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A Greening Season

June 1, 2016

It has been exactly two years and fifty one days since I last wrote.

The past two years and fifty one days have been exceptionally rich, and heartbreaking, and vibrant and confusing and exhausting and life-giving and, really, exactly what you would expect in any two years and fifty one days, I suppose. I am far more interested in meditations than progress reports, though, and leave it at that.

I have stepped away from the semester and even academic life for a time, and I know so little. It is cause for a sort of delighted astonishment, this wide swath of everything I do not know. I do now know anything about furniture repair, but I’m learning. I did not know there’s such a thing as horticultural therapy, but wow! Stop reading this for a moment, and just think about it. It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? And good? I really do not know how to potty train, but here we are, potty training a small someone who woke at five a.m. yesterday, sat up in her tiny bed, and very simply and clearly said, “YES.” Success! A tiny, dry bed.

It turns out that when your discipline involves a great deal of deconstruction, you must work especially hard to not likewise deconstruct yourself. This is something I am learning. Present participle. Steadily, continuously.

So two thoughts: one about running, which I still do, and one about the color green. I think these two thoughts might be related, but I’m still working it out.

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I’m reading Parker Palmer these days, and in this book he writes, “As an academic, I’ve been trained not simply to think, a capacity I value, but to live largely in my head, the part of the body farthest from the ground.”

A line like this can be interpreted in a variety of ways–the importance of thinking also with your heart, perhaps. Or maybe it is a call to be “more grounded.” Since I’m not particularly clear on or committed to being “grounded” as I am to, say, equanimity, I read it very literally. What is closest to the ground? My feet.

I would like to live in my feet for a while.

There’s an obviousness to this: As the parent of a toddler, I am on my feet a lot. And these days, I am often on my feet doing laundry, because I am very glamorous.

Really, though, I think this is where the green comes in.

Green, writes Mary Webb, is “the fresh emblem of well-founded hopes.” I like the “well-founded” part of this, and not because I am an anthropologist of law and teach the well-founded fear standard, or because well-founded is sometimes synonymous with “grounded,” and isn’t that a clever connection? No. I like well-founded because here it is gentle. These hopes are understandable. As in, of course you would hope for this thing, this place, this moment.

For the past couple of years I have spent a great deal of energy pursuing a certain kind of job–and a certain kind of publication record, the right funding opportunities, a dynamic classroom… on and on. Key fact: A person doesn’t hope for these things, she works for them. So I cranked up my Midwestern work ethic and dug in my heels and worked and worked and worked. I don’t feel particularly compelled to share the details of what this work accomplished, as I suspect you already know. Along with a perfectly fine CV, I accomplished an acute absence of hope.

So two years and fifty one days later, it is the end of spring, the time when we walk sleepily into summer’s hot, humid glare. The leaves are thick and the sidewalks laden with damp bending tulips and the extravagant smell of lilacs. I can’t help but think: If I continue to run here–and it’s so green–then surely this is my future. Surely these are my well-founded hopes, if only just leaves and tulips and the final heady exhale of spring blossoms.

And surely this is what it means to live in my feet.

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2 Comments
  1. Matthew Denman permalink

    I like this piece very much.

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