Saturday, May 23, 2009

SWEET TIME

Since returning home from my six-day sortie to the Sunshine State, I’ve been trying to play catch-up with all the outdoor chores I should have completed before I left…plus a proliferation of new tasks, some of which literally materialize overnight. Spring is now in its final mad-dash charge towards summer. The magic of ample rain and a wealth of warm sunlight is visible everywhere. What was a nicely greening landscape before I left has become a lush jungle during my absence—and it grows more jungly by the hour. My daily work list has been daunting, if not at times overwhelming. So far, nature and personal ennui are winning. How can a man who is responsibility-challenged at the best of times bring himself to toil away every wonderful hour, when May’s air is sweet and laden with the honeyed scent of black locust in bloom on the hill, and the river, its water sparkling and infused with green light, burbles gently over shining riffle stones? How can I be expected to unceasingly bend my back to the shovel and rake when all I really want to do is laze on the riverbank and watch my island buzzards wheel high in the oh-so-blue sky on rising thermals, and listen while the Carolina wren sings sweet nothings from the hackberry? I’m not to be trusted at making such decisions. Which is why, lacking the fortitude to ignore such temptations completely, I’ve vacillated between mowing grass and smelling roses; digging out a marigold bed and watching the pileated woodpeckers; building a small wooden deck for the back door area and laughing at a pair of groundhogs chasing each other around the yard. I say one must insist on maintaining a certain balance in these matters! The problem is there’s simply never enough time for everything—work and pleasure. In spite of all our modern cleverness, mankind has not managed to give himself a minute’s more time. The forms of labor have changed, certainly. And I wouldn’t want to relinquish such things as modern medicine, electricity (and the Internet), and a few other things which actually help or enrich our lives. But when you figure in job, a bit of overtime—paid or not, a daily commute to and from work, an hour or so to ready yourself to survive your day, meal preparation, the necessary off-work hours consumed by home maintenance and toys such as cars and pools, shopping, social commitments, et cetera…are we any more free than my great-great-great-great grandfather? Or did that old man—born in Ireland in 1756, who fought in the Revolutionary War and then followed Daniel Boone down the Wilderness Road to claim a piece of wild mountain land which he cleared, and where for the remainder of his long life he earned his bread by the sweat of his brow, following a big-eared mule behind a bull-tounged plow, breaking clods in fresh-turned earth—did he actually have a better life? More and more I believe he did. A few minutes from now I’ll fire up my new lawn mower and give the grass its second cutting of the week. While that noisy infernal combustion engine is roaring , I’ll be isolated from the lilt of birdsong and the whisper of river; the heady fragrance of lilac will be overpowered by exhaust fumes—and I’ll not even smell the new-cut grass until after I’ve shut off the power and my nostrils have had a minute or two to clear. My great grandfather would have smelled the turned earth as he worked, just as he would have breath in the scent of fresh-cut meadow grass as he swung a sharp-bladed scythe. He would have heard the birds in the thickets, or the chatter-bark of a fox squirrel on the hill. In a way, I believe, he would have lived within the fullness of time—not exactly its master, but not nearly so much its slave. My distant grandfather now lies sleeping on that same steep hillside which he once worked. Where the view from the top is of folded green mountains and a river which curls and winks around their base. Where birds sing and locust blooms and time is but a memory—a wisp of smoke on May’s sweet air. While I, alas, I must mow the grass…

28 comments:

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Griz, you make me sigh. There is so much truth in what you've written but for me, this line says it all:

"In a way, I believe, he would have lived within the fullness of time—not exactly its master, but not nearly so much its slave."

I think we all are, right now, living in the fullness of time but are too busy/distracted/unhappy/overextended to realize it.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

You know, Lynne, I'm not so sure we do (most of us, anyway) now live within the fullness of time.

Our daily lives are dictated—compelled and enforced—by clocks and schedules, rather than by season, weather, necessity, available hours, and the job at hand. We are minions of convention, slaves to an unnatural structuring of the year 'round passage.

Time's fullness as I see it is a job done well, a day contained within the rising and setting sun, and space therein to enjoy, to wander, to relax or ponder. To be happy in our labor. To see time as a tool for our use, not as a monster which robs us of life.

I believe in hard work. But experience has also taught me that so many things which turn us into time's slaves really don't matter. Acquiring stuff means losing time…and time's real gift lies in its freedom.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Scribe - you sound like one of those adorable characters from Wind in the Willows - Mole maybe. I can just imagine you - doing a bit of mowing, then stopping to sniff a rose, then looking across the river and seeing a blue heron - and so the day passes and soon it is evening and only a few of the chores done - but what a lovely time you have had! Don't change!!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

I take that as one of the nicest compliments I've ever received. There's some of Mole in me, for sure, and also of Ratty…and quite a bit of Badger. And you're right—I often finish the day with fewer chores accomplished than I'd planned.

