Summer is haying season. The field out back has been mowed up (RIP bird nests), grass swathed in semi-neat windrows left to dry and ready for baling. And no, I did not know most of that off-hand. Had to look it up, and it only took me eight years of living here to wonder at the hay making process that’s been taking place just beyond the brick wall and fence that separate my backyard from the grassy hill that’s now been gathered into bales and schlepped off, I presume, to the dairy farm down the street.
It recently occurred to me that the city is the worst best example of… of what? Of hurry? Of disconnect, individualism, and isolationism? Of America? Of deep, soul-lack in the midst of excessive material wealth or the pursuit thereof?
Thousands of people go through the city each day. To work, to drink, to meet, to have affairs, to gaze at art, to get a tattoo, to propose, to perform, to dream, to love, to die… And none of them have anything yet everything to do with each other. They pass each other by, oblivious to anyone else’s story besides their own. They don’t have time for eye contact or civility or kindness. It’s all just thousands of people going in thousands more directions because that’s how these things work. That’s how you “make it” in the world. You put your head down, put your blinders on, and shoulder your way to “the top,” until it gets to a point where you can’t even see yourself much less the people around you. Then what? You fall, either up or down. Because when you finally get there you find it’s not enough. You want more. But there is no more. So you clamber to make more, create your own meanings. Or, despairing, you jump down. And the cycle begins again, just somewhere else, with a different ladder, a different mountain, a different set of blinders.
Gee, I wonder if Eliana has been feeling existential about “vocation” recently.
Bird sightings from today’s solitary walk:
A great blue heron, many a robin, a blue jay couple who got into a small squabble, a red-headed woodpecker, the occasional and elusive cardinal, a whole flock of grey catbirds that I thought were listening to me sing by the stream but really they were intent on catching water bugs and moths, a bunch of generic black birds I have yet to identify, and several finches, sparrows, and the like.
When I was in middle school I made fun of people who were entertained by sitting and looking at birds. Now I can’t get enough of it. Half the enjoyment comes from the sleuthing that happens when I come home and do a ton of Google searches to figure out what birds I saw.
I tried to read “The Goldfinch” back during freshman year. At the very least, I succeeded in turning all the pages. Now I’m reading “The Secret History” by the same author, and I think I just might end up enjoying it more than I thought I would. The goal is to finish it before my internship starts next week. And then it’ll be on to long classics like “Les Misérables” and “Hard Times” and “Anna Karenina” and “The Fellowship of the Ring” (which, I hate to admit, I never finished… hopefully I can get myself to read it by the end of the summer, even though I’ve been saying that for years).
Yesterday, I told my mother I felt aimless even though I had plenty to read, and it seemed to indicate that I have yet a lot to learn about leisure and rest. The short Wendell Berry novel I finished in the evening had some helpful meditations in that category.
When I lie on my side and squint, I can imagine the line of trees on the horizon is the edge of this land. The sky above it, with a few tricks of the eye, is the ocean, and the long line of clouds above that stretch of sky is the opposite shore, mountainous and lush, strong and tender in its nature. Or perhaps it is heaven, awaiting the end of our pilgrimage here on this side of Eden. But then the clouds dissipate, and night falls, and I know it could not have been heaven because I’m still here with an ache in my heart.