This morning, like every morning for the past two weeks, I got up, fed the animals, and shoveled a mule full of alpaca and goat pooty and spent hay and old straw, drove it up to the site of my future garden, and unloaded it in a somewhat haphazard fashion. Then I went back to the house, made coffee, and hit the shower. At the rate I’m going, I should have the massive “archival” pile done in about 2.5 months.
As I was shoveling this morning, I thought, “I went to graduate school.”
I don’t think I was distressed with my situation shoveling shit, really it isn’t that much different from teaching as an adjunct faculty member (which is what we folks without PhDs do at the university or college level). The weather was beautiful, and the job doesn’t take but 20 minutes or so. The little goat, Piggylo, decided he needed to work on sharlening the stump of a horn he has while I was doing it, so I kept yelling at him to “stop rubbin’ his nubbin” on the mule. The alpacas look at me with distain and shake their heads sadly . . . alpacas always deposit their pooty in a neat pile, and I think they can’t imagine what a relatively intelligent being, who can get through the gates with ease and opposable thumbs, is doing with little truck loads of pooty. The look at me like I’m their younger, demented brother, deserving of their pity. Frankly, that’s not far from the look adjunct English folks get from their math counterparts, right after the math people say they have so much grading to do, and immediately before those same folks head to the Scantron machine to do said “grading.” The math classes cap at the same number of students as the English classes, but the math folks don’t have to grade 150 essays every time they assign one.
I sat around, watching the animals interact this morning. The little goat has always been with the alpacas, and sees himself as a short alpaca. They seem to regard him similarly. But when he gets in their bowls, they lean over, and gently whack the top of his head with their necks, and he never seems quite sure what to make of this, but he does move away. He and the angora look like a mismatched bridal pair: he’s black with white markings, like he’s a small man decked out in an ill-fitting, hairy tux. She’s got this gorgeous white wool that’s in short locks now, but grows out to 8″ ringlets. The alpacas, recently shorn, could be the gawky teen brothers . . . the Rastafarian top knot of hair on their heads, their knobby knees and skittishness in the face of Jen-who-might-touch-them.
All of this: standing knee deep in the pooty pile, being pitied by knobby kneed alpacas, challenged by a teeny pygmy goat with a Napoleon complex, and contemplating my education led me to the following conclusion:
I like my life.
I live in quiet, listen to owls and coyotes and birds and crickets all night long. I wake to the same. I don’t have to battle traffic except when I want to. I don’t feel the need to “get away from it all.” If I could devise a way to get the world to come to me, in little spurts, I think I would never leave the forest. If I didn’t have a preteen, and I did have the garden, I might be tempted to never move more than the 12 miles per hour my mule goes through the woods, and more likely to keep it at the speeds in excess of 4mph that I do on the tractor.
Well, I didn’t learn how to shovel pooty in school — at least, not literal pooty shoveling. But pretty much everything in my life is something I learned outside school . . . even teaching composition was something I didn’t study.