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Messing About in Life

Messing about in boats.

Two people in blue rowing boat passing under a giant willow tree.
Messing about in a boat on the lake at Evergreen. Photo by Rob Ainsworth.

I’m an expert bread maker and can pull-start a petrol-driven water pump with ease. But I’m a definite amateur when it comes to rowing.

I grip the oar awkwardly and almost half the water in the wetlands lake that forms at the front of the house every year lands in the lap of the person behind me. If I ask one of the children to come for a row with me, they insist on packing a picnic lunch because they’re not sure when my inexpert manoeuvers will bring them back to shore.

But it’s fun. When I’m out on the water I’m reminded of that line by Ratty to Mole in Wind in the Willows:

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.’

Messing about in boats is acceptable but messing about in life is usually frowned upon. Most regard life as serious. We must be earnest. We think endeavours should be at the top of our to-do list every day. Otherwise, there is no meaning, no reason to get up and splash our faces with cold water and don publicly acceptable clothing.

We seek meaning through what we do, what we accomplish. If what we’re doing isn’t advancing the meaning of our life, then it’s a waste of time.

So, me making bread or pumping water has meaning. It’s getting me somewhere. But rowing on the lake, well, that usually has me going in circles.

In The Presence Process by Michael Brown (2012, p.136):

When we live in time, we spend our days seeking the meaning of life. In contrast, when we are present, we enjoy a life saturated with meaning.

When I’m rowing on the lake I don’t know where I’ll end up. I hear watery sounds. Drift under weeping willows that are really filled with joy. Feel sunlight on my shoulders. Smell dank undergrowth. Lean back and see the sky from my bed of water. Deepen my sense of well-being. Settle into present moment awareness. Fathom a meaning that has no name.

Rowing on the lake in my amateur fashion is a reminder that every moment is saturated with meaning, no matter what I fill it with, no matter how old I am.

Rowing on the lake reminds me that I need to mess about in life more often. To steal a quip from Ratty and give it a little twist:

Believe me, my friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in life.

With love, Marlane


Brown, Michael. (2012). The Presence Process. Vancouver: Namaste Publishing.

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