The Gentle Art of Pottering

Mr. Levet this day shewed me Dr. Johnson’s library, which was contained in two garrets over his Chambers…. I found a number of good books, but very dusty and in great confusion. The floor was strewed with manuscript leaves… I observed an apparatus for chymical experiments, of which Johnson was all his life very fond. The place seemed to be very favourable for retirement and meditation. — James Boswell, Life of Johnson

This post might have been called “The Importance of Downtime.” According to the dictionary, pottering around (or “puttering”) means to “to be gently active doing various things in an almost aimless manner.” I sometimes pursue this form of leisure online with my internet radio account or LibraryThing.com.

My favorite form of pottering, however, is poking around my library. I usually do this late at night when it is quiet. I’ll dust the shelves, pull books out and peruse random pages. It’s not only relaxing but helps put me back in touch with ideas buried over weeks of thoughtless routine. At other times I smoke my pipe or cigar and potter about the yard. I imagine that’s what many people do who enjoy gardening.

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