Saturday, August 3, 2013

on charting our own course

occasionally I tune in to talks given by people who work in sustainable development. the sensitive acuity of these sorts of people inspires me. and yet they don't "show up" on the horizons of the broader public. how can they compete with flashy celebrities and gruesome news stories?

perhaps their concerns are too specific to capture public attention--too mired in hyper-local projects at some times, and bureaucratic quibbling at others. but it strikes me that youngsters are growing up in a time when it's easy to believe that the whole world is accessible. yet, lives worth paying attention to are still suspended behind some veil.

TED has helped to bring more exposure to the synthesized ideas of those whose careers are wrapped up in how to improve or change the world. I take in their glorious unfurlings with starry but glazed-over eyes. TED talks' live audiences are people who already have plenty of momentum. fellow speakers, wealthy investors, innovators and their ilk. but I bet a lot of the people who give some TED videos millions of views are a lot like me--dazzled but disoriented, and maybe even a bit alienated. how can we help? is this problem all figured out? should I be a mere fanperson of these ideas--should I take my care and concern elsewhere?

how to make ideas actionable will be a question that surrounds anything worth acting on. and it's not my intention to take down TED. in terms of its effects in the world, my calculations yield a net good.

but there are a lot of people doing really critical work who will never have the opportunity, or even possess what it takes, to give a TED talk. they don't have twitters or instagrams and they don't blog often enough to keep the eyes of others. they don't write for The Atlantic or the Huffington Post, so their thoughts aren't available to be quickly shared--they can't go viral. in short, they're not available for consumption.
maybe it can't be any different. it seems to be a common truth that those who are the most practically useful are often the least able to communicate their utility beyond a narrow range of people or institutions. for these sorts to avail themselves to the wilds of the Web would require they steal time and mental energy from more salient tasks.
but who then are we to pattern our lives after? I am concerned about this for young people. (I include myself among the young). we are going to be cheated if we take our cues from the trajectories that immediately surround us--not necessarily physically, but in terms of what we are exposed to. these commonly seem to be of a wealthy, Western sliver of the spectrum that is actually available.

the internet can be a great tool for those living in a place where their peers do not understand or value them. growing up homeschooled in the rural south my hours were spent doing things like watching TV, learning to make art, engaged in all manner of activities outside and, most critically, spending hours on the web corresponding with others about politics, music, art, and the particularities of caring for my animal menagerie. it let me find kindred spirits and encounter new, challenging ideas far beyond what Vance County could offer me even if I had been in school.

that being said, I get the feeling that the internet can create the illusion of the whole world being accessible to us. there is an expectation that anything worth noting, or knowing, from anywhere in the world will show up on our radar if it's important. but by that logic some of the most interesting or critical things will be assumed to not exist because they don't get much attention in news and socail media. and so there are whole realities, robust and impactful, that go about their business despite most citizens of the planet being quite oblivious to their existences. it's not their loss, but ours.

I'm not sure there is a way to get the obscured facets of life to show up in due degree without becoming an utter loudmouth--the sort who presents their views in so extreme a fashion as to color the water of public opinion or awareness, but does so at the expense of their message's quality or nuance. this doesn't seem like a realistic remedy.

so maybe the larger problem here is that of the human tendency to align our lives along well-trodden courses. how can each of us tune in to our unconscious intelligences--those subtle indicators of desire, of need, of potential--while simultaneously resigning ourselves to the paths of least resistance?

formerly, I believed that cool lives and lifestyles weren't getting enough attention, and that if only people were made more aware of the full range of options than we'd see people charting their most individually appropriate courses. now I believe that to still be true--exposure is valuable--but I just don't think that the internet can be changed. it won't solve the exposure problem for us.

for now, I'm on to two potential qualities of this discussion that can change our abilities to find distinct courses of action for ourselves (and, presumably, for the planet and its people). one is that the internet isn't the be-all, end-all of human experience. much of living lays outside of it. and while we assume it to be a fairly descriptive and representative expression of life I'm pretty sure that it often plays an  unhealthily prescriptive role, especially for the young.

