A Boss of Everlasting Presence

“Why do I have to do that stupid job, Mom?”  Frustration filled my five year old heart as I grabbed the cream enamel bowl and stood over the trap door between the kitchen and the living room.  “I always have to get yukky potatoes!  It’s scary down there.  I can hardly see.”

The darkness and the acrid smell lie waiting beneath the trap door.

Receiving no response to my protest,  I raised my voice, “What if the lid shuts when I’m down in that root cellar?”

One of my siblings shouted, “Oh, don’t worry, Amy.  We’d hear you!  You’d scream the roof off the house.”  Laughter from the rest of the lazy crew sounded from various parts of the house.

I pulled on the metal ring and easily raised the trapdoor.  It opened fully so I could rest it on the floor.  I crawled backwards down the ladder into the bowels of cold storage.  Halfway down, I reached out and scraped the enamel bowl across the floor hoping for frenzy-producing screeches.  I continued down the ladder, tucked the flashlight under my chin and began to find potatoes at record speed.  I moaned with disgust having stuck my finger into a slimy, rotten potato that smelled like mold.

“Will you bring up some carrots, too, please, darling?” my mom shouted from the kitchen.

Even more fed up, I shouted,  “Someone come and grab this bowl!  It’s heavy!”.  One of the older siblings reached down for the bowl as I held it over my head.

I grabbed a few carrots from the cobwebbed bin and scurried back to the ladder.  “Here, somebody grab these carrots!”  The carrots disappeared from my up-stretched hand.

I climbed up the ladder and headed for the wash basin.  The impact of what I had touched hit home in full light.  I scrubbed and sniffed until I was sure every drop of potato slime was gone.

The division of labour was unfair and I needed to talk about it to a trustworthy person.  Mom was alone, outside, the next day, “I can’t wait to get big.”

“What makes you say that?” she asked.

“I hate being bossed around.  Everybody tells me what to do.  Like getting stinky potatoes.”

“Do you think you’ll have no bosses when you are bigger?”

“I’ll make sure I’m the boss when I’m big.”

“Well, you’ll have a boss even if you are the boss.”

“No I won’t.”

“Yes, you’ll always have a clock.”

“A clock?”

“We all have to do what time tells us to do.  Time to go to bed.  Time to eat.  Time to go to school.  Time to plant the garden.”

“Oh, M-a-a-w-m!”

“It’s true, my dear.  And time goes faster as we get older.  We have more and more to do with less and less time.”

“Well, I’ll be different!”

Now, decades later, wood was delivered and dumped in my driveway.  I stared at the stack of wood through the office window and wondered what happened to my childhood oath.  No bosses?  I looked around:

  • The wood pile waits.
  • The rain is due.
  • The phone rings.
  • The timer goes off on the stove.
  • The cat sits staring at his empty bowl.
  • The computer announces another email message.
  • The bills have to be paid.
  • The flower beds need weeding.
  • The clothes drier buzzes.
  • The kettle whistles.

In protest, I decided to enjoy a cup of tea outside amongst the fragrance of fir and arbutus.   Suddenly a very strange bug landed on the chopping block beside me.

"Hello, weird bug!" I said.

I wanted a photo of him, “Don’t move!  I’m going to get my camera.  I’ll be right back!”  I dashed into the house and grabbed the camera.  I returned within a minute.  He was still there.  I knelt down, adjusted the settings and began shooting.

Thankfully, he sat perfectly still,  “Oh look at those wings!”

"If I had your wings, I'd just fly away and not have another worry about time!" I said as I continued shooting.

I plopped to the ground and looked through the lens.  He was there.  Then he wasn’t.  Then he was!

Within a blink, 1/16th of a nanosecond, that insect was there, not there, and back again!  Had I jiggled the camera and lost him momentarily?

Was I in a time warp?


Nope…in a nanosecond, this high tech model of Time Management had taken flight, gone hunting, scored, checked his GPS and returned to the exact same spot…with his prey.

In other words, I had tea with an unidentified bug that demonstrated “bosslessness” better than I’m ever likely to see again.


52 thoughts on “A Boss of Everlasting Presence

  1. I keep telling myself every morning i am not going to look at the clock am just going to do what i want to do when i want to do it, mostly it doesn’t turn out like that, but lunch with a friend is a good thing. Good photos.

    • It’s not easy to just ignore the world, but every once in a while I manage a good stab at it. My challenge is that I usually have too many things I want to do. However my litmus test is to listen for “shoulds”. That is a no-no in my life – taught by mother. No “should” – either do it or forget about and enjoy the time.

      I hope you have lots of lunches with friends – or even out with yourself – if it’s a bonus in your day, Bev.

