Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Maybe I'll be a Farmer
Farming is hard work. It's dusty, at times, especially if you don't have an air conditioned John Deere with an mp3 player or at least an iPod. You gotta get out there at the ass crack of dawn, till up earth, fertilize, plant, spray, water, spray, harvest and care for the earth by leaving it fallow for a time too. Farming doesn't really come with a retirement package- at least the farmers I knew back in the day didn't talk about their 401k's or what have you. Often, family farms get incorporated and then more benefits like insurance become available and more affordable. "Vacation" doesn't happen in the spring or summer, or even in fall (that's hunting season, after all). Vacation happens in winter, when the ground is resting.
I'm not sure I could be a good farmer. I can barely grow tomatoes. Even following around my brand new zippy, 5 miles per hour self-propelled Craftsman lawnmower for the 45 or so minutes it takes me to mow now is just dizzying and repetitive. I get no sense of satisfaction; just a note that the chore is finished for the week and that the grass is shorter than it was. I get excited about potted plants and strawberries. And my fruit trees which I fertilized last week. I think farming, growing seasons and all of that work make me long for winter. Of course, growing up we had sheep giving birth on the coldest, darkest night of the year. Nothing like being awake at 3 a.m. on a school night while your prized ewe takes her time doing what she needs to do. I do miss all of the county fairs, FFA, the smell of the livestock barns at 7 a.m. and Mountain Dew before hitting the show ring. Ah, good times. I was a pretty good showman once.
There have been a lot of changes lately in my life. I took 3 classes this summer- insanity by grad school standards- and taught a course. It went quickly. I accepted a one year lectureship at a small university 70 miles from my house and I'll commute this year during the week. I bought a little miata for the drive because it gets almost 35 miles to the gallon. If I'm lucky, I may have a shot at a permanent position out there, depending on whether or not I finish that degree on time, or in a reasonable amount of time. I've got two classes to take this fall, my general exams to pass and a dissertation to prepare for.
My friend Steve is taking a vacation to the Pacific Northwest. I gave him my thoughts on Seattle and he camped out in Mt. Rainier park. Lovely place. I miss Seattle. Steve commented on the teeming mass of humanity that moves quickly from place to place, never meeting or acknowledging one another, seemingly disconnected from each other and from nature. Swathed in electronica, virtual communication takes the place of face to face and he wonders where he fits in the grand scheme of life. Does it matter what we do or how we do it? How can we make life meaningful in the short time we are here? Steve also noticed how in the most beautiful places, older people resided there and younger people rushed on by. He doesn't want to wait to grow old to realize the important things, to enjoy his life.
I can't fault him for that. I have felt rushed and cramped and sometimes on a wild joy ride these last two years. One more year left, and maybe a summer. Then I insist that I slow down for a bit. I look forward to just one job and time to develop my writing more. I'd like to publish a book- ok, two books. One of poetry and one fiction novel. I have one more week off before the semester hits. I have to use that time to wrap up all of my loose ends and get my syllabi in order. I'm taking two classes, writing my general exams and teaching five classes. And commuting. And I still have a dog, a cat, a home and a boyfriend, most of which like to be fed and brushed.
So you could see how sometimes farming or ranching would seem the way to go. Life may not be much simpler. You worry all the time about money and weather and wildlife and the price of wheat fluctuating. I'm pretty sure I'd find a way to multi-task. Maybe write poetry on the back of a tractor, or post blogs after offloading bales of hay. Come to think of it, I'd make a pretty crappy farmer. I wouldn't be able to kill other plants just so mine could grow. Equal opportunity farming, I guess. I like to sleep in past 4:30 a.m. and might die of boredom after driving in circles for 18 hours straight, field to field, line by careful and linear line. Maybe what I really want is to have more time, to *take* more time to just stop, inhale deeply and be grateful for what I've got. Isn't that what it's all about anyway? I hope so, because it's the best that I can do today.