I don’t usually do nothing. I’m not a do-nothing person.
But here, in the mountains in our house built of logs, I feel like I have not only permission but almost an obligation to do nothing.
If it’s pouring outside, I can spend the day listening to the rain on our metal roof while lying on the couch with a good book.
If it’s warm outside, I can choose the hammock.
In the morning, I sit on the deck perched on a tall chair with a cup of coffee, watching as the mist rises like steam over the river below and lifts to reveal layers of mountains disappearing into the horizon.
I sit again at night in an Amish rocker as the air cools, and I listen to the call of the whippoorwill.
I plant flowers. I sweep floors. I wash clothes. I make meals. I always plan on writing, but I usually get distracted by doing nothing.
When I’m here in the mountains, even when I’m doing something, it feels like a vacation.
I organize the pantry, clean out a closet, schedule for repairs. If it’s a long weekend and I have time, I’ll boil sugar water and put out a hummingbird feeder. I buy fresh, local peaches in the summer and apples in the fall, and in the spring I’ll get strawberries by the gallon, little glistening red gems that are so sweet they’re like juicy lumps of sugar.
My daily exercise is a hike along the river or through the mountain trails.
I call the drug store, and the pharmacist answers immediately, in person. When I stop by later to pick up a few things, there are no lines, there is no waiting. I go to the local nursery to buy plants and it’s like walking through a candy store. I salivate all the while over the bright, luscious blossoms, and I get gorgeous potted arrangements at bargain prices.
I drop by our post office to mail a letter, and there is a box of tiny green army soldiers and a sign that says, “Please take one and remember to pray for our service men and women.”
We go to church, a small one-roomed chapel, and afterwards we walk to the local grill to have dinner with friends from the congregation. Someone always picks up the tab for our priest.
We built the place almost 20 years ago, now. We hunted for a couple of years, driving from Greensboro to Hartwell to Hiawassee and back down to Ellijay, looking for just the right spot for a family retreat. Did we want to be in the mountains or on a lake? Those are your choices if you’d like an easy two-hour drive from Atlanta. Our compromise was a North Georgia river, and our river is the Toccoa.
We planned the design and the details of the cabin together, as a family. Our general contractor went AWOL when it was time to pour the foundation, and, with the encouragement of my builder, I ended up GC-ing the job. I went through two electricians and three masons. I chose the logs for the structure, the rocks for the fireplace, the nails for the floor, and handled everything in-between. The place seems more like ours because of it.
When we’re here in the mountains, we are an undistracted family. We play board games and card games together. If there’s something good showing, we’ll go to the drive-in theater—one of the last of its kind in the U.S.—where the kids used to buy funnel cakes and toss footballs or Frisbees while waiting for the sun to set. My husband built a tree house with the twins when they were young, and all of our children have taken turns blazing trails with him.
We go kayaking and canoeing and wading, when the river is down.
We watch birds. We pick blackberries. We bake apple pies in the fall and berry cobblers in the summer. We churn ice cream. We chop wood. We roast marshmallows for s’mores. We look for tracks in the snow.
We sit in rocking chairs and stare at the mountains and the river and the wide open sky.
And mostly, we do nothing.