  2. So liked the “Boss” story 🙂 … and the potatoes … and the trap door in the kitchen floor … I remember seeing scary black lizards down in the dirt basement as well … all that and more

    • Yah, Cat, all that and more – I remember the feeling that I simply could not descend into that place. And there was no light down there. I recall one of my siblings saying I had to get the potatoes because I was the smallest one and could fit most easily down there. No wonder I avoid small spaces!

  3. Ah yes, time is certainly the boss of me!
    This gave me fond memories of my aunts root cellar (not so fun when my cousin thought it was funny to lock me in there!) …oh how I loved popping down there to grab an apple out of the bushel basket.

    • After a lifetime of career focus, it’s bliss being rid of those time demands. Now I’ve created new ones as a volunteer! Go figure…

      I loved the root cellar smell when the veggies were first brought in. Apples would have been a very welcome addition. We had no fruit trees and any fruit brought into the house didn’t last long.

  4. Oh how I love this post, Amy!!!!! I remember thinking the same thing when I was young. What I like about what our parents gave us is the ability as we grew to move freely amongst our tasks. Had my Mom and Dad not pointed out the fact that I “could” do these things, I may still be wandering around and moaning about a dark cellar and nothing would get done. Ha!
    I like your vision of the bug and just might bring this post to the attention of my four year old Granddaughter. She is afraid of bugs, ALL BUGS! I have purchased a childrens’ book titled “Step Gently Out” to assist with sharing the concept that we live amongst a whole universe of different creatures. Yes, your photos and story will help her, also, I believe. Thank you, as always.

    • As I wrote this, Leslie, I realized there are probably few people today who’d ask a 5 year old to do something like that. We all pitched in – there was no girl jobs/boy jobs in our world and usually we fell in a natural distribution of labour. The boys had the strength and we girls happily let them use it! 😀

      I will send you, by email, another couple of insect photos you may like to share with your Granddaughter. They may be more “real” to her if they come from a friend. As I child, I was awed by the jobs that insects had and what a fascinating purpose they served. Like the granddaddy mosquitoes keeping other mosquito numbers down…that sort of thing.

  5. Oh, you are such a delightful storyteller, Amy … comes from the heart, spirit and touches the soul. It is true, as humans, we always have some sort of boss — your mom’s time example is perfect. And, utmost to the universe, we always have the Eternal One.

    Many blessings for this Wednesday. 😀

    • Many thanks, Becca. I paid attention to every good boss I had in my life so I could learn. I think the perfect boss is one who can bring employees to self-empowerment to such a degree that the boss can be invisible. The boss is there, but the skills and abilities of employees shine.

  6. Extraordinary! What a vision you have. I enjoyed this combination of your childhood story, and a fellow who is bossless. O our minds, how bossed we are by our minds!

    Glad to see you at my place, though I don’t know why the RSS stops “feeding.” I hope it will stay put now.

    • Hi Ruth – I’ve missed your writings on your marvelous site. I want to catch up re your gorgeous new grandchild. The RSS issue is obviously mine – other bloggers have reported no similar experience.

      And yes…”O our minds…” I merely have to think of my morning meditations!

  7. Oh time does seem to boss us around even when we resist its influence…this was just a delightful story…I was smiling through the whole thing…thanks for making the sun shine on this rainy day.

  8. What wonderful advice, worth remembering and acting upon…no shoulds…luckily this becomes easier with age…love these glimpses into your childhood and family times Amy…

    God bless…

    • Shama, I loved your email. Many thanks. I will watch for your plans to return from Victoria to Vancouver on the 15th… If I can connect, I will, Shama.

      Our childhoods can be so different in so many ways, but not the feelings. I marvel over our similarities. Same feelings for different reasons, perhaps, but we do identify. Our feelings are a marvelous weaver of souls and hearts. No wonder my spiritual teacher continuously urges us to feel the feelings – let the mind support, not rule. Deep inside we all want to love and be loved.

  9. I felt your sinking feeling as your fingers sunk into the moldy potato. YUCK!

    Time is indeed the boss of us as we flit from task to task with one eye on the clock while listening for our next “prompt.”

    The antidote . . . to enter the eternal NOW . . . and focus on THIS moment as it unfolds its wings into the next.

    Loved the post and pics. Thanks, Amy!

    • I marvel at people who can stick their fingers into guck or goump without a flinch. And yes, Nancy, NOW!! That’s why I love nature…it reminds us. The only hint of past that creatures appear to know is in a nagging instinct that tells them to change course. Hungry NOW! So stay away from the NOWs of alligators and sharks, Nancy!

  10. Time–we made it up and it rules us. I wonder what it would be like to live in a culture that has no concept of time (or at least a looser concept of time than we do)? It has to be less stressful…

    This post really made me think about how much I look at clocks.