and my second point is an equally obvious but equally new (to me) insight. rather than solely seek our calling out in the world, we should also ask ourselves some more questions. questions like, what do I hope to accomplish in the world (so far as I can tell this far into life)? and, what is my definition of success? and, what troubles me about the way things are?

until we spend some time introspecting in this way, gaining interior knowledge, our impressions of how lives can play out in the external world won't be as valuable and may even be inappropriate for us. we will only encounter and taste the lowest hanging fruit. but looking within is a skill requiring attentiveness and a degree of separation from the flashy narratives the dominate the web, and which would happily dominate our minds and set our courses for us.

despite all that we perceive as available to us, I don't think we're as independent a people as we'd like. only when we encounter and develop our inner selves can we begin to live in such a way that breaks the patterns reiterated around us. and we may be too exceptional, complex, or just too busy to make any appreciable impact on the web. but, so long as we're not compromising the replicability of our own good work, and so long as young people are ready to eschew tired templates of life in favor living a bit more to the point, I think society can move forwards more than it is moving backwards.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

on the form of thinking

I've just returned from some time in Norway, where each day's circumstance and aesthetic supported good thinking.

of course, "good thinking" can mean many things. in the past, I may have meant thinking that was especially purpose-oriented, yielding clear notions of what to do next in life. at times I've assumed that my thinking must be purely verbal, and anything less was nearly primitive and underdeveloped.

but I have wavered between regarding high-quality thinking as being that of the rational, Western, precise sort and that which seems more fitting of the Noble Savage: instinctual, unconscious, nonverbal and yet robust. thus is how I have framed the continuum so far; hence, it's no wonder that I would have trouble deciding on one or the other. why should I settle on extreme or the other if both are, at different times, appropriate and essential?

upon recollection, the sort of thoughts I had in Norway fit neither of the above descriptions. being too young to drive our rented car, I was perpetually the passenger as we ticked along the countryside. finally, my wound-up mind could uncoil over the ochre, green, and gray of the landscape as we drove through (and, in our better times, explored) the endless countryside. I think people call this "taking it all in."

there was little pushing or pulling of my thoughts. they were commonly lazy, drifting, expansive--but most of all, responsive to my inner needs. at one moment I might be silently and sensitively impressed by the shape of the land, letting it sink into my bones. in the next moment I might be working quite diligently through a cognitive conundrum, asking and answering actual questions of myself.

I wasn't searching hard for anything too profound. except for one moment when I climbed pretty far up into a tree situated next to a very mighty river rushing down from melting lakes atop the big mountains that rose up all around me. when I arrived at the top of the tree I noted that this is the sort of place where people have important, profound thoughts. hurry up and think of something profound, I urged myself. then I acknowledged that merely being there was special and to be highly prized. having ceased to bully myself into arriving at any concrete new notions, and thereby permitting myself to savor the place, a new insight alighted on my mind like a little petal waiting so long to land. it didn't radically alter my outlook, but it was good to have and to revisit (for now, I'll keep it private).

recent experiences like these indicate to me the importance of allowing my mind to settle into where it needs to be. I've resisted this truth because it strikes me as self-indulgent and lacking intention--the "be here now" mantra that, when misunderstood, can justify a lack of disciplined planning or responsiveness to the state of one's self or the greater world.

but more lately I'm coming around to the idea that forcing the mind to either of the extremes as I earlier described is no more useful or appropriate than lolling about in a hedonic immersion in the here and now. I shouldn't be shoving aside exceptional mind-body experiences, the sort that resist immediate verbal interpretation, in favor of something tame and controlled through language. because there is meaning there, and something to be learned and unpacked, in time. nor should I resist moments of absolute verbal clarity, or avoid narrating my movements or describing my mindscape, if it comes naturally. to each instance, the required mindset must be granted, or I'll gain little.

