I am bored out of my mind, doing nothing, looking at nothing, writing nothing, noticing nothing, beginning to wonder where the hell this word boredom came from, because sometimes the DNA of a word answers a question you didn’t know to ask. I remember once looking up the word “acceptance,” because I was having a hard time with something I couldn’t change, and among the words that acceptance evolved from, was one that meant “a thread used in weaving.” And at once I understood. Maybe it frays, maybe it breaks, but you have to weave it in and keep on weaving. But damn it, boredom seems to have no traceable origin. Somehow, out of a word that means to drill, and/or the hole that is drilled, appeared this listlessness, this utter lack of curiosity, tinged, at least for me, with irritation. And this meaning showed up seemingly out of nowhere, it has no antecedents. Boredom arrived in our vocabulary, fully formed, in 1852. Something to do with the publication of Bleak House, but I can’t follow the connection. No culture wants to claim it, boredom is an orphan.
Somewhere once I read, or think I read, that when a boxer is on the ropes, fending off blows from another boxer, that this is a called being bored. I love this, being a fan of understatement. Trouble is I can’t find the source, and “I’m so bored,” suggests something unexamined, something internal. A self-inflicted wound. It’s probably the precursor to depression. I need to pay attention.
So here I sit, drinking my coffee, one minute I’m gazing into nothing in particular, the next, I’m staring at the window, where dozens of flies have suddenly morphed out of thin air. Spontaneously combusted! They can only be cluster flies, my least favorite kind. Hunting under the sink for something, anything, to do them in, I grab a bottle of Windex, hoping it will finish them off. They are single-minded, these flies, they stick together and they never leave the window, their sole purpose seems to be to bump toward the light, the warmth, the window, and I start spraying. The flies struggle, but I persevere, and after what seems like forever, wings held tight against their bodies, the flies are sliding down the glass on streams of the liquid, like a fatal carnival ride. I tell myself this has to have been a better death than the fly swatter. I get the Dust Buster and vacuum them up. Ugh. I don’t know how to open the Dust Buster, which is ridiculous, and the flies are still in there, one or two beginning to stir. I put it on the porch. I’ll wait until Catherine comes over, she’s good at things like this. I sit back down in my chair. The dogs have slept through the whole ordeal, still asleep on the couch. I don’t think dogs are ever really bored.
As luck would have it, right outside my window I notice a feather, caught perhaps on a loose strand of spiderweb, floating back and forth, round and round on a breeze that keeps changing its mind. Where did it come from? The original word in English has always meant feather, but its plural means wing. Loving this, I am still watching as this small white anonymous feather that I might easily have missed, drifts into, then out of my life.
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