this level exposes systemic inequalities in our healthcare system and our economy that my less enlightened brethren and sisteren are so insistent upon “opening.” In response to insurmountable pain, people sew masks, deliver groceries to their family members, donate money to people and organizations in need, emphasize the importance of local businesses, and send words of strength and compassion to one another.

I hope that we, as a society, can continue to find ways that support and comfort our local communities. I hope that those of us whose brains brim with constant chatter have found some peace inside the nothing. A clear schedule can be terrifying. I have done a lot of nothing, mostly happily. The outbreak came to my community at a time where I have been finishing my second graduate degree in five years, and my mind and body desperately needed some room to do no things. I used the time to sleep, walk in local parks and green spaces, draw, play piano and practice yoga. None of these activities are economically profitable, but they all can calm the mind. I have finally mastered the most difficult pose of all, savasana. Also called “corpse pose,” savasana is the pose at the end of the yoga practice where you just lie down and breathe. It is the nothing.

Springtime 2020
I am ashamed of how much I like quarantine.
I sleep and sleep.
Some people are dying and some people’s loved ones are sick and dying.
And I sleep and sleep.
I walk in unpopulated places and document the spring.
I take in the wildflowers and I take their pictures.
I point out this toad, this cardinal, this tree’s spidery branches.
I listen to the spring peepers. They are also called chorus frogs.
My partner and I frolic like children.
We listen to a woodpecker and try to spot it.
I point out the violets, the bloodroot, the daffodils.
We feel healthy and safe as long as no one is around.
I can ration my coffee forever as long as spring keeps coming.
We wipe down the groceries, we get naked on the porch and wash our clothes in hot water.
I learn to do embroidery and I draw pictures.
We stay up late and watch old movies.
But we are afraid when we cough, if we are tired, if we swallow too much pollen.
I read a story about a family having to say goodbye to their grandmother over FaceTime, and I cry in the kitchen by myself.
My friend’s uncle dies and she cannot properly put him to rest because his people cannot gather.
We walk in the hills.
I document the spring in a way that I never have before.
I take photo after photo.
I tell my partner that I like the trees with flowers.
He likes them all.

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