there are two things to be acknowledged about embracing this sort of metric of appropriateness for my thoughts. one is that while it requires conceding to a more instinctual part of the self it is nonetheless a highly pragmatic approach. because all I'm really concluding is that the best way to think is the way that is the best. framed this way the conclusion seems circular, but all this really means is how to think depends on the circumstances. the tool required depends on the outcome desired.

the second is that this new approach (new to me--long obvious to many, maybe most) has been developed through exposure to the conservation biologist Peter Kareiva. he works in The Nature Conservancy and seems to be lauded for being a pragmatic realist when it comes to achieving the ecological changes our planet requires.

he gave a talk at the Long Now foundation's lecture series titled Conservation in the Real World. its content more or less fulfills the attractive title, acknowledging problems with common approaches: fear-based tactics that only alienate, and a resistance to technology that could more or less solve some problems.

but what struck me most was his assessment of the sustainable agriculture movement. I'm working from memory, as I can't locate a transcript of his talk (and it may have been in the Q&A after), but he describes a need for an outcome-based approach to evaluating the sustainability of food production and ultimately for the methods one utilizes. in other words, the only way to get past the rhetoric and mythology surrounding small/local/organic farming is to evaluate how well each enterprise scores along various critical criteria. for example, which system sequester the most carbon? which invest most in the local economy? which have to use the fewest chemical inputs? it may be that some farms score very high in some factors but surprisingly poor in others.

of course, fairly comparing farms is another matter that complicates this approach. does one compare according to acreage? that seems to miss the point. what about calories produced per acre? that too is troubled--the quality of the calorie must be considered. but the larger aim of determining the method according to the desired outcome strikes me as irresistibly practical, with potentially profound implications for farming but also applicable to many other realms. like thought. the way we should think depends on the outcomes we desire... or require. form should follow function; function should follow need.

Monday, October 22, 2012

on sinkholes

a common flaw in my thinking is to fail to be as attuned to nuance and subtle distinctions as I ought. and having recognized this unfortunate tendency, I'm now rendered super sensitive to its cropping up in others' rationale.

one need look no further than banal facebook to witness discourse on soft matters that is so terribly splintered, so strictured as to leave anyone not entrapped in the ramshackle construction to cringe (and unsubscribe). these sorts of exchanges are not just unhelpful. they are damaging. what could be an opportunity to publicly demonstrate productive ways of thinking together, or even of disagreeing, instead becomes a public embarrassment. when both parties are slinging mud--bad reasoning and bad manners--both end up with dirt on their faces.

it's worse in relationships with friends, family, and lovers. conversations that insist on reducing hurt feelings to cut-and-dry situations ("but you did x, so of course I felt like y!") are misguided from the get-go. to insist that our side is the most logical, fair, and accurate way of conceiving of things is erroneous.  I think this is because truth generally manages to encompass some parts of both sides' narratives. to grasp that truth requires an open and searching hand; we can't ever hope to find it while tightly clutching our own fractions of its whole.

truth exists, but it can be hard to track down--hard to draw near to (I like what Josh wrote about truth after a conversation with me last December). and while sometimes it lays at the end of well-worn paths, more often than not it takes some sniffing out. the trouble is when, in our thinking, we wander down the path of least resistance and plop into intellectual sinkholes.

I'm as prone to this as anyone when dealing with complex matters. but I do believe that careful consideration is a skill that can be cultivated, so as deficient in it as I presently feel, I am confident that I can mature in this way.

however, I've got a long way to go when it comes to fairly assessing my own potential. this is because my thoughts often disappear into another type of sinkhole. I have difficulty writing about it--my desire to be fair and precise in my expression of things sometimes leaves me sometimes unable to speak of them at all.

it's something like this: I pick up on patterns that emerge after the fact and view them as prescriptive. how silly! but it's common. imagine how many people have avoided giving themselves over to a natural and wholesome interest just because they don't consider themselves to be "that sort." we see that people engaged in a common behavior also dress similarly, or drive similar cars, or have similar backgrounds, and we consider these features to be a prohibitive necessary prerequisite!

the most needed "next thing" for us may be patiently waiting just a short ways down the trail. let us not roll off our path and drop off into faulty furrows.