But there's always tomorrow…and if not, I won't regret not digging that new planting bed, but I would wish I'd taken the time to smell that first rose of the season.

And just to set the record straight—I've mowed my grass today, watered all the beds and plants, and done a bit of edging along the drive. After hitting the shower, I'll make a foraging run to the store for needed groceries. Later I'll drive to airport and pick up the daughter and son-in-law who are flying in from Jamaica and need to be reunited with their dog and vehicle. A post-sundown supper will follow, and afterwards, I may sit on the deck and commune with the owls.

Gail said...

Hi Grizz-

Such beautiful sentiments of things past, present and...............

Your world is a vision for me of all things simple, honest and in real time - filled with memories and lessons and love and hope and nature all around. Magical.

Amazing and "thank you"/

and Grizz - you missed my last 2 posts and somehow that matters.

and plus you told me to remind you. :-) heehee
although I would prefer I didn't need to, ya know? sigh.......

Love Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Thank you, as always, for your comments. They do mean much—truly.

I haven't missed your posts…I've just not read them yet. I'm behind on reading most of the blogs I follow—anonymously or otherwise—as I've not spent much time on the computer this week. At least not compared to usual. Never fear, I will read them—promise. But it still was okay to me remind me. :-))) After all, I'm a guy and we do need the occasional reminder. (CONFOUND IT—PUT THAT SEAT DOWN AFTERWARDS!)

gleaner said...

Weaver's comment brings a smile!

With the popularity and increased attention on the Slow Food movement and the "In Praise of Slow" book, I can reject the focus on living fast and to the clock with little objection. Now if there are any objections I tell them I'm a member of the slow movement revolution. Its not about going slow as it is about what you say, enjoying and living fully in time and not becoming enslaved to the clock or artifical hindrances.

KGMom said...

Scribe--you need to get a goat.
And read the book on the history of lawns. The author makes the point that we keep cutting grass making it stay in a perpetual adolescent state. I love that thought. What else other than an adolescent could so torment us.
Get a goat.

Wanda said...

You brought back fond memories of my great grandparents and their simple but fully enriched lives...They are buried on their hilltop...where they farmed and raised 12...the taste of homemade butter and biscuits is still vivid in my mind...they walked up and down that hilltop into their nineties...healthier times too probably...both physical and mental...Truly simple lives connected to the earth for their livelihood and joy...Your writing is very moving and it's good that nature provides distractions from chores...it makes for wonderful writng on your part and adds a fullness to our days.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Oh Grizzled, here's some thoughts I have when I would rather do other things than mow the lawn ...

I am very grateful for having a lawn to mow, and to be surrounded by trees and plants and birds while I mow. I have not always had a garden - which meant less 'work', in that concrete does not need mowing!! But it's also not nice to sit on , and has no glorious grassy smell, and the fumes of the city are longer-lasting than those of the mower.

And the necessity of mowing the grass, because it grows and grows, gives the perfect excuse for not doing indoor chores!!!

Gail said...

Hi Grizz-

I laughed right out loud!! and thanks for being YOU.

Love Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gleaner…

Weaver's comment made me smile, too, for I know how truly on the mark it is!

As you might also guess, I like "slow food" and simple fare, what some might call "country cookin'." (But not everything fried in lard, as some mistakenly think constitutes such fare!) Good, wholesome, often hearty dishes with lots of flavor.

My father worked in wood, made guitars, furniture. He also did finish carpentry work on seriously expensive houses. He was close to being an artist. And he worked slow, deliberate, giving the wood time to inform and guide his hands. And the results showed. That's how I try and live…slow, deliberate, allowing myself to be informed, guided, so that my days and life turn out well.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

Many years ago I followed up an ad in a small-town newspaper offering German shepherd puppies for sale, and almost brought a goat home instead. Except that the nice lady in the farmhouse with the puppies and the goats had given the last little billy away right before I got there. She was, however, still holding it in a box in her kitchen for another hour or so until the new owner got back from running a couple of errands. I saw that as my opportunity and did my best to talk her into allowing me to have it—and I tell you, I can be relentless at begging, pleading, whining, and selling a notion with whatever tactic plays best.

She did waver, but unfortunately, before I could talk her over the edge and out of her goat, the other person returned from the errands and whisked that cute little critter beyond my clutches.

I've always wondered what my folks would have said about me bringing a goat and a dog home, though.

Nevertheless, I'm what you might call "goat inclined," and would indeed have one here on the riverbank if the situation allowed. Not for a four-legged yard maintenance tool, however. And truth be told, it would likely eat every plant and flower I've laboriously planted. So I shall remain goat-free for the time being…

I don't know the history of manicured lawns, but I'll go on the record as saying I think planting grass and then having to continually cut it to within an inch of its life is one of the stupidest fashions ever conceived. And don't get me wrong…I actually enjoy cutting grass—up to a point. But the whole concept is downright silly and unnatural!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

I'll just bet I know those hills—or others just like them. And I know the taste of churned butter, sweet, a creamy white…oh, man! I grew up on biscuits every day., and cornbread, and hoecakes. Ring a bell?

