A while back (was it already a month ago??), I expressed some reservations about “laureation,” specifically the proliferation of poets laureate on Martha’s Vineyard. Lee Mccormack had just given his inaugural reading as Martha’s Vineyard’s first poet laureate. Lee is a very fine poet, but wasn’t all this laureation hoop-de-do a sign of poetry’s irrelevance on the island rather than its vitality?
“Where will it all go from here?” I asked. “Will poetry become more visible in the island’s public life? Will more people be reading, listening to, and maybe even writing, poetry? That remains to be seen.”
The verdict is still out on that one, but it’s become clear in the weeks since that Lee isn’t resting on, or hiding behind, his laureation. Early in the month (IIRC), he circulated this poster on Facebook and proclaimed Thursday, September 27, “The Nothing Happening Day.” The proclamation read, in part:
This is the day when nothing happens, all day, for 24 hours. Nothing can happen at any time during the day, or all day long. It is entirely up to you how you choose to use this marvelous opportunity to make or let nothing happen.
It is a great day to be reminded of a time when nothing happened in your life, and then later, nothing else happened again.
When nothing is happening, it offers us all a fabulous opportunity to let it happen, so later we may be reminded of a time when nothing happened, and then, later, when nothing else happened again.
During this fabulous event, we may lounge around indolently or bury ourselves in busy work, but regardless of how we choose to spend our time, it is an excellent day for nothing to happen.
Response was immediate. Some immediately embraced the day to come. Others were uneasy: Nothing Happening was confused with Doing Nothing, and this caused concern among those with real-world responsibilities and inflexible schedules. Still others posted photos and links to songs and meditations about Nothing. Islanders and off-islanders previously unaware of each other’s existence gathered to play with Nothing.
On Nothing Happening Day a friend came over to help me make bread. She had never made bread before but turned out to be an excellent kneader. The sourdough did its thing and rising happened: Nothing to it.
In late afternoon I went to the community sing at the charter school. Nothing happened there either, but it sounded good and was really fun.
It was noted, by someone who knows, that Martha’s Vineyard is popularly thought to be a place where Nothing Happens, especially in the off-season, into which we are now sailing. This is true. Nothing Happens on Martha’s Vineyard in the off-season, so the thinking goes, because No One is here to do it. We aren’t going to set them straight.
It was also noted, by several different attendees, that dogs are past masters at Nothing Happening. This is also true. Pictures were posted to prove it. Most of what I know about Nothing Happening I learned from Travvy and his predecessor, the late Rhodry Malamutt. Travvy got the spirit long before the day started and it hasn’t departed yet.
Is Rhodry sleeping uphill? I sometimes do that in the summer because the walls are usually cooler than I am.
He’s in the front hallway of the little guesthouse where we lived at the time. The floor was faux-linoleum tile, very cool, as was the wall. Travvy’s favorite summer sleeping place is similar: at the foot of the inside stairs, an area about four feet square. He manages to arrange himself so he’s upside down and supported by two walls at once. Rhodry avoided carpets whenever possible. Travvy does too.
Observant Jews celebrate a “nothing’s happening” day every week. It’s called Shabbat, and it doesn’t have to be reserved only for Saturdays. You can create a Sabbath day, a Sabbath hour, anytime you want. Not easy, however, in this frantic, ADHD, overstimulated, always available world we live in 🙂
Very true, and I like the idea of Sabbath hours or mornings or afternoons. On Nothing Happening Day, I was more mindful and less anxious about not getting “enough” done. I like the feeling. Making time for nothing to happen . . . Well, when I first heard of “play dates” (first for kids, then for dogs), I thought the idea was ridiculous — until I realized how hyper-scheduled so many people were. So maybe Nothing is more likely to happen if it’s worked into the schedule. Or the calendar.