I have stretched my mind in writing this; it's now quite spent. this is all I have to offer for the evening.

Monday, September 17, 2012

on responsibility and on freedom, too

during some parts of the last few years I have focused primarily on the negative aspects of my upbringing, as is the necessary wont of young adults, but my sense of the past is finally expanding to more fairly include the beneficial bits, too. and there were many. ironically, the very conditions that resulted in much social isolation and resulting ills also helped to foster that "rich inner life" that writers from rural areas love alluding to.

but more importantly, it was the responsibilities I had that made such a difference. they were never arbitrary. slack as I was in some areas of my life (because I was a child, and then a teenager!) the discipline I did gain was where it was required. one example of many I could point to is that I was never made to tote buckets upon buckets of warm water in winter time to my horses' troughs by some external, parental force. the knowledge alone of their condition on icy nights and potential for suffering was enough motivation. and if I wouldn't do it, who else would? sure, I could ask my dad or my sister. but why ought they do it if I was the horses' caretaker by default? "I don't want to" wasn't a reasonable excuse. I don't think I ever resented that--at least not for very long.

I remember sleeping late into mornings for a stretch of my life. sometimes my dad would call up and kindly suggest that I consider waking up now. and other times he would remark on how good he feels waking up early, starting the day while it's new and maleable. but the choice as to when to meet the day was largely mine (I was homeschooled so there was no 7 AM bus to catch). another time he called up and said, this time with a slightly stronger tone, "Ariel, you should get up now. it's not good for the horses for you to not maintain a feed schedule."

how could I argue with that? he was offering a real reason for me to be awake: I was neglecting my duties; living things were depending on me. I was needed by some creatures in the conscious world. and given that I was the sort of child who would nearly obsess over nutrition, water quality, UV lighting, and humidity levels for my menagerie of critters, it was plenty to motivate me.

I look back on that as a simple moment of exemplary parenting. it was powerful in part because of its contrast to the many times my dad let me discover on my own that sleeping in feels gross (all the while subtly hinting at the merits of rising earlier). it represented the most beneficial coupling of guidance and permissiveness. and before long, on my own accord, I was waking several hours earlier.

my responsibilities were so part and parcel to the freedom provided by my situation that it was hard to tease the two apart. caring for our horses made sense because they let me climb on their backs and explore the countryside. my mare let me fly across open fields before it was legal to operate any vehicle to achieve comparable speeds. the gelding would cradle his delicate head around the mantle of my bony, angst-laden adolescent shoulders in the way a pal would place his arm around them to draw me closer to comfort.

and I delighted in the physicality of care-oriented tasks about as much as the moments of raw exuberance galloping across the countryside. in fact, I rode comparatively little when one considers the effort put into daily horse care. the transaction wasn't obvious; there was no clear exchange rate. there was joy to be gained from merely existing in the company of creatures.

this was real life--I felt that I had a say in the state of things. this wasn't some manufactured training for hypothetical future responsibilities. instead, I had direct impact. the horses, chickens, crustaceans, reptiles, and so on were existing in the present, meaning the time to act responsibly was now. and because I thought they were sooo cool, I ultimately didn't mind.

(I didn't mean to write about this exactly; I suppose it wanted more attention than the paragraph or two I  had originally intended. in the future I want to explore degree to which the availability of tools and my liberty to wield them and manipulate and interact with my physical environment to specific ends as an important element of my development.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

on currents

wings, gills, and x-ray vision all sound sublime. but another handy superpower would be to clearly see my own motives, and the forces that move me.

we live in a "free" society, but freedoms gained by the strivings of those who came before me are partly squandered by my own predilection for the influence of other powers-at-be. I am not ruled by a single tyrant with a name and a face, but by the collective messages of many names, with many faces (and many Facebooks).

