Pastimes for Patients
“ Killing time” is a dreary affair, as all know who have tried it; and if the weight becomes too oppressive, the problem of getting rid of it calls for serious consideration. Supposing that, from invalidism, impaired eyesight, or any such cause, the ordinary employments of health and activity are in a measure suspended, what is to fill the empty hours? Reading perhaps proves exhausting, and those feminine industries genetically known as “ fancywork ” will pall; for they are mechanical, and, while keeping the lingers busy, leave the mind to travel wearily in one dull round. To be forced to do absolutely nothing for any length of time produces, in a nervous person, an unbearable restlessness, and a very little thing may be welcome as a diversion. A few suggestions I offer will, perhaps, be of use to somebody, and I am ready to receive any in return with gratitude.
If memorizing favorite passages of prose or verse be too great an effort, the patient may be able to amuse himself with the repetition of those learned at an earlier time. For my own part, I have always been resolving to learn numbers of good things out of books, laying up against the day of old age, dull hearing, and failing eyesight; but my forethought has mostly remained matter of theory rather than practice.
Another occupation, which has proved valuable in the experience of a friend who has traveled extensively, may serve others who have not gone far from home. Name to yourself some object, and, letting your mind rest on it awhile, see what it will call up for you in the way of pleasant recollection. For instance, I name “tree,” and specify three sorts, — oak, cedar, and beech. The first shows me at once my childhood’s home,—the house surrounded by the great oaks which gave the place its name of Oakwood. Here I may let my mind wander as it lists through those golden days of early youth. The second tree, the cedar, is not a beautiful member of the great family, but I love it for the same clinging association, and the memory of the little blue berries that used to represent pills in my doll’s apothecary shop. But this memory is effaced by a later one. I see an island in the ocean, where the dark cedar groups, the only native growth, stand up in sharpest contrast with the light of the sky above, the dazzling whiteness of the coral roads, and the brilliant peacock blue of the surrounding water, its edge fringed with pink-blossomed oleanders. It is a color vision, that Bermuda island, which fades not quickly from the mental eye. Again, I say “ beech,” and I am walking, on a fresh May morning, in a wood clothing a hill overhanging the Rhine, and the sunshine showers down softly through delicate young leaves: and then I step out of the pleasant light into a dark little pavilion, and, being bidden to look through a narrow slit in the wall, my eye travels down a long and beautiful avenue cut through the beechwood, till it lights at last on one of the most picturesque of castles, perched high on the opposite bank of the river.
One may, of course, recall at will whole scenes without the suggestion of a single object; and there is no reason why one should tire of these mind pictures more than of a canvas on a wall.