It’s only just now, facing the extended shelf at the bookstore, that I realize the privilege of being a book author must be the chance to get in a word by word, page after page, chapter upon chapter, all together in one package, uninterrupted, no questions or queries or other sidetracks from the attentive reader who invested $13.95 on your paperback and all the ideas within.
Buses are slow. They are just as often late as on time. They pick up people with canes and wheelchairs as though these citizens have just the same priority as anyone on two feet, which of course they do. I used to mentally want to hurry the bus, hurry my walk to the bus stop, hurry my walk back up the hill and home. But now I enjoy the waiting. Maybe it’s middle age, but mostly I think it’s perspective with a small dose of patience that’s taken me only 40 years to learn.
I’ve started to wonder if, instead of calculating and working out how fast I could make my way up the hill from the bus stop, I could discover the ways to make the walk slower, with more steps, maybe via the longest path. The walk can be rushed, but on a day like today I could linger a bit, wandering within the confines of the narrow walk. How many more steps could it take? What’s the longest the walk could be on a blue sky late afternoon, yellow leaves crunching underfoot; a restful mountain outlasting all the rest, even my gentle footfalls meandering up a steady incline.
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 the canyon draws seen through my 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 mountain, 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.