Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Boredom by Margaret Atwood

Tuesdays can be so dull. The week seems to stretch ahead with little hint of respite in our regimented lives. Wednesday is hump day - perhaps the worst - although one day we will be dead and in our last days we will probably give our right arm for a month of Wednesdays.

Still this circle of the week and the seasons can be claustrophobic. It can trap us in these ever decreasing circles like the rings inside a tree. Freedom is a relative concept, decreed by time, circumstance and wealth. Routine, once familiar and comforting, can also be our jailer.

And now we are trapped in our unbending ways, shuttered off in rooms and kept from the sun. Atwood's poem makes me think of the repetition of the saw and the hard and flat Canadian plains where there are no horizons. And God knows we need something to aim for.

Bored by Margaret Atwood

 All those times I was bored
out of my mind. Holding the log
while he sawed it. Holding
the string while he measured, boards,
distances between things, or pounded
stakes into the ground for rows and rows
of lettuces and beets, which I then (bored)
weeded. Or sat in the back
of the car, or sat still in boats,
sat, sat, while at the prow, stern, wheel
he drove, steered, paddled. It
wasn't even boredom, it was looking,
looking hard and up close at the small
details. Myopia. The worn gunwales,
the intricate twill of the seat
cover. The acid crumbs of loam, the granular
pink rock, its igneous veins, the sea-fans
of dry moss, the blackish and then the graying
bristles on the back of his neck.
Sometimes he would whistle, sometimes
I would. The boring rhythm of doing
things over and over, carrying
the wood, drying
the dishes. Such minutiae. It's what
the animals spend most of their time at,
ferrying the sand, grain by grain, from their tunnels,
shuffling the leaves in their burrows. He pointed
such things out, and I would look
at the whorled texture of his square finger, earth under
the nail. Why do I remember it as sunnier
all the time then, although it more often
rained, and more birdsong?
I could hardly wait to get
the hell out of there to
anywhere else. Perhaps though
boredom is happier. It is for dogs or
groundhogs. Now I wouldn't be bored.
Now I would know too much.
Now I would know.


  1. I like the way that ended. It's funny while I was reading that it took me back to some memories I have of time spent with my Dad. Probably at the time they happened when I was a kid I thought I was bored too. Now looking back, I miss those days and remember them as good times. Perspective makes a big difference, I guess.

  2. Oh, that Atwood. She gets right down the marrow. So do you, for that matter. ;)

  3. I know Daisy - we tend to miss the everyday things afterwards - aw thanks Jayne - well I try,lol

  4. Hola, quizás os interese saber que tenemos una colección que incluye el relato 'Death by Landscape' de Margaret Atwood en versión original conjuntamente con el relato 'The Progress of Love' de Alice Munro.

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