I did not really accomplish a thing today. Well, I suppose that is not quite true, I took the dogface for three different walks, as in her later years she seems to prefer more numerous short strolls to one grand adventure. I also cleaned and reorganized house, garage, and shed; partly in preparation for winter and partly in search of things gone missing over the years. As a result the layout of the house interior is wholly different than it was two days ago, the garage -while it has not been a garage in many years (it is too small for my truck…)- may well be on the way to becoming more shop than half-assed apartment, and the tools are somewhat less haphazardly strewn about the shed. I did not find what I was looking for… I will ignore that consternation for now. I did however get to rifle through numerous stacks of papers, photos, and other random bits of ephemera which I am wont to horde away in shabby little mailing envelopes and boxes for years and years. Consequently I ended up being whisked back through time a good twenty years or more with no aim, direction, nor continuity.
OK. I guess I did a lot today, but what was different about today –I surmise- was that not one bit of it was either planned or directed. What happened today happened as it may. Other than gathering and consolidating my stacks of sketches, measurements, materials lists, and instructional books, (and a few tools in the shed I suppose) I did nothing that in any way related to house construction, timber framing, or manual labor. Rather, I cast about -not content to sit idle- despite the persistent rain…in October…in Fairbanks. I did what I was moved to do. There was no urgency to any of it; no manic frustration, no heavy labor, no anxiety. I stayed busy, but moved casually. In retrospect I accomplished a lot without really meaning to. It is amazing how productive doing nothing can be.
Alas, I have to go back to work tomorrow…at my job…that thing that pays the bills, and the debts, and supports my not so simple life. The rest of this, everything that happens when I am not in the office, is just an attempt to live the life I want. I saw a bumper sticker once that stated “I recently realized I never wanted a career. I just wanted a paycheck.” or something like that. In reality the idea of a career is still sort of odd to me. Certainly I got a degree, some “real world” experience to go along with it, and now have a viable career whether I wanted one or not. Hell I used to say that I would never go back to school and indeed I did not until ten years after I graduated high school. Of course I dropped out. But a few years later I did go back and followed through. Got me a B.S. and now I am a permanent full-time federal bureaucrat. Ye gads that has a threatening sound of finality to it.
So today I tried to live simply and interestingly that led me backwards -sifting through the accretion of years gone by, through the ephemera that tends to build up over time. Photos, old letters and cards from family and friends, poorly written poems and essays; rants about life and love and the futility of it all. Hand scrawled angst documenting the folly of youth. Physical -but merely partial- scraps of nearly every profound relationship that has influenced my life. Awkward images of the person I used to be. The person I still am. That -that one idea, the revelation that I still am that person- was the single greatest aspect of the day. Over the years I held on to these scraps of memories like a desperate, dying man afraid to let go of his past…afraid somehow that it would all be lost, or wasted, or pointless. But today was different somehow. I could look back through the years, ruminate over events that once made me laugh -or weep- and know that all of those images, those people, those thoughts and that angst, those moments -rather than being lost in time…like tears in rain, as I once expected to happen- are instead the cobblestones in the road that has led me to where I am today. The relationships and experiences the forces influencing the direction. While in the past I would often pause and wonder how I ever ended up where I was -working as a mechanic in a bus barn in Talkeetna, selling vacation time-shares in Johannesburg, singing a wretched a capella version of Happy Trails to a group of Maori in Wellington- today it all made sense. Well that is not quite true; I still recognize the chaos and madness of it all. What made sense today was that the chaos was the direction. The madness was the whole point. Nostalgia is not what it used to be.
So, while I have this career, and must admit that the seeming permanence of it has alarmed me at times, I can now feel that it is but a way station; a larger, more stable than usual accumulation of cobblestones on a road that has neither faltered nor dead ended. And while I sit here typing this out on a plastic keyboard that is wirelessly connected to a computer that will eventually send this information to a satellite in order for it to be transmitted through the ether to some nebulous “domain” that is accessible in the reverse fashion to you…I know that I still have the capacity to live a simple life. That is why I have been learning to garden and to hunt. Why I want to build a timber frame out of local materials, using simple machines and hand tools (with a few power tools thrown in for good measure). And perhaps why waking up to an alarm clock pisses me off so much.
Affirmation note… I finished writing this and stepped outside to find the rain had stopped, the clouds had gone, and the sky was filled with northern lights. Those of you that know will understand.