I have some relatives down in the Valley who show up now and then for a visit.
What strikes me when they come up here to the high country is the fact that they rarely stay for more than a day or so, even though some of them are retired and have places up here which are a good deal larger and fancier than my little place will ever be.
They zoom up here from the Valley, driving over a hundred miles to get here, stay hardly any time at all and zoom back down again.
They sometimes ask a question that confused me for a long time. They ask it in a lot of different ways, rarely asking it directly. But when they do ask it directly it's always put the same way: "What do you do up here?"
Most of the time, though, they ask the question indirectly.
It shows up in the expression on someone's face when I mention that by and large I'm as busy as a one-legged rooster in a cockfight. I can see the disbelief in their faces.
"Busy?" it seems to ask. "Busy doing what?"
Oddly enough, the answer to that question, though it took me a long time to realize it, was right there in the question itself, in that small five-letter word: Doing.
I have so much to do, I never, ever get everything done in a day that I would like to get done. There's gardening to be done. There's mowing to be done.
There's raking. There's carpentry. There's painting. With my wife ill, I'm the chief cook and bottle washer.
Then there's writing this column. There's writing the blog I do for the Roundup. There's....
Oh, there's plenty to do all right.
And then there's going for a stroll when the mood comes upon me, or talking to a neighbor, or checking the mail at the post office, or doing the shopping, or ... well, lots of things.
And then there's holding down the hammock in the back yard, so it won't blow away. And keeping an eye on the sparrows nesting in the tree over the hammock.
And checking the apples on the same tree. And inspecting the sky through the branches to make sure it's just the right color. And....
I never run out of things to do.
But when I mention those things to them they say, "No, that's not what I mean. I mean, what do you DO?"
It took me a while, but I finally figured out what they're really asking.
They're not asking, "What do you do?" They're asking, "What do you do when you're not doing anything?"
Now, that may sound crazy, but that's what they really want to know. I swear!
They don't want to know what I do when I'm up and about, or even when I'm stretched out prone under an apple tree. They want to know what I do when I am in one specific position -- sitting down doing nothing. As they define it, you see, in order to do anything, I have to be sitting down doing nothing. In front of a TV set. In a movie audience. In the stands at a baseball stadium. In a ...
Well, you get the idea.
That's why they zoom back down to the Valley so fast each time. They can't waste time up here doing nothing. They've got to get back down to the Valley and get something accomplished!
You have got to admire folks with that kind of ambition.