Thursday, February 1, 2018

Time for Nothing

At first, I panicked.

Tim and I had just arrived in Caye Caulker in Belize by water taxi. The roads are dirt, and there is very little town. But there is also very little beach. In fact, there is no beach, no surf. You access the water off docks.

I leave Alaska desperate for daylight and warmth, and the second I actually arrive in sun and warmth, I realize sun and warmth is usually too sunny and too hot and that’s why I live in Alaska. Where will I hide from the sun? How will I get in the water?

I had three library books, four crossword puzzles, and a pack of Five Crowns (the card game). I had no laptop and two whole weeks.

This is the stuff of terror. The terror of … Nothing. Capital-N Nothing. No body-surfing, few little shops to explore, oh-my-god, I should have brought more books! What would I DO?!?

I realize it is hard to feel sympathy for a person who’s facing two weeks in Belize, but Caye Caulker seemed so EMPTY compared to our last time in Belize on the mainland. There are only three roads, no cars, and 14 days just LOOMED in front of me. (One week would have been enough; why did we decide on TWO?!)

And then it rained. The wind roared, slamming rain against all the windows. Thank goodness we were in a lovely guest house with a living room or we would have felt trapped in a cell. No one ventured out. We were all confined to quarters.

Well, at least the rain meant I didn’t have to worry about the sun.

Little by little, we discovered … activities. We kayaked around the island, bicycled, snorkeled, tossed bean bags into holes. We discovered the little bakery and went there every day for the cookie with the jam spot (me) and the cookie with the chocolate spot (Tim). The lunch special at Happy Lobster restaurant – stewed chicken with dirty rice, cole slaw, and plantains – was so good, I could have it every day. Most days, I did.

We would sit on the porch of Happy Lobster and spend hours on our Coke Zeros, people-watching, and playing Five Crowns. There is NO LIMIT to the number of Five Crowns games you can play when you’re sitting at the Happy Lobster and just … sitting.

Because Nothing expands to fill the time available.

Nothing means that a visit to the bakery, a walk down to the Split to jump in the water, maybe buying some bananas from the fruit lady, maybe having a conversation with folks who turn out to be from the place you used to live in New Jersey, fills your whole day. And then you take a shower which is beyond pleasurable because you are hot and sticky, and cleanliness is so totally delicious you revel in it like it’s heaven. Showers are a wonder of the world; showers are worth swooning over.

The days are filled with less and less but are filled more and more. A big excursion is to find the place where seahorses hang out. That can take hours … and it’s only a five-minute walk away. No wonder the motto of Caye Caulker is “Go Slow.”

Because Nothing expands to fill the time available.

It rains every day, but you realize that as long as you’re in a bathing suit, it doesn’t matter. It is perfectly easy to swim in the rain, even to get caught in a downpour in a bathing suit.

And when you made a mistake and left the umbrella at the ice cream lady, your to-do list the next day is only “walk down to ice cream lady.” If she’s not there till 4, somehow your day moves along till 4. Maybe you were watching seahorses or pelicans or wondering why the mud on that one road is green, and next thing you knew, it was 4:00.

Because Nothing expands to fill the time available.

Now that I’m back in the land of This Thing and That Thing and Too Many Other Things, I appreciate the true value of Nothing. I need to keep it in my life.


  1. This gives new meaning to "What's new?" "Nothing."

  2. You nailed it. People always ask what we do on days at sea on cruises. Nothing much. And our days are delightful. P.S. - I love your illustrations.

  3. I'm glad the three of you were as intrigued as I was with the positive Nothing. I just read a sort of silly book (Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too), but it had Nothing as a character. Someone comments, "I would be sad if I knew nothing." And Nothing replies, "But why would knowing me make anybody sad? I am quite pleasant once you get to know me." "Maybe U are just harder to get to know because ur only around when others are not." Eventually, Nothing disappears, the world becomes overcrowded and choked, and everyone says, "Nothing disappeared. We need nothing. Nothing matters." Like I said, silly.


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