my interest in the lives of others is rooted in my very identity--my formation from the beginning has left me predisposed to allurement by others' stories, views, even visages. but I am disturbed by the degree to which I'm affected by people. I want to self-assured, poised, and determined! I wish to be noble, dammit!

sometimes it's appropriate to rest one's self in a receptive place--to take notes and take cues from the surrounding waters. but if the creatures that surround us are doing the very same thing, how can better ways of living ever emerge from the eddy? the waters are a murky mix and I crave clarity.

a recurring theme in my psychology courses is how very influenced humans are by other humans. it's a spectrum but we all lie along it somewhere--we are all concerned with the opinions of others. when I feel caught in the crosswinds of life and my resources seem slim or beyond my reach the primal fears that grip me in weak moments have to do with losing community. and losing the good opinion of others, or appearing like a failure--out of touch, on the margins, forgotten. it's not that I fear being reduced to a shivering specter in the dark so much as I am concerned that someone might see me there,  and I would be alienated from my tribe.

in acknowledging that imbedded fear I must presume that it reigns in me, somehow. it holds sway.

I would much rather that my opinions on what is good and right exerted more force than the norms established, often unintentionally, by my surrounding community. but do I give it much of a fighting chance?

I expose myself to the transitory stirrings of a half-hearted public when I listen in on coffee shop conversations or scroll, scroll, scroll through facebook news feeds. it's gotta add up. meanwhile, how much say am I giving to wise men and women? or to myself?

revered leaders and thinkers don't call us to be slightly better than our friends and acquaintances. to allow ourselves to become caught up in that futile struggle is to miss the point. rather, they call us to be better than ourselves, all of the time. and not just better, you see, but good.

if I am dragged about by animal fear, and by the haphazard sounding off of other creatures just as caught in the struggle of being human, maybe I'm not so free after all. I need to give myself a fighting chance.

Friday, June 29, 2012

on knowledge lost and gained

there are not many people on this earth who could truthfully say they have known me very well and for a long time. 

certainly some of my friendships borne of youth group and bible camp days rank comparatively high in familiarity. but even they have had narrow view. seeing someone once or twice a week for a few hours is not the same at witnessing their life, even if I were to explicate otherwise shrouded details as best I could--which I regularly did, to my internet friends, not unlike what I am doing now. (ah, the habits of homeschoolers. we all found our unique ways of socializing).

so my mom and sisters have known me for a long time, but there isn't really anyone else with that enduring knowledge. my dad understood and appreciated parts of me like no one else. he did not know me completely, of course. no one can--not even I! but our hours going to horse care workshops, fishing, fixing fences, and "gallivanting" were not just rich in activity but full of conversation. we assumed a particular format, every time: I would talk incessantly, he would listen and laugh. he would tell stories, I would express disbelief. I would become full of righteous indignation over the parts of the world I suspected were bullshit, and he would temper me with insightful words while his eyes twinkled with an unmistakable pride that his daughter believed in things.

we made one another known during these hours. it wasn't a knowledge that lay within him or within me; rather, it was held between us, the way a gardenia flower's warm fragrance may be held between gently cupped hands. a distinct and irreplaceable knowledge was lost when his body gave way to his brain's internal injuries. his cradled hand faltered while mine was left to grasp at the cold and open air.

it is almost impossible to be elegant in my grief, but I have damn sure tried. friends have probably heard my attempts to whittle this rough, knotty loss into a series of profundities. but honestly, as soon as I feel I've wrapped my heart and mind around these precarious shapes the pieces just shatter and reform into obtuse shapes all over again. 

you know, I probably shouldn't have taken that exam two days after my dad died. there is some healthy ceremony in letting fresh wounds throb before we try to dress them up and do away with them. this seems to be a pattern: I'm realizing aspects of sadness and loss weeks or months beyond when they would have been useful.

grief is humbling. I'm sure I have said this before. but I know I'm better off for it. now that the seemingly implausible has shown itself quite possible I spend my days with a dull dread for who or what else may be snatched away in concert with the very palpable knowledge that I've suffered and survived what some people spend their whole adult lives dreading. this strange music surrounds, all of the time, every where I go.

