Daily Archives: August 14, 2011

8.14.11 The Pleasures of Profitless Projects

My profitless project last autumn

You used to call them hobbies. Model-building. Mini-airplane flying. Obsessive collections.

But profitless projects are different. A project propels you from day to day or week to week or month to month or even year to year. They’re more than a hobby because a hobby might not ask you to get better at something. A project often does. But with a profitless project, even though we might aim to get better at something, we’re not necessarily attached to the external success. There’s an element of the amateur in such a project in the original sense of the word amateur – as in amour as in love, as in one who loves.

You tinker in your garage or in the woods or in your study or on the kitchen table far out of the eyes of the public. You do it when no one’s looking or noticing or applauding. Why? Love. Because you love it. And that love propels you to want to get better for its own sake.

Today, I hoisted strips of cardboard in a wheelbarrow, my toddler daughter riding on top and my wife bringing another wheelbarrow full of comfrey and a shovel behind me. We wandered to the back woods to the place I’ve shaped slowly as a secret orchard. For just an hour or so on this gray Sunday afternoon, I placed cardboard around the growing berry bushes I’ve cared for for the past three years. And beneath the old apple tree I helped revive, my wife planted some comfrey, which will help the soil and complement the old guy’s growth.

It’s a profitless project, this orchard. It’s been rife with failures and little deaths. But I hold onto this vision: that this little patch someday will be enclosed by fences of berries and fruit trees where this little girl can steal away on sunny days or stormy days and find her own sanctuary. It’s a vision of love. And I hope I get better at it.

What about you? Do you have any profitless pleasures that shape your days? Any today? Regardless, share below your day’s three highlights – and let us know where you’re writing from.

See you in the woods,
The Three Highlights Guy