When I first get up in the morning, I need to putter around in the kitchen, just to get my engine warmed up. When I get into my studio to do a bit of quilting, I need to putter, touching fabric that catches my eye, brushing away stray wisps of thread. Al putters in the garden first thing every morning, checking out the plants, the fish, the weather. No purpose, really, but important, nonetheless.
|Puttering in my studio (a square from 2008)|
The dictionary tells me that to putter is “to busy or occupy oneself in a casual or ineffective manner, with little action, energy or purpose.” Other not very complimentary words are used for puttering: dawdling, frittering away, unproductive wasting of time. Bah humbug.
Ignore the dictionary. The quote in Daily Joy has a more positive spin. “Puttering is really a time to be alone, to dream and to get in touch with yourself...To putter is to discover.” (Alexandra Stoddard). Much better.
“Puttering” has a cousin: “poking around”. Poking around happens when you go somewhere you’ve never been before to see what you can see. The “somewhere” could be just about anywhere: a shop, a town, or even a place in your mind which you’ve never explored. I had a lovely poking around experience this week when my friend Trudy and I decided to exercise our newly acquired senior privileges. (BC residents who are 65 or older get to ride the ferries for free Sunday through Thursday.) We hopped a ferry and crossed the salt chuck to Powell River to see what we could see. We called it a cruise. We poked around in art shops, a used bookstore, a yarn place called “Great Balls of Yarn.” We had lunch, and then we hopped the ferry and came home again. It was a lovely poking around day.
When I was exploring the idea of “puttering” I poked around on the Internet. You never know what you’ll find there. I found out that some people just don’t get the idea of puttering – 90% of the quotes on the word “putter” revolved around – would you believe it? – certain clubs you use when playing golf! My mind would never have gone there. See what happens when you poke around? (My apologies to those people who think that golf is a great puttering activity. You could be right.)
My best find of the day came when I ran across this quote by writer Brenda Ueland: “So you see, imagination needs moodling - long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” Moodling?! That word sent me on another poke around. Moodle, of uncertain etymology, means to dawdle aimlessly, to idle time away. Playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote admiringly in favour of it. “Napoleon often moodled about for a week at a time doing nothing but play with his children or read trash or waste his time helplessly,” he wrote in Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism. Apparently, moodling and accomplishments are not mutually exclusive.
|Adirondack chairs are great places to moodle in the summertime.|
I know there’s a time for everything. There is a time to concentrate, get down to work, be disciplined (or I’d never get this blog written). But there certainly also needs to be a time for moodling (or I would never have gotten this blog written.) I’m wondering if anyone else wants to join the SPCM (Society for the Promotion of Carefree Moodling) that I’m thinking of forming. It would be a very loose, unstructured organization, you understand. No meetings, bylaws, rules or regs.
But when someone catches you doing nothing with a dreamy look on your face, you could say, “Oh, I’m just doing some research for the SPCM.” Doesn’t that sound good?