Random blog-like rambling from Rachel's brain. A mixed up mess of usability posts, fiction, and travel.


lapidary - \LAP-uh-dair-ee\


1 : a cutter, polisher, or engraver of precious stones usually other than diamonds
2 : the art of cutting gems

Confessions of a Hobbiest

After the death of my wife I discovered that I was boring. She probably kept this fact hidden from me during our 30 year marriage out of kindness. Suddenly on my own, I was confronted with the problem of spending more time with myself than I was used to. It happened at 3pm on a Wednesday. After finishing the crossword, the soduku, the word find puzzle and that game for children where you try to find the five differences between the two seemingly identical scenes when it struck me. I was boring, and if I was to spend another minute with myself I might well go crazy. Also, I was only able to find four differences and was dangerously close to setting the newspaper on fire.

My daughter told me I needed a hobby. "Something to keep you busy", she said in what I was sure was the same tone she used with her own children when they were bothering her. Still, this was the only idea I had at my disposal. I would, I decided, find myself a hobby.

Unsure how to get started, I went to the bookstore and found a section labeled, helpfully, "Hobbies". I had never known how many useless pursuits there were and for a moment considered going home, having a tea, and trying out "napping" as a hobby. I persevered. After a half hour of browsing, I chose a book about gardening and took it home.

I learned over one week of planting, weeding, and dirt under my fingernails, that I was a useless gardener.

I returned to the bookstore despondent. Perhaps I needed an indoor activity. Gardening involved far too much time in the sun, on your hands and knees. Also, slugs. This time I spent more time selecting, it would not do to fail again so spectacularly.  After much consideration, "drawing" seemed harmless enough.

My daughter came by during this week and saw my drawings. Her reaction was some sound I was unfamiliar with, but her words of encouragement sounded very much like her praise for the fingerpaintings her 5 year old has pinned on their refrigerator. I knew the drawings were poor of course, but I also knew that unlike my grandson, I had had very little fun making them.

Over some months I made my way through learning chess, playing the harmonica, model ships, and even stamp collecting. I began to despair for my ability to enjoy just about anything. I was about to pay for a book about origami when the young woman at the counter smiled and said to me, "My father used to polish stones". I was momentarily baffled and could not understand why anyone would want to do such I thing. This probably showed on my face, she added "he found it very relaxing I suppose".

I tried to imagine myself polishing stones. When I thought about it it was no less absurd than any of my other attempts over the past several months. "I haven't seen any books on that" I said.

"We could order one" she offered with a bigger smile, adding "you remind me of him." somewhat more quietly. It seemed rude then to not agree to this. 

The book came in a week later, well after I had grown tired of folding paper into obscene approximations of animal shapes. The polishing of stones, of course, required additional equipment which I rounded up at a hobby shop, the proprietor of which I'm sure was growing tired of me. I started in on my stones the next day. 

It is hard to know, I suppose, what types of activities may interest a person by merely looking at them. However, the young woman from the bookstore clearly saw something in my face that said "stone polisher". The motions soothed me, the stones, once polished, were cool and smooth in my hands. While in the midst of my new hobby, I found that I was, perhaps, enjoying myself a little. 

I am still boring. No one would call stone polishing titillating entertainment. The days seem less long though, and sometimes I even feel as if I may not be lonely.