This morning, Peter suggested we call a landscaping company to see about raking up our leaves. Now, our yard is pretty small, but the leaves haven't shown any signs of raking themselves up, any more than the yard has tidied itself of fallen branches in the last few weeks, or the fence gate repaired itself. His suggestion is a practical one, and, if we're not rolling in dough, still, we probably could swing it.
But it feels wrong, so very wrong. What about simplicity? What about being close to the earth? Shouldn't I at least want to get out there in the bright light of morning, put in my couple of hours of yardwork, and bask in the glow of homeowner satisfaction?
I said as much to Peter.
"Good Quakers don't hire someone else to rake their lawns!" I said to him. "Good Pagans don't hire someone else to take care of their yards!"
"Good Quakers are retired," he observed. "and good Pagans are students."
Damn. He has a point.
We used to do these things. I remember being out there in that yard, mulching in the compost I'd made into container gardens for tomatoes and green peppers. I remember splitting my own stovewood in Vermont, for that matter, and feeling the better for it.
I remember having time for community, for walks in the woods, for lingering over a journal in a cafe, too. Where did the time for that go? Into teaching. Into fifty-five and sixty hour work weeks with the need to grade papers during the weekends. (If we just had the weekends, I often think.) I know that plenty of people think teachers work from 8:00 to 3:30 and that's it, but I can't help that. For neither Peter nor me is teaching a mere "full-time" job, and those summers off are really just comp time for the extra hours we put in during the school year.
Teaching school is only hard if you're doing it right, perhaps.
One question Peter and I have been asking ourselves a lot recently is whether jobs like ours are incompatible with being a Quaker--or a Pagan. How is it possible to live simply when each night sees us falling into bed exhausted, with scant time for ourselves, let alone community, friendships, committees?
If God had a leading for me today, how quickly could I act on it?
When we heard about my mom's accident, it took us eight hours of flat-out, full-bore preparation and arrangements to get the car out of the driveway and on our way to the hospital.
That was a bit disconcerting. As emergency response time goes, it sucked.
Our lives are anything but simple, anything but free. But surely the work we do is worthwhile. I know I am doing it well. I can feel it making a difference--feel the change it makes in the world, palpably on some days. Not many people can say that.
And yet, and yet... it is so hard to stay rooted in community. It is so hard to have a life in the body. It is so hard to make time for Spirit.
Peter's words are shocking and they're funny and they have a painful grain of truth embedded within them, like the cutting grain of sand at the heart of the pearl:
Good Quakers are retired. Good Pagans are students.
What this is saying about religion, work, and the hard job of discernment is anybody's guess. We're just asking the questions around here.