Oh the ways I find to distract myself. Here I am at the cottage in Maine with no electricity and, consequently, fewer distractions. It was dark by 7:30 last night. At 8:00 I turned off my laptop to conserve power for the morning. Then what?

No TV to watch episodes of something I don’t really care about. No Freecell on my laptop to waste away on. I could read, I could sit and have a little wine, I could, what?

I read. I read until I got sleepy. It was 8:30. It was as dark as midnight, but I thought,

“I can’t go to bed at 8:30!” So I moved around, then read some more. By 9:00 I was sleepy again and decided to go to bed.

I suspect this is the way life was before our many electronic distractions. Before we learned to diddle on our phones every time we have a spare 15 seconds. Before we immediately went to Netflix because we didn’t want to think about how to use the evening. Before we had 24-hour news to see the stories we heard about earlier in the day. I am guilty of all the above, and more.

James Harriott, who wrote stories about his experiences as a veterinarian in rural Scotland, wrote of a house call he made one evening to a small farm in a remote area. A sister and her two brothers maintained the family farm after their parents died.

As Harriott approached the front door, he passed a window that looked into the front room of the small frame house. He glanced in to see the sister and brothers sitting in three chairs side by side. Sitting. Not talking, just sitting, peacefully and quietly.

After a hard day of work, this, he supposed, was their evening ritual from dinner to bedtime. Sitting.

I would do well to learn to sit more, allowing my mind to shift into neutral. I too often equate this with wasting time, but I know better. I know in the same way I know better than to equate being busy with being productive. I can stay perpetually busy, knowing I am wasting my time because I am not being mindful or purposeful with my actions. I am too often busy for the sake of being busy.

These few days of mostly solitude, with little distracting me, have provided powerful reminders of this. Being mindful and purposeful can transform any moment. It is the difference between being lazy to being still, from being busy to being productive.

I wonder how to take the woods of Maine back to West Texas.