Thank you for your kind words re. my writing. I hope you enjoy the pieces and that they bring back fond memories occasionally.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

You are so right! There is much to be said for grass mowing and outside chores. I've also lived with a concrete "yard" and city noise—and I certainly prefer my cottage on the riverbank where birds sing and flowers bloom and…yes…the growing grass must be regularly cut.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

I'm usually me all the time, 24/7, though there are days when I wish I weren't.

Take care…

P.S. Glad I made you laugh. Why not pretend you never read my reply, then read it, and laugh again?

Gail said...

Hi again-

okay, yup, I laughed but not as heartily only a little snicker. :-)

which is fine, "snickers are good" as a laugh and as a candy bar - so it's a 'win-win'. although I don't have a snickers bar here right now - hmmmmmmm, well, I could go our and get one, but nah, I am already in my jammies.

Love ya,
Gail
peace and 'snickers'.

Bernie said...

I too like the line, not exactly its master, but not nearly so much it's slave. It seams we all are slaves to something at this time in our society. I think to have lived in the 1700's would have been very hard work yet so simple and acceptable. No keeping up with the Jones's or trying to outdo a friend or neighbor. I like to think that everyone knew their responsabilities and honered them without question just accepted life as it presented itself, (aw I think I am in a fantasy world), you had me thinking for awhile though....
Have a great weekend.....:-) Bernie

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Everything from a snicker to a hearty guffaw is good.

And speaking of Snickers Bars…I'll take one, and if I have a choice, give me the dark chocolate version.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

It is too easy to idealize the past and forget all the bad stuff. As I sad, I wouldn't want to forgo everything modern. But over the years, I've been around a lot of folks who live a much simpler lifestyle, who live closer to land and season, whose days are not dictated so much by clocks and schedules, but are looser and thus freer; with space to find wonderment and joy, peace and tranquility and solace; where laughter comes easy, as does sleep; where sitting a few minutes in a rocking chair listening to a bird sing is not a guilty pleasure; and a drink of cool water is the most refreshing thing you can imagine on a hot July morning.

That may sound idealized…but there are people who even now live such a life, and I do envy them—especially when I'm racing about trying to be someone and something I'm not because it's expected.

Jayne said...

A perfect title for this post. Indeed simpler times seemed much sweeter, though work was work then too I suppose. The wonderful thing is that you are so aware of the gift, and inhale it each day. Lord, but I love the way you write with such truth and feeling. :c)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

A simple life lived close to—or at least aware of—nature and the natural cycle has always seemed more desirable to me the than any other. I like nice things, appreciate quality and style, good design; but I'm not much interested in fad, fashion, or accumulation; quantity and owning the latest and greatest doesn't get me excited.

I don't think I'm old fashioned; I embrace technology if it earns its place. But I've never found a cure for the emptiness in my soul by going shopping. I don't know what that says of me…but it's who and how I am.

Thank you so much for your kind words about my writing. I just try and write as best I can on a given day using whatever talent I can muster, and share whatever comes out.

Gail said...

Hi again-

I SO love dark chocolate. mmmmmmm

and your black tea is now cold and your slivered steel oats are quite soggy.

and I still love you

Gail

peace

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Dark, bittersweet…now THAT'S chocolate!

(Lapsang tea and steel-cut oats.…never soggy.)

:-)

Richard said...

Griz "The Philosopher" is back today...good post. I always remember the saying that goes something like this...If you find that you don't have time for everything, then you are probably doing something you shouldn't be doing.

Jain said...

As for your chores, at least appreciate the fact that they don’t have to be done at the top of a steel and glass skyscraper planted in a field of concrete.

Twice in my life I’ve had to move from the country to the city and both times left me in deep depression, feeling as if I were jailed. I imagine that’s something like the difference between living in these times and the times of our great grandfathers. Life was harder then but so much more connected to the natural world in every way. I don’t think the technological trade-off was worth the loss.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Richard…

Never heard that saying—but it certainly reflects my philosophy to "T."

I am back. but still seem to be plugging along at half speed or something. Maybe when I get this extended weekend behind me I can get back in the rhythm.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

I'm okay with visiting a city—the bigger almost the better—but they're like a glass and concrete wasteland after a while; if you're not spending money, there's no reason to be there, IMHO. I know there are those who feel differently. And believe me, I've been depressed living in those places, too.

As to not thinking the "technological trade-off was worth the loss…" I heartily agree. We've traded stuff for life.