During July, my job as a teacher allowed me what still feels like the utterly decadent luxury of time away from my home not working. I spent the time in Colorado, farming on the community supported agricultural (CSA) venture of one of my oldest and best friends, John. (If you’re not familiar with CSAs, check out these websites for starters: www.localharvest.org/csa/, www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csa.shtml.)
My typical day looked like this:
6 am — wake to go into the field for weeding, hoeing, or other work during the cool of the morning
8 am — breakfast
9 am — back to the field for harvesting, pruning, work in the tomatoes, or whatever else needs to be done
noon — lunch and a game of go
1:30 pm or so — work on something that keeps us mostly in the shade; maybe run into town for supplies; maybe a nap
5 pm or so — dinner and conversation; reading, writing, thinking
10 pm — sleep
It was a good schedule, especially when sprinkled with time spent with a few other friends. It gave me a lot of time to look at things like this:
Nevertheless, it took me two weeks to stop thinking about work all the time. Once I did, I didn’t want to start again. I needed to check in on my email and other communication and I found myself resisting, delaying.
When I have a lot of time to think I quickly come the conclusion that nothing is more important than anything else. I stay with my routine because it feels good, but life appears meaningless. From this perspective, my regular life feels just as useless: I get up and do this and that and keep doing it till I get too tired to keep going. Why bother? Meaning eludes me quickly and easily. There is none. My attempt to make meaning through intent, by the effort to make that intent reality, by caring is worthwhile and ultimately not enough. As farmer John says, the question “what is meaningful?” becomes less important than “what do you want to do?”
When I ask these questions and really think about what I want to do, I slowly realize that I want the life I currently lead. Yes, there are certain details I would change, but overall and even in many of the specifics, I am having the life I want. The time of summer reflection and of testing the potential for another life is good, probably necessary for me. It is also good that, when I return and look closely at my life in its day-to-day moments, I still want that life. I’m a lucky man and I’m happy to say it.