When my parents bought their place in Florida, almost twenty years ago, there was a truly horrible vanity in one of the bathrooms. It had gold-flecked formica on the countertop and gilt around the edge of the mirror. My mother, who likes to live a gilt-free, fleckless existence, wanted to burn it. “We can have bonfire of the vanity,” she said.
She said it for years, until they finally got around to doing some remodeling. Then, they opted to for the less dramatic but much safer option of simply having it carted away. I happened to be on the phone with my mother when the guys arrived to do it. “I have to go,” she said. “They’re coming to take the vanity.”
“While they’re at it,” I said, “could you ask them to take the sloth and the gluttony?”
Cue the rimshot!
We’re all afflicted with our fair share of the Seven Deadlies, and sloth and gluttony are my assigned lot.
Not that I’m immune from vanity – or wrath, or greed, or envy. It’s just that none of those forms a fundamental part of my character. As for lust, at my age I wouldn’t mind ramping it up a bit, but I don’t think it ever should have made the list in the first place. I mean, really, if you’re making a list of the top seven sins of all time, is lust even in the running? Where’s meanness? Ignorance? I’d even take pomposity over lust.
But there’s no question that sloth and gluttony should make the list, and it’s those two that will be my undoing. There’s nothing I like better than to sit around and eat.
This has been a particular problem lately because there’s a lot of stuff that’s supposed to happen around here in the spring.
Already, we’ve hauled, shoveled, and spread three yards of compost and two yards of mulch. We’ve taken down two trees and planted one. We’ve cut, split, and stacked an ungodly amount of wood. We’ve built three raised beds and filled them with strawberries and asparagus. We’ve transplanted a whole patch of our neighbors’ raspberries, and gotten our lettuce, kale, collards, arugula, and sugar snap peas into the ground. We’ve cleaned out the chicken coop and put in new litter and straw. We’ve raked enough leaves to fill a swimming pool.
By “we,” I mean Kevin.
Oh, sure, I’ve helped. More than a little, even. But the bulk of the work has been done by my husband. Sloth and gluttony are not his sins.
I have some excuse. It happens that I had a lot of freelance work just as we hit the busy season, but I’m not so good at getting that done, either. There were lots of times when Kevin was out in the yard, slaving away, and I was inside, “writing.” Writing is an activity that lends itself to the exercise of both sloth and gluttony. Because your computer is on your lap, it’s very easy to do time-consuming things that aren’t, strictly speaking, writing. You can read the New York Times or check your Twitter. You can e-mail your friends or play ken-ken. And, naturally, you can’t be expected to do any of this without a snack.
I like to think of this as working, but it bears a striking resemblance to sitting around and eating.
Last night was the last straw. Kevin decided to go fishing late in the evening, and he asked me if I wanted to come. We’d gone the night before, with nothing but one schoolie striper (Kevin’s) to show for it, and I had had one measly nibble all night. So, last night, I decided to stay home and “work.”
Kevin left the house at about 8:15. An hour later – one hour later – he called me to tell me he was coming home because he’d caught his limit, which is two striped bass 28 inches or longer. He was home inside half an hour.
Anyone who fishes will understand what a remarkable night of fishing this was. Kevin had to drive the boat to the marina (about three miles away), put it in the water single-handedly, park the truck, motor out to our favorite fishing spot, catch two gigantic fish, motor back, get the truck, take the boat out of the water single-handedly, and drive back home. He did this in an hour and a half. Door to door. It takes almost that long to go the fish market. That’s how good the fishing was.
And I missed it.
And I didn’t miss it because I had to work. I missed it because it was warm in the house and cold on the boat. I missed it because I was a little bit sleepy. I missed it because a book and another glass of wine sounded better than fishing. I missed it because I am slothful and gluttonous.
I’ve been making a lifelong effort to be less slothful and gluttonous, and it clearly hasn’t been entirely successful. As of last week, though, I have an advantage I’ve never had before – two hives teeming with role models.
We opened our hives for the first time on Thursday, and were amazed at the progress the bees had made in a mere five days. They had freed their queen from her cage so she could start the business of populating the colony. They had drawn out comb on most of the frames, and were busy loading them with pollen and nectar. They had cleaned out debris and dead bees.
The bees are everything I’m not.
The bees are everything I’m not. Focused, industrious, selfless. They begin their day as soon as the sun warms their hive, and don’t hang around for a second cup of coffee. They know what’s required of them, and they spend the entire day doing it, without dawdling or catching up on Facebook.
When they fly out to forage for pollen and nectar – get this – they bring it back to the hive and put it away, to be eaten later. They don’t eat it in the car on the way home, or leave it on the kitchen counter for a couple of days. They create different meals for different members of the hive – larvae, drones, the queen – and make sure dinner’s on the table every night. They keep portion size under control.
They keep their house spotlessly clean, turn in all their stories on time, and still find time to go fishing with their husbands.
There’s lots yet to do this spring. We have to get the rest of the garden in. We have to finish building the wood-fired oven. There are bushes to prune, and yet more leaves to be raked. We need to bait the lobster pots and take them out to the bay. We should force another set of shiitake logs. And there’s fishing to be done. Not only are the stripers running, there are bluefish out there, and we just found out the scup are in, too. Then there are the bees themselves. They’ll need feeding for a while, and then we’ll have to try and keep them disease-free and amply housed.
If I can manage to tackle all my jobs and temptations with even a fraction of the bees’ industry and restraint, it’ll be an excellent spring. I’ll get lots of work done, keep the house in good order, and lose a few pounds. But my role models take me only so far. If I have to live in a monarchy where the men don’t do any work and your jobs are assigned to you in a set rotation from the moment of your birth, I’m going back to sloth and gluttony.