useless-smart & squirrel grace

photo (16)

Yesterday was one of those glorious fall days that gives the two-week season its reputation, all gold and red and deep blue, warm where the sun falls and cool in the shade, a promise of something about to change, but not yet. There’s still some new snow on the mountains, offering some definition to elevations that have already faded to shades of brown.

I spent much of the day sitting next to a hole watching for impending collapse and/or signs of changes in c’s consciousness while he whacked a rusted lid that’s older than i am back into place over the septic tank and then cut better and different holes in the tank. A friend came to sit with me for a bit, and asked, watching c’s dirt and oil-stained back twist around with the lid, “does this make you love him more?” I said maybe, even as it made me also hate the house more, and then we reflected on being useless-smart, able to “coordinate” and “facilitate” and edit and revise the shit out of things, but when it comes to not dying in holes, we both find ourselves at the surprised mercy of others, horrified to realize that we might not have thought about the fact that breathing decades of stored-up poop fumes can kill you and precautions should be taken to avoid it. c bungeed a utility fan to the ladder. And I’d been convinced for months that all the bungee cords were mysteriously lost forever and resigned myself to life without them, never to be mentioned again.

Useless-smarts aside, we’ve been negotiating this contrast a lot this summer, the questions of whether a sunny day is a demand that we go out and enjoy where we live or that we stay home and do the work to ensure that the house where we live doesn’t fall apart. Both are important, but i’m far more resistant to one than the other. I’ve been thinking a lot about the pros and cons–though that’s probably too reductive a way to categorize them–of stability and rootedness, and in recent weeks about the different things a season represents. Though of course it wasn’t intentional (what is?), my creative thesis ended up being mostly about finding home, settling in, settling down, whatever you want to call it (edited, revised, validating that i’m the kind of smart that doesn’t do shit for digging holes). Stuff about choices and gardens, about not leaving a place a lot of people leave (one of those essays was just published today on Vela).

This summer, there was a local series of well-intentioned and questionably executed storytelling events focused on seasonal life, with an emphasis on jobs and travel as what defines seasonality. Perhaps because i’m (still) reading Walden and perhaps, as i said later, i have a hard time just liking anything, it left me a little irritated. You can live a seasonal life from a single acre, if you’re paying attention, and that acre isn’t necessarily imaginatively restrictive. Still, i do feel an occasional twinge of nostalgia for the days when i identified with the cranes rather than the squirrels, for not having to deal with the holes. Of course it was never that straightforward, but some things are remembered more easily than others, and the grace of cranes is easier to see than that of squirrels. 

So, right now, there’s this big hole ringed in red fireweed gone to seed behind the house, and other broken things accumulating, and a deliciously stacked woodpile, 8 producing tomato plants in the living room, c’s still breathing, , i’ve got another useless degree and americans don’t read anymore, but now i know where the bungee cords are, and it’s another gorgeous day, my last Sunday (which is a Monday) of the summer work season, and i’m enjoying my day alone in a house i love and hate with bread dough and coffee and this MFA writing habit challenge, which i’m hoping will, if nothing else, get me back into blogging (i think i’ve said that before…). 

Thoreau, who doesn’t annoy me half as much as i expected him to, has c’s tolerance of small animals in built spaces, and wrote

The animal merely makes a bed, which he warms with his body in a sheltered place; but man, having discovered fire, boxes up some air in a spacious apartment, and warms that, instead of robbing himself, makes that his bed, in which he can move about divested of more cumbrous clothing, maintain a kind of summer in the midst of winter, and by means of windows even admit the light, and with a lamp lengthen out the day. Thus he goes a step or two beyond instinct, and saves a little time for the fine arts.

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