    • Neat thought, Lorna…if we could find that culture, I wonder if I’d be better at only eating when I was hungry. Post career, it’s easier, but the clock still presents its suggestive nag.

      I have a desk clock that can be changed to the 24 hour mode. I had to switch it back because I was forever looking at it to convert the reading faster and faster after 12 noon. Bizarre!

  11. Awesome macro shots of that fly. Great post. I loved your opening and how you tied it in to real crux of your topic. I wish I could do that. That opening felt oh, so familiar. We did not have a root cellar, but we had a basement, which my mom referred to as the cellar, which felt like a cellar, and was used as a cellar. It was cold and dark down there, and at the very farthest end from the stairs was a pantry area where mom stored canned goods. She was forever sending me down for this or that. It creeped me out too! But I never stuck my finger in a rotten tater. euwwww!

  12. How odd to think of a culture with no time. No ancestors. History? No past or future tense, just now. The endless lists we make are prioritized by “what do I need to do first, then second.” Some days, I just do and smile in the satisfaction of having done something. And those insects, flit around being where they must be. Now I’m here, now I’m someplace else. Gives new meaning to “flitting about.”

    • We’ll see, Georgette, if the mystics’ claim is true that time is an illusion we will eventually evolve beyond. The “flit-rate” of that little guy that day astonished me. He must break the sound barrier every time he flies!

  13. I love it when you share your childhood stories. You’re right that kids these days would never be sent down into the cellar for potatoes.

    I try hard not to look at my watch at work but some days time barely moves, and on those days I start looking at my watch before 3pm willing the time to move fast-fast so I can get my coffee at 4pm
    On my days off I feel so free that I can get my coffee whenever I feel like it, eat lunch whenever I feel like it, but I end up racing trying to fit too much into my little day and dont have enough *time* for relaxing.

    • It’s so hard to be at a job where time crawls by. It feels intolerable to me! 😀 I would far rather have too much to do than not enough – at work. At home…the opposite! Which reminds me…since you work full time, I adamantly hope you have a cleaning lady. Every woman who is working full time outside the home MUST have a cleaning lady. Rosie, surely you do have one.

      When I make statements like that, I think of the women who live in other countries where they earn a very meager income while working even longer and harder than we do in North America. To those women, I send blessings, energy and love.

  14. Cheers to putting your feet up, or better yet, grabbing your camera, Amy! Great pic of your weird bug! Wishing you have blissful day 🙂

  15. Oh Amy, I just loved this! I too have stuck my hand in the potato slime, we had farms in Canada and Maryland that had root cellars and I hated going down there, you described the smell so well the memories came flooding back. My daughter would never go down there, my son thought the place was so cool. Like Charles I too was smiling all the awy thru this, and as for the time, well I am trying to sort out my plans as to what to do with my time, where and how to spend it, where life is to take me. Just trying to be a good listener, waiting on answers to come.

    • Hi Dee! So there are a few of us around who know about these types of experiences. Some people simply blink…root cellar?

      I’ll have to catch up with where you are at currently, Dianne. I’ll have to find out if you are fully healed now from the stent surgeries.

  16. This was precious – loved the story, with all the memories of MY childhood too on the farm. Yucky cellers and all! 🙂 I figure I am the worst boss of me I could ever be. Always too many lists, too much self-inflicted pressure for perfection (darn, thought I gave that up!) and I could go on and on……but…..then I thought………….oh now wait a minute – who scheduled that massage yesterday? hmmm……….rethinking this 🙂

    • You are too funny! I’ve not thought of that angle before – being a rotten boss of oneself! For some reason that tickles my funny bone – probably because it is so true. I also pile on more nonsense than necessary. I can even pole vault over mouse droppings at times!

      I remember watching my Dad – a half hour before we were supposed to go somewhere, he starts maintaining the car to make sure we’ll get there. I suspect I try to be so unlike him that I drive myself into a tizzy days before.

      Where’s my balance…

  17. It’s so refreshing to read your posts Amy, because they seem to be written without a pause just as the thoughts stream through your head. Not a pretentious phrase can one find in it. I can so identify with your distaste for those yucky rotten potatoes. They so stink!!! As kids , my brother and I would have to water the young saplings of fruit trees and the other plants in the garden, drawing water from the well as we didn’t then have the muncipality water supply from a tap. I would religiously water each and every plant with equal apportions of water. My brother would take only less than half the time .It made me so peeved , I remember. It was only by and by that I realised that he would just about wet the soil around each plant. Sometimes , feeling sorry for those palnts , I would water them again. I wonder if he remembers:-)

    It’s a bit of coincidence (or may be not) that I just posted something morning , ruing the fact that sometimes, Time has such a stranglehold on us , that we can hardly breathe. But then, it isn’t Time’s fault, is it? We just have to learn to reschedule our priorities, I guess .

