A Circular Life

Scientiae wants to know what keeps us moving forward in our science, work, and life. I am not a practicing scientist right now, and I don't have a job, so I guess this will have to focus on life.

Perhaps it's not surprising that not working makes me feel, quite often, like I'm standing still, or marking time, while life marches by. Of course that's not true. I'd just become so used to understanding my life as paced and marked by the rhythms of work that even after all these years, it is still disorienting not to have a job.

Moving forward, I think, is a concept that belongs more properly to the worlds of academe and employment. There we find advancement and goal-setting and making progress on initiatives we've designed. Moving forward is something we like to think about in life, too, when we are younger - we want to get older, get to the next stage, get our driver's license, be able to drink legally, move out to our own apartment...so many milestones we are so eager to reach! At my age, however, I am somewhat less eager to reach the next milestones.

So I don't think as much about moving forward these days. I think more about circular types of motion. The movement of the seasons - another spring is winding down and summer is upon us; the garden is in a riot of growth and we've had so much rain this year, I'm hoping things won't wilt and brown in the summer heat this year like last year. Indeed, the roses and penstemon are drooping under the weight of all the rain; I've actually had to stake my rose bush. Otherwise the bush is a glory to behold right now. Of course, soon the Japanese beetles will re-emerge once more, and I'll do daily battle in the early mornings with my container of soapy water, patiently picking the slow cold beetles off the roses and plunging them into their bubbly death. Much more satisfying than spraying with pesticides could ever be! This year I put down milky spore on the lawn and around the bushes; maybe it will help keep the damn beetles in check a little. I want to extend the garden beds this year and add a lot of native plants, but that takes money, and we may just not be able to do it this year. In any case, I try to enjoy the garden as much as possible; all too soon fall and winter will be back.

Speaking of gardens, Monday I leave for a week with mom again, and the peonies should be in bloom at her house. I am looking forward to seeing them again this year; I was fortunate to be visiting during their bloom last year. Time with mom seems circular, too. Seeing the same doctors with her, over and over, at about the same times of the year; the rituals of holiday times. And upcoming in July, the yearly all-town yard sale, the social event of the season! I don't like to think about how mom is moving forward, or what she's moving forward to; how she's gradually weakened over the past several years, how her stamina seems to lessen with each passing month, and now, more recently, how she begins to get a bit confused and forgetful.

Moving forward is not all it's cracked up to be. So much of the time I feel I just want to hold on to what I have now - Mom still alive, me in acceptable health and not having had a second stroke, Mr. Z still employed in this crazy economy, a comfortable and safe home.

And yet if I'd made time stand still last week, I wouldn't have gotten to taste the first strawberries of the farmer's market season this week. Jerusalem artichokes - there two weeks and now gone; strawberries here now, but for such a short span of time; but, oh! there will be peaches later on! I like moving forward through the farmer's market season, that's for sure.

Blogging, I think, is the only thing that seems really linear to me these days, except for my lifespan itself. The blog marches on endlessly, entry after entry, extending as far into the future as I want it to. It's moving forward alright, though I'm not really sure where it's going. I'm not really sure I need to, either. In our lives, we look backward and create narrative force out of what we lived through chaotically.

So looking back, here's my narrative: years of focusing on moving forward were brought to an abrupt halt for me when I had the stroke and lost my job. I turned more and more to gardening as source of solace for things I'd lost, and as something I could exert a modicum of control over when everything else was out of control, and as a source of accomplishment when professional accomplishment was out of reach. Gardening lead me to think more about the environment and how I eat, and to learn more about local sources of food, and to try to eat more seasonally. This together made me ever more aware of the turn of the seasons and the passing of the years. At a time when I care less about moving forward in the ways that I did in the past, life seems to be rushing on by ever faster.

There is no neat end to this narrative yet. For that I am grateful.

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Nicely put, Zuska.

If I may: epicycles are lousy models for astronomy but very good models for our lives. Days and seasons superpose themselves on the overall arcs that we live.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 31 May 2009 #permalink

For what it's worth, I always enjoy your blog. You are a wonderful, eloquent writer and an excellent teacher. I have learned so much from you.

By stickypaws (not verified) on 31 May 2009 #permalink