Hobbies for Pleasure

Andrea EhrgottBy Andrea Ehrgott      September 4, 2020

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Hobbies for Pleasure
Bluebirds. Illustrations by Andrea EhrgoTT
Self-isolation? Lockdown? No problem. I retired early a few years ago and then I was widowed unexpectedly so I’ve had a few years practice at being alone with no imposed structure to my daily life. I am now a champion at killing time and social distancing. I’ve adapted to boredom, and, as there is no competition, I can tolerate my own company, most of the time. Hobbies have helped fill long, empty days. A hobby is an interest or activity engaged in for pleasure. There is no mention in this definition of standards, competence level, grades, or proficiency; just pure pleasure. It is a pleasure to remain in bed after waking early to do nothing but watch the light filter through the curtains and flicker on the wall, listen to the birds’ dawn chorus, and read the news on my cell phone. This entertainment can be stretched to at least an hour. Easily. My next hobby, after breakfast, is doing ballet to ease those creaky joints. I use a wobbly office chair as my ballet barre, and stay dressed in pajamas and slippers for comfort. I’m delighted to discover that my arms have retained some muscle memory and know where to go. My legs, however, have a mind of their own, a very undisciplined one. Still, there are no judges and nothing diminishes the pleasure I feel at the end of the routine as I curtsy to the computer screen. Fortunately we are spoiled for hiking opportunities in the Santa Monica Mountains and even as trails close during this lock-down period, I can walk along the canyon and enjoy the absence of cars, the movement of swaying branches, darting lizards, dappled sunlight on leaves, and water flowing in the creek. My daily walks are aimless, no destination in mind, no real purpose. I simply put one foot in front of the other, move, and soak up the minutiae of my surroundings, allowing nature to steady my heart.
Double Crested Cormorant. Illustrations by Andrea EhrgoTT
My daughter started a quarantine bird art club and every day we paint or draw a different bird. Today it’s the osprey. We all submit our paintings and drawings by cell phone at the end of the day, and the group (8 of us at last count) shares comments and laughs. My renditions are inconsistent, often artless and unrefined. At first I had no enthusiasm for this daily assignment, but now I am hooked and if I haven’t been informed of the bird of the day by 9 a.m., I impatiently text my daughter with an “Ahem” message to wake her up. Her boyfriend posted photos of his bird drawings but also his freshly made loaves. Now the group has evolved with the development of a new offshoot interest: sourdough bread-making.
I’ve always liked a hot bubbly soak in the bath.

Paired with a good book to read, there’s nothing more luxurious. My reading is inattentive. I can’t always remember the title, the plot, and characters are confused, perhaps because I keep nodding off in the warm water. Recklessly extravagant, after a bath the other day, I rubbed expensive YSL Opium Body Cream on my arms and body and went for a hike. My husband would buy me a bottle of this from time to time and I only ever used it on special occasions because it was so absurdly expensive. But the other day I wondered what the hell I was saving it for, rubbed some on my arms and body and went for a hike alone. I smelled heavenly. I felt like Cleopatra of the mountains.

In the evening as I watch TV, I knit for my grandchild, due in October. My knitting has always been sloppy. The pattern is inconveniently in another room. It makes no difference as I don’t feel compelled to follow the instructions anyway. Besides, I read once that quilt makers of the past deliberately made a mistake or two in their beautiful creations so as not to incur God’s envy. I’ll borrow that excuse.

I futilely weed my garden. Grass has sprouted in flower beds and between paving stones so I pull out the weeds. I trim the sharp pointed ends of agave cactus. It makes no difference whatsoever to the appearance of the yard, but with no one at home to touch, I connect to life at a basic level, grooming the land, as it gets a break from our industrial onslaught.

My writing is erratic. I could be working on my book. But thankfully there’s always tomorrow, and a long string of empty tomorrows after that.
So far, so good. I am comfortable pursuing inconsequential activities, meeting low expectations, and filling time unproductively. As long as there is a supply of tea, I am perfectly adapted to the current situation. Survival of the fittest!
Andrea Ehrgott

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September 4, 2020

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