“Can’t You Just Sit Still”

My beautiful Mother said, “Bill, can’t you just sit still.” I was probably no more than five years old. I had no recollection of ever voluntarily sitting still for long. Neither did I understand why it might be desirable. My Mother could have given me a lengthy list. She was weary from tending to my new born brother.

My Father sat at the breakfast table all tall, slender and dashing in his double breasted suit. He quickly finished his breakfast, retrieved his stylish Bogart hat and slicked the brim. “Gotta get to work!”, he said to no one in particular. Then he bent over and patted me on the head. With his head drawn near my face he whispered. “Bill, remember you can’t sit still if you want to get ahead in this world.” Then he was out the door. With no one to arbitrate this clear conflict in parental commands I probably just went back to shoving my eggs and bacon around my plate.

How did this come back to me all these years later? I was working at the ranch today trying to brush away the rust of the winter from the plants in the greenhouse. Shoving the heavy pots outside to meet the gentle spring sun taxed my muscles, but satisfied some deep-seated need to grow things. I had come to the ranch to vegetate. I have been juggling some real life stresses lately that have finally resolved themselves. With them behind me I only wanted to go to the hill country to rest, regenerate and revitalize. The simple life was my quest as I rocked on the front porch, but the siren song of “Gotta get to work” called out. In a few minutes I was knee deep in the greenhouse.

I worked for several hours hauling my plants to just the right place around the house. As I stood dripping with sweat (that gentle spring sun was not so gentle), the question “Bill, why can’t you just sit still?” came back as if it had just been asked. The question I was pondering was not the one that my Mother had asked. This was a hardball existential inquiry and one that stopped me in my tracks. The corollary question of “what’s wrong with taking it easy?” also came to visit. Clearly, nothing is wrong with taking it easy. But because of DNA, environment or some other reason I don’t understand, I’m wired this way. After having thought about it I realized that I neither have to apologize for it nor do I have to regret it. I love writing my novels, writing this blog, traveling back and forth to Washington, D.C. and shoving dirt around at the ranch. It’s not right for everyone, but it is what keeps me alive and healthy. I wish you would all share what keeps your motor running.

One more thing, next week there is going to be a pop quiz on Texas history. There was a famous Texas hero who started a dust up with the Mexican army well before he met his untimely demise at the Alamo. I can’t wait to see if you can answer my tough question. I came across it while I was researching my next book. That’s all the clues you get for the moment. The first right answer will win a prize.