Skip to main content

Daily Sustainability

This is it... the last weekend before I return to full time teaching in a high school English classroom. And, if past years are anything to go by, teaching English will live me feeling wrung out and used up at the end of each day, somewhat resentful at the end of each week that I have such a narrow little window in which to fit the rest of my life.

I don't want it to be like that. That's not new. But the both the desire and the challenge is keener now, since buying this house.

I've mentioned before how important the woods behind the house are to me. I grew up surrounded by woods, and I've longed to live in the woods ever since I left them, to go out and try to create an adult life.

As a child, I at least believed that I lived a life with a kind of balance. My parents had important, meaningful work, but also friends, time outdoors, a house and a garden they were able to take good care of... it looked good, and I both wanted a life like that, and have been afraid I'd be unable to have one.

Whether because my parents were superhuman mutants (Don't laugh! It's a theory I have been known to entertain) or because the world had changed, or because the life I thought I knew as a child never really was that life, I have not felt that I've ever managed anything like the graceful life, lived in balance, that I at least believed my parents had. Of course, to a child, a summer is an eternity, and anything that lasts a year is forever. There are ways that childhood, at least if it is a happy childhood, does lend itself to certain illusions. But this one, that one day I will live a life of balance and love, has been remarkably persistent. I don't feel that I've ever quite found it; and yet I've never stopped seeking it: a sustainable, productive life.

This house reminds me so much of my childhood. There are stretches of woods that feel so similar to the ones I remember from years ago that it is almost deja vu to walk there.

What is it that I want? I want, in the midst of my working year, to find a way to have some of the sense of grace and balance I thought I lived with as a child. I want, in the midst of the working year, to find time to walk in the woods, smelling the warm smell of the forest floor. I want to have time to write, and to sit by a window in my new house and breathe in the toasty steam of a fresh cup of coffee while I read a novel. I want to have long conversations, punctuated by firelight and laughter, with Peter, and my daughter, and my friends.

I want to sink deep into worship on a regular basis. I want to watch the moon's face through the fog of my own breath on an icy starlit night, hand in hand with other Pagans in the snow. I want to fold my own laundry, wash my own dishes, keep up with my grading and my lesson planning, and maybe even bake a little bread once in a while.

I want to ride my bike to the library. I want to have a day off sometimes. And I want to be tired from working hard at the end of the day, but not so tired I can't think, or talk on the telephone, or feel the wind on my face now and then.

I want a sustainable life. I want my finances, my relationships, my workload, and my relationships with my gods to be in balance. I want ordinary (or is it extraordinary?) grace, daily sustainability.

Wish me luck.


Mary Ellen said…
I certainly do wish you luck - as I so keenly share your ambition. Also, be sure you have ruled out any medical causes for extraordinary fatigue. One modest ambition for myself: to find a small space in the day (15-20 minutes?) to center and breathe, just returning to the moment.
Anonymous said…
I wish you all the luck in the world.

Lyon said…
I so keenly identify with the spirit of this post to the point of it made my heart ache while reading it. In a few simple paragraphs you have summed up the entire thrust of my life, the things I search tirelessly for, but haven't been quite able to attain yet.

Sometimes I think the answer is so simple I can't see it - the forest for the trees so to speak. The best thing I have found to do is to just live each day as in the moment as possible, and if you want to bake a little bread, just put down whatever else, regardless of being, tired, antsy, busy and just do it. The only way to create the things we want is to just do it because tomorrow doesn't take care of it for you and when you wait for things to be just right, that moment never comes.

Best of luck to you this school year. May you find what you're looking for or better yet, realize you already have it.
parise said…
i wish i could say anything that could convince you that all you wish for is so possible, but i'm not sure i can. i'll hold you in the light and have faith in your joy.
Anonymous said…
I also wish you luck. Especially as I am starting my teacher training next week and I want to have the balance that you dream for.

Please let us know how you manage this balance.
Anonymous said…
Keep these beautiful goals in your heart, and you won't need luck. :) (But I wish you some, anyway!)

Hystery said…
Cat, I don't know about you but teaching seems to suck the life force right out of me. I often get migraines and I always feel exhausted after class as the adrenaline rush of performance causes me to crash into a pitiable little lump of books, notes, and student papers. I find that I have much less energy for the rest of the good stuff in life. It helps to take my B12 and my calcium and to remember to eat. I often wonder about the effects of a public life on private people. I'm introverted and contemplative yet I earn my bread by making myself a spectacle and for that purpose, I've created an alter-ego who is far more brash and confident than my private self. Such dissonance is exhausting.

Popular posts from this blog

Confronting Racism, Yankee Pagan Style

I am a Yankee.  Right down to my Pagan soul.

My understanding of what it means to be a Pagan is to try to live in right relationship with the gods, the land, and the people, including the ancestors.  My gods are those that are comfortable in New England’s woods and hills.  My land is this rocky landscape of New England.  And my people and my ancestors–on Mom’s side, at least–are New Englanders: sea captains and dairy farmers, teachers and laborers.  Whatever granite is in this place or in my ancestors lives on in me and in my Pagan practice.

And that granite is why I am so driven to speak out against racism.
To help me explain what I mean, I’m going to go ahead and borrow an ancestor: my friend Kirk White‘s father.
A Yankee like a Rock Kirk’s ancestors, like mine, were among the first Englishmen to arrive in North America.  Like mine, this landscape was where they found their home.  And like me, my friend Kirk and his family before him has loved New England–Vermont in his c…

Peter on Grief and Communities

Well, that was unexpected.

For the last year, ever since my mom's health took a sharp downturn, I've been my dad's ride to Florence Congregational Church on Sundays. That community has been important for my dad and the weekly outing with me was something he always looked forward to and enjoyed, so I didn't mind taking him there. It meant giving up attending my own Quaker meeting for the duration, but I had already been questioning whether silent waiting worship was working for me. I was ready for a sabbatical.
A month ago, my dad was Section-Twelved into a geriatric psych hospital when his dementia started to make him emotionally volatile. I had been visiting him every day at his assisted living facility which was right on my way home from work, but the hospital was almost an hour away. I didn't see him at all for three weeks, and when I did visit him there, it actually took me a couple of seconds to recognize him. He was slumped forward in a wheel chair, looking v…

Bears Eat My Lettuce

I love where I live;  since moving to our new home four years ago, I've been able to build a relationship with a piece of land for the first time since I was a child.  It's everything a dirt-worshipping Pagan could ask for.  I have a garden, and I grow much of my own food, and that is as much a spiritual delight as a taste treat.  And I have woods again as neighbors: glacial boulders, white pines and black birches, owls and white-tailed deer.

And bears.

And the bears eat my lettuce.

I'm not kidding about that.  Oh, it's winter now, and the bears are huddled up in their dens.  But this past spring, I grew lettuce.  Award winning, gorgeous lettuce: three different kinds!  They were nourished to extraordinary size and succulence by the cool, wet weather we had, and each night, I would gather just a few outer leaves, knowing that careful tending would mean tasty salads for months.

And then, over the course of three days, the bears ate every single one of my lettuce plants…