my good friend Heather once called me very resilient. I appreciated that very much, as "resilience" means the ability to maintain overall stability despite disturbances. it's a term oft-used in discussions of the ecological integrity of a particular place, and a concept quite dear to my wistful agrarian heart. 

but my inner landscape is mysterious even to me, with caverns and dimly-lit nooks, crannies and corridors. varied planes and textures. parts that seem dislocated from the whole. 

it's difficult to objectively evaluate the self. perhaps my facade is one of order, of grief well-managed, and I am the only one truly privy to the household's mess. or maybe others see something I do not. there are many indicators in nature so I suppose my friends' observations should not be dismissed despite how discordant they seem with my own. 

it's a rough road but here I am, more or less intact. so I have a strange and conflicted gratitude for that which I've already endured, since I know there are more disturbances to come.

Friday, March 2, 2012

on this one

sometimes I feel an urge, bordering on obligation, to pin down the details of any particularly rich day. yet upon delving into my account I quickly lose interest and patience. after all, I know what happened--I've already lived it. clearly, I've yet to mastered the art of storytelling. constructing a narrative involves detail and interpretation in appropriate doses; bare facts alone aren't effective in captivating any audience's attention--not even my own. but abstractions, vague color-tints and impressions of murmurs and moments, leave everyone out.

I have some necessary writing to tackle very soon. I contain dim and troubled waters on only the rarest of occasions but this time around the waters are rough. that vague allusion will suffice so far as this little blog entry is concerned. in this moment I am writing as an exercise--to warm up to the art so that my skills may be a little sharper once I turn my attention to more outwardly oriented topics.

enough adieu.

this morning I arrived at work on time. for much of my employment this was the norm, but I've been rolling in about five minutes late these past few months. but not today - this time I was a few minutes early. my boss never notices my arrival as it hovers behind and ahead of when I'm on the clock, and I have a hard time worrying myself with the matter too much as I almost always leave a good chunk after my hour of intended departure, not to mention the research time I put in on my own time.

her text messages roll in on the latter half of my commute there. if it seems safe to do so I check them on the way, the I cut off the radio or music and tune in to the tasks ahead. "Good morning! CC this AM. Please gently wash off H wound with water, trying not to disturb any healthy scabbing. She is wary of the hose so start slowly. Perhaps a bucket of warm water and a gauze would work best. When it dries, apply antibiotic ointment - found w/gauze in the drawers to the left as you enter the tack shack. You may need to warm it up to squeeze it out. Please also give Savana an afternoon feed."

she starts her communication with the general and moves through the increasingly specific. codes emerge: "CC" is critter care: feeding and watering the seven horses, ranging from tiny Sadie who barely hits my hip to giant, 18 Hh Zolton, a black spotted draft whose youthful exuberance makes his size all the more intimidating (he is around six feet tall at his withers). "H" is Honey, because she is the color of Honey, with a glorious white mane and tail. Honey managed to scuff herself up pretty bad recently, probably while throwing her heft around - though I suspect her overwhelming locks may make for a tough time minding the fence snags and briars that can make pasture life difficult. finally, "S" is Savana, who is over thirty years old and insecure of her place in the herd. I'm told by the horse trimmer Crystal (who is a story in her own right) that Savana wasn't likely to last through last winter. she is a Trakehner, meaning she has aggressive angles made all the more rigid by her age. but her face is dished, and looks young, and she carries an ever-worried look in her dark eyes that remind me of my old dead mare Codi and my tiny grandmother Sybil who has been locked in the steadfast grasp of Alzheimer's for longer than I can remember.

so, I set to work. I fed the horses and checked on the chickens, too. I tended to Honey's wounds, and soaked Murphy's abscessed hoof, and brushed Savana, and filled troughs, and gathered buckets, and trotted horses across three pastures. I dashed around the property on their golf cart (which we treat as one of those tough green Gators despite its constant protests in the form of flat tires and lost buckets). sometimes the farm cats climb aboard and taste horse feed and chicken mash just to make sure, for the hundredth time, that it is indeed not the same as cat food. most of the cats are affectionate and long overdue for a cuddle, so I hold them tight and accelerate to fifteen, twenty, twenty-two miles per hour while cat claws curl into my skin and fasten to me like velcro.

