It’s a perfect Sunday morning. The house is quiet, coffee’s hot, hardcover book and reading glasses on the coffee table. Mist and snow pack into canyon draws seen through the window. Warm socks inside, a damp cold outside.
And still, I put on a hat and shorts and running shoes and head out, up the hill, into the chill.
I started to mentally string together calendar events: a daylong workshop for teachers, dance rehearsal and stage tech, a public presentation on eclipse learning, hosting a bookgroup with students about science misconceptions, doing the dance performance for about 1000 local kids and even more local faculty, and then a few days later hosting another 1000 people for a Friday evening of science that I need to prepare for. It’s all packed into a sequence on the calendar that I’ve been diverting my eyes from but now can’t ignore, a slow moving train with me firmly standing on the railroad trestle.
It strikes me just now that none of these things are in my contract; they are technically not my job. And, these are my life’s work.
As I contemplated this, the Colleague from two doors down appeared, leaning on my office door. He motioned to and mimed a consideration of the performance flier fixed there. He was saying the times out loud, contemplating their relevance to his life or to astronomical events — I wasn’t sure. I knew he had a flier of his own on his desk, so it immediately pricked me that he was feigning this consideration outside my office. It didn’t help that I had already been butting heads with him about his characterization of distinguished scholars he referred to as the “Lady Professors,” complete with this capitalization in written form and his European accent that lost charm when he said this out loud. Given this and the calendar in front of me, I was not entertained by his presence.
He continued, reciting the date and then the time and then a deep breath, as though it was an inconvenience, and yet I know his schedule is free at 12:30 on Mondays. Then he told me that he might need reminding about the event, since he was so consumed with his laboratories, otherwise known as his regular job.
I refrained from saying anything for a moment.
And then I told him that it was not my job to remind him of events, that it was hard enough for me to keep track of what I was doing. And I left it at that, perhaps with an additional flourish behind his back and under my breath. I needed to get back to my own job, my life’s work.
I made the bed, even straightening your side so your pillows are propped and fluffed.
I made coffee the way you like it, one scoop for each cup. I wasn’t sure what to do with the extra at first, but I drank it on your behalf.
I ate more potato chips last night than I should have, but the same amount of beer.
I went on a long run this morning, and even though you weren’t here to tell me so, I was still careful. I didn’t see any snakes, and I didn’t do anything stupid.
I am better with you here, but even with your absence I embrace the standard you’d promote. I’ll take care of the dog, the kid, the garden. I’ll mow the lawn and vacuum the house before you’re home, whether these really need to be done or not.
This morning, waiting for the bus, the moon emerged behind clouds at just past three quarters. It was as if to say, “remember that time?” about three weeks ago since the eclipse, a mountain pass, being on the improbably straight, narrow line from Sun to Moon to self to mountain to Earth. Seeing the receding sliver that moves towards another new moon, another new cycle — it’s like watching a friend recovering from some major event, maybe a surgery or maybe a birth or maybe a backpacking trip through the mountains. You can say “remember that time?” but it’s not about “that time,” but who you are now compared to who you were before that moment, and look at how the world is still spinning and we’re all still here, celestial and otherwise. A phase of the moon, inching its way across a vast sky, creates my own connection back to that so-recent-but-so-distant memory, and makes it more real. It’s a gift while waiting in the dark for a bus at 6:30 AM on a Thursday.