July Sabbatical Journal 2008 - John Calvi
Marshall and I have just had a week vacation at home, a decision of budget and simplicity. There was much need of rest, deep rest, spontaneous rest, and some fun- but no planning or effort or schedule. His work this spring reached 70 & 80 hours a week with counseling graduate students applying to his college, teaching English as a second language to community college immigrants, and taking classes towards his second masters, a masters in teaching. Insomnia, which has plagued him since doing some work in Ireland in 1988 and his body clock never quite fully returned, made for further wear and tear. Plus a decision at the upper levels of college administration to decrease and probably eliminate the program he recruits for includes bad politics, some slander, and a growing dishonesty. Yes, a big rest- empty the mind, be surrounded by favorite possibilities. So, some lovely dinners with friends, catching up with people he missed in busyness. And a solid rule that a nap could be had any time. Helping a friend to move gave us a lovely teak coffee table too big for our house. Replacing the outdoor gas grill and making some favorite foods and some time with his colleagues leaving the college in a political migration was great fun. And an adventurous removal of trash and recycling that brought spaciousness to the tool shed. The list of what didn’t get done is long. We kept saying someone should mow the lawn. Rest and time together as a first priority was achieved.
When I was a school teacher, a Montessori teacher of 3 – 6 year olds, there was a month near the end of my 10 year career when I was really tired of being in the classroom. It was June and the beautiful summer days in Vermont beckoned as I remained in the church basement classroom with 24 kids. I called a circle and all came and sat on the big green and blue braided oval rug. “Let’s go to the park.” I said. “No, we want to stay here and work,” they said. There was no escaping it, too much success.
I’ve had similar discussions with myself of late. I spent a month doing lots of outside work each day and then retreated indoors. It was some combination of heat and lack of discipline. My body would say- let’s go build that stone wall! And I’d find something else to do inside. But I could feel my body was right. After lots of work I was sleeping better and my body was tightening up, my clothes were looser. But now this procrastination stymies progress. So I began the stonewall. How odd that all the disciplines I have for work to serve others seems so elusive in serving myself. I am wondering how it is that what I need and know to be good for me seems to be just beyond my decision to reach. How odd human beings are. How odd I am in knowing myself and not knowing.
Years ago, Marshall removed a stonewall at the entrance to our little house. Huge rocks were tossed on the slope south below the greenhouse. I began to move all these rocks down to the terrace. Some of the rocks are much larger than I can lift. So, I roll them downhill a bit and hope to stay out of their way. This creates a showroom of rocks to choose from and frees up the slope where the wall will be. I have to prepare the slope by ripping out weeds, chasing out snakes, and making straight lines of earth where none exists. I’ve never made a wall before. But I am thinking it’s in my blood as a first generation Italian immigrant. I am hoping it will lean back just a bit as a retaining wall, be parallel to both the greenhouse, which is above the wall, and the raised garden beds I built last month that lie below the wall. I’m hoping to make more garden beds once the wall is done and to place the heat loving plants like tomatoes near the wall. As the sun brought over 80 temps, my resolve melts. As I begin building stone steps I try to listen to the stone as I listen to someone’s body when I place my hands on them to hear what should happen, how to help or place hands. Stone are more difficult to hear for me somehow or maybe I just need more practice. I stand on the house roof, take a photo of my progress, and see I’ve a long way to go. Sometimes the placement is just right.
I am interested to watch my thoughts wander as I work. Ideas, memories, songs, poems, quotes, people I miss- all seem to waft through as I try not to pin my own foot under some small boulder. I am noticing, at 56, that life seems long. How many people have I known? How many circles of people have I moved through of friends, Quakers, healers, teachers, kids, musicians, family, etc? I find myself wondering where is so and so now? Did he die? What was his last name? How did I end up living with those people in that house in Boulder? What was it Elizabeth said about writing that I meant to remember that time we went out to Thai supper? As my body and one part of my brain lifts and moves heavy rocks, another part of my brain wanders and shifts in memory and wonder. I can feel strength return to my posture as I work. I can see our home change and become better. I can feel the space within and without as I release myself into the work and a there’s contentment nothing else brings.