I was weeding the long, arced strawberry row when it began to rain so I moved my work to their dining room table and made great strides in planning the garden. what a myriad of considerations there are! what grows in the garden now, what was there last season, last year, two years ago all come into play--as do less ephemeral considerations like sunlight, soil structure, and how much finished compost I have now or will have later. and then there is simple matter of what I need to grow. and how much of each. and, are the seeds still good?

this time around my boss wants me to build a cloche for seed-starting. I think it'll be a bit more involved than she assumes, but I am up to the challenge, and thankful that an early spring has forced her to focus on planting season in a timely fashion rather than waiting 'til we're weeks behind.

I've just about got it figured out, though I have been this confident before only to have some unforeseen factor or critical aspect I failed to take into account completely sabotage my intended scheme. so it goes! that beloved term, resilience, applies to agriculture in the abstract, too: I must be able to grow, and grow well, even when set askew.

garden books make long-term crop plans seem easy. ah, you planted tomato and peppers there last year? solanaceae? well, that's where the alliums will go this spring!

but what if that soil is unsuitable for leeks or onions? and, what of leeks' slow growth? and what if that spot had a bizarre interplanting of eggplant and onion the year prior because the gardener was experimenting with microclimates and differing root depths!? ... hypothetically speaking, of course.

it's taxing to know what ought to be done at a particular point in the season while lacking the time to tackle it. I must finish pruning the orchard, the grapes, the blackberries. I must double-dig a bed I sheet mulched in the fall. I must lime the front pastures and lawn. I must remove some sod and henbit from the base of the blueberries, fertilize them, mulch them. I must reclaim large portions of the upper garden bed from errant strawberries, but doing this involves digging bordering rows, checking the soil's pH, amending, covering it securely with corn-based landscaping fabric, and then finally moving the strawberries to their new home with care.

while I was agonizing over my crop placement, and my rapidly diminishing eraser, I got another text from my boss: "Recycling today too please." ah, she wants me to pick up the recycling from the farm and their office in town and drop it off at a county dump. I adjusted my time frame accordingly: I'd work just a little longer on the garden design, feed Savana again, load up the big farm truck and head onward. it would work out so that Savana would be just finishing her feed by the time I returned to let her bag in with the ponies before her nerves caught up with her. but, alas! the truck bed was full to the brim with mops, garden material, de-icing salts, an antique school desk. I don't know why, but it meant I had to unload each item before heading on. it was during this time that I really began to resent their young German Shepherd and his incessant barking.

the truck gate gets jammed. sometimes I can unlatch it: I heave my body upwards against a particular point on the gate while lifting the handle backwards. when it works I feel like I've manipulated physics in my favor. when it doesn't--when both ends of the gate are jammed--I end up with bruised shoulders, shot nerves, and an even deeper-seated resentment of Buddy the dog. hauling trash cans loaded with glass wine and rum bottles + thick bi-monthly dental supply catalogues up and over the side of the truck instead of out the back like any civilized farmhand gets old, but I try to involve my whole body, and hope that the extra work shows in my muscles instead of my joints.

sometimes the truck doesn't start and I have to jump it. sometimes it starts but is frightfully low on gas. the only gas station between the farm and town is cash-only. you stop the pump yourself, meaning you're either getting a few nickels shy of the gas you paid for, or you're dashing back into the ramshackle station with a handful of change to compensate for running the meter beyond what you paid for upfront.

