Central Pennsylvania is green now. May is coming to an end. My elderly neighbor has mowed his lawn 85 times. His garden beds are pristine. His lawn is immaculate. His property is in full bloom. My neighbor is obsessed. I'm not joking. This man mows twice a week.
My lawn? Beasts of burden and birds of prey make their home in the wilderness behind my house. I prefer it this way. I don't have the time or inclination to tame nature to my will. My neighbor? His yard is his obsession. God Bless him, I say. Me? My lawnmower ran out of gas last week, and it took me three days to figure out why the contraption wouldn't start. I'm a savant, I know.
I'm settling into my third summer as a college professor. I'm surprised to find that I'm busy as hell. Meetings. Projects. Writing. It seems like there's another appointment on my calender every time I blink. And there's so much other work I could and should be doing. When I'm not dutiful servicing the tenure-track? My toddlers demand my time and energy. What's a brother got to do to get some peace and solitude, man? Adulthood. It's a racket.
I'll be 38 in June. Can you imagine? My sideburns are salt and pepper. Aches and pains seem more pronounced. I'm more aware of the impossbility of corpreal immortality. This body ain't gonna last for ever. Spiritual immortality? I still think that's a thing. But my body still groans and moans.
I run every morning. And I do mean every morning. I'm obsessed, like Chris Traeger from Parks and Rec. The difference? Chris was played by Rob Lowe, and is a relative adonis. I'm no Rob Lowe. Still, I start off each day with a run through the park behind my house. Come rain, come snow, come rattlesnakes, bears, and other beasts of Central Pennsylvanian, I get outside and run. My jogs last about 20-25. My body wakes up, my mind clears, and I have a moment of spiritual clarity before the rules and regulations of this adult life come calling.
The park behind my house is almost always empty. Sometimes there's an old man with three small, yippy dogs. This man smells like cigars, and always says hello to me. There's also a couple in their sixties, who walk together when the weather is nice. They always smile and nod as I pass. Sometimes they even say encouraging things. "Boy, you're ambitious" or "Keep going." It's cute, I guess. People in Central Pennsylvania are very friendly. Still, the park is mostly empty. It's me and the wild, living things. In the winter, the stars usually fill the sky as I move along the path. Lately, my runs have been green. There's so many trees near my home. And green mountains. Mist hung over the mountains the other morning. You can see two different ranges from the park. Happy Valley. It's spring now, and the green things are growing. It does fill me with peace to run along a quiet path, watching green things growing. This is a cool place to live.
I've had many different jobs. I've been working since I was 14. I'm happy to be a college professor now. I'd take that over being a dishwasher anyday. I always wanted to be a professor. Well, after I realized I couldn't play second base for the Minnesota Twins. This is the best job I've ever had. Still, a job is a job. The newness of the experience is wearing off, and the position has lost some of its glow. Work is work. I'm happy to be doing this work, but the number of meetings on my calendar makes me groan. And moan. Like my 38 year-old body. Can't I just play video games instead?
Don't get me wrong. I still play video games. Too many video games. But there's a boss in the back of my mind, nagging me. Shouldn't you be working on this? Shouldn't you be doing that? Check your email, complete a task, astart thinking about what to work on next. Argh. You jerk. Leave a brother alone, will ya?
It always takes me a little while to figure out the ins and outs of a job. The people, the place, and the ebbs and flows of work create a specific context. And it's important to understand your context before you begin to improvise. I know this well, even if I'm not always disciplined enough to remember it. Things are rarely what we imagine them to be. I imagined my summer's off as a professor would faciliate my work as an artist and a writer. And they do. But they also make demands of my time and energy in different ways. So be it. I continue to learn so much about so many things, my new job included. I'm going to end this blog now. I've used it to warm up. I'll turn to another writing task. The work is never finished, my friends. My neighbor obsesses over his lawn. I obsess over my work, I guess. His lawn is immaculate. My catalogue is growing. Like the green things in Central Pennsylvania.