    • Hmmm, Nadira, it seems brothers’ brains were programmed with the same software! 🙂 I still am amazed that people will put energy towards strategies instead of simply doing the job.

      Yes, we are the the managers of our time, it’s true. I had to learn how to say “no” tactfully, but firmly, when I could not possibly take on another request. My teacher told me I needed to learn how to say ‘no’ using other words – gracefully – and not give ONE excuse or justification. Boy, that was a learning experience!

      I will visit you shortly, Nadira.

  18. What a beautifully written story. I was just having this talk with my 7 yo daughter: her saying she can’t wait to be in charge, me wishing I could return to a simpler time like when I was 7. Time is a tricky fellow.

  19. I love your mother’s wisdom. And this post captures my feelings of helplessness as a child – that endless longing to grow up and manage my own life! But your mom’s right – time speeds up and there doesn’t seem to be as much of it at this stage in life as there was even ten years ago. I’m not sure it’s possible to convey a concept like this to children. And even if we could, would they appreciate that luxury of it? The freedom from responsibilities that burden us later as adults? And is it always going to be true that no matter what we have, we want the other thing, whatever it is?

    • Mom was nearly 40 when I was born so she would often say stuff that was a mystery to me. Often, I’d shelve it and pull it out years later.

      It makes me laugh, Bela – we spend so much time learning how to take on responsibility; then spend the rest of it learning how not to! Time just hangs around saying, “I’m here. Use me to the best of your ability.”

  20. Wonderful nostalgia post. It conjured memories of my own childhood. I slipped away for a few minutes to make some notes. I haven’t been here before. I found you through Write on Edge. I’m glad I did. I like the atmosphere, the ambience of your site. I’ll be back. Those photographs made me think, yet again, that this is the year I will buy that camera and take a lesson or two. I really, really want to learn.

    • Welcome, Stephanie. It’s a pleasure to receive your comment. I hope you will take the time to jump into the digital world and experience the awe. I feel most fortunate having the opportunity to experiment to my heart’s desire without any concern for wastage or expense. What a phenomenal gift. When I read about photographers who had to make every click count plus learn how to develop for the effects they wanted, I have such respect for their work.

  21. This post reminds me of the root cellar in my childhood home – the smell, the gloom, the unexpected squishyness of veg, rotting in the sacks – it makes me shudder! And it’s interesting to realise how easily we give in to the demands of external influences – as a result of our earlier conditioning. Food for thought, Amy, thank you _/!\_

    • With this description, there’s no doubt in my mind that you had a root cellar just like mine! Yes, those external demands…I have an older brother, I shock him when I let him know that his plans are for him. If we don’t work them out together, they are his, not mine. Forever the baby sister, I guess, but I certainly am kept alert. 🙂

  22. You are a wonderful storyteller Amy aunty. I love to hear childhood stories. It has always an important message embedded in it. Next month I will be 27 years old; Still I believe that “I’ll make sure I’m the boss when I’m big”. 🙂
    I like the way you describe clock as the boss.

    • You will be 27! Wow…I wonder where you visualize yourself in the next while. Are you going to be a professor? Or do you have another goal? Are you studying the positive traits and habits of respected leaders? One time I had the chance to ask the President of a major Canadian financial institute about making decisions. I said, “What do you do, after you’ve made a decision that affects thousands of people’s lives, when another critical piece of information comes in that shows it was the wrong decision?”

      He looked at me for a moment, as though it was a question too easy to answer, then matter-of-factly said, “Well, Amy…I change the decision.”

      That had a HUGE impact on me. I saw how it’s so easy to admit making a wrong decision and there’s no crime in changing it.

      My respect for him went up about three more notches! He wouldn’t be masking and hiding his pride.

  23. Yes, I am studying the positive traits and habits of respected leaders. Let me tell you that, I share my birth day with John F. Kennedy. So I hope it has some kind of effect on me (which I am not aware of). Although I am currently a computer engineer and may do MBA in future. But to be honest, my dream is to publish a book within a couple of years, so that I can get some kind of recognition in this part of the world. Then only I can be able to do those things which I want to do for myself & others. But I know it would not be an easy task to get the recognition among 1.2 billion other peoples. And again the percentage of talented people in their respective fields among these people are on higher side. But I know nothing great can be achieved so easily; so I am somehow prepare for the challenges I have to face during these years. I hope your blessings will be there with me in this journey. 🙂

    • Oh, you have all the blessings I can muster, Arindam. You may be the one to turn teleporting into reality! Wouldn’t that be a thrill? The world would love you except for baggage handlers at airports who have learned how to pilfer from expensive luggage!

      If you and I become bored with blogging, we will have to connect on Face Book or some updated rendition of connectedness. Maybe you’ll invent that too! 😀

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