I'm getting better at loading the truck. a handful of bungee cables, most with the elastic shot, stretch and weave over precariously arranged cargo in the hopes that nothing flies out and endangers some car trailing too close or mars the emerging green highway shoulders with the ultramarine blue of diet coke packaging. it's an art made all the more expressive when I involve my whole body: I hop in, shift, heave stuff about, hop out and land upon that satisfying grit, grab something else that needs to go, and repeat. I dip me knees into black bags to shove them into tight spaces and throw the weight of my upper body against broken-down boxes or tin trash bins. everyone must get along or the whole show goes down.

county dumps are funny places. there are lots of trucks. sometimes I think, "goodness, does everyone drive a pickup truck?" before realizing that I pulled up in one. they are manned and managed by retirees who poke at piles of trash with rakes and fish out plastic bags carelessly tossed in the recycling bin. sometimes I drive up with a rough load, me in my most unfeminine of clothing, with a brown cap and black gloves and muddy boots. something about the aesthetic affects my attitude, and I find myself disinclined to wave or make conversation. the more minimal and to-the-point my movements are the better, I catch myself thinking. before long I'm bound up in affectation!

without compromising my economy of motion, today I loosened up. I waved and let my palm linger, a little limp, with a flicker of fingers out the open window of the truck. my hope is the attendant recognized me as the girl who would not stop asking questions about Johnston County's recycling habits.   and when a woman pulled up to unload a trunk's worth of soda bottles and cardboard I sought to maintain an open air. "oh shit!" she said when a glass bottle dropped as she ascended the other short staircase up to the lip of the giant receptacle. "--pardon my french." she actually said that! people say that!

"this stuff isn't mine. it's my daughter-in-law's. I always keep my stuff real neat." she explained, as if one errant bottle were enough to condemn her as a slob. "some people just don't know how to pack trash," I said. "she keeps everything," the woman continued. "I take it all up when I watch the kid. I think she's something like a hoarder. they say it's a disease." I listened while unloading flattened cardboard at the other end of the bend. "but she lost her mother real young--her mother died at forty-seven." she said it was hard for her to have to get rid of her mother's stuff right after she died--"too soon." I thought about what I wanted to say, realized it'd make me sound like a know-it-all psych major, and replied with some acknowledgement that we sometimes try to shore up security for ourselves to compensate. the loudspeaker in the middle of the lot cut on. it was someone from another dump sharing stats about how many tons of trash and recycling and how many batteries and TV's or whatever they'd received that week. she left without saying goodbye, but that's how it goes there.

in an effort to avoid blocking the bin I had parked the truck close to the chain link fence that encircles the facility. it was a steep drop-off; I used the parking brake. after taking it off I tried to ease the truck back but it dig into the gravel and sand. damn! so much for my attempt at seeming cool and at-ease with tough tasks! but it wasn't psychosocial disaster after all--pulling forward a bit before backing up a different direction solved my problem. I dashed back and smoothed over the dry ruts with my boot, realizing all the while that conscientiousness ought to trump coolness any day, and a little dose of uninvited humility could probably only do me good.

I told my boss how much she owed me. it's two weeks wages. she didn't see the text 'til hours after I'd left, but I don't mind - I'm good 'til monday. once I returned to the farm I hustled hard to finish the day (half an hour late already) to get to the post office before it closed it pick up a Punch Brothers vinyl that the USPS keeps trying to deliver but I am never there to sign for. I braved Gorman and Avent Ferry stop-go traffic and found my destination tucked into a shopping center lacking color or character only to realize that I'd missed my chance--they'd already sent my package back to the shipper. silly. frustrating. but ultimately inconsequential--it's a worry I'd choose over many I've experienced.

tonight is first friday. I am dressed a bit nicer than normal--I am showered and feeling almost sleek. the bike gang left from the belltower a full hour ago. galleries close in another hour. I don't have to get up as early in the morning as I first thought. what, then, to do?

I think I will close this account of my day. I'll go to Whole Foods and buy apples, milk, an onion and maybe some cereal. then I'll cook some vegetables and eggs and drink the Shiner that's been in my fridge for two weeks. I will play guitar, study up more on pruning fruit trees, wonder what my favorite person is doing on the other side of the country, and finish the day having invested in evening, and in tomorrow.