I’ve been thinking lately about what gives a day the feeling of content. Not contentedness, but fullness, a palpable quality, as if time’s not just running through your fingers. On Sunday, seeking out this feeling, I baked another apple pie, which was pretty effective. Having a work product: it’s satisfying. An object, especially an edible one, to show for all your hours alive.
Do you know, I’m not at all sure I haven’t drawn a comic with this joke before? I can’t find it, but if it exists, I accept it. This one stupid joke running through my life like an earworm. Haunting me. Spooky. Tis the season of the witch.
What else gives a life content? Obviously gardening has been working for me. I seem incapable of planting seeds in a clear, untangled order, so a lot of my garden time lately has been taken up gently breaking up clumps of seedlings and spacing them out in the soil. There have been some losses, some success. Pea shoots are springing up at an almost alarming—but in fact deeply satisfying—rate. Not as much luck with beets: they all seem to be getting leggy. We’ll see.
The obvious but unspoken conclusion I seem to be drawing is that life takes shape around a person’s work. Of course, when you’re deep in it, work can aggravate, can boil the blood. I have been working on something recently which, I think, gave me a migraine. It has cramped up my shoulders. Now I am in a waiting stage, and so I’m filling up time with seedlings and pie dough and finding a place to fix my bike. I am planning to stain the boards on my studio ceiling, which is a daunting task, mainly due to the prep work: covering everything I can with plastic sheeting so I don’t spoil the room. But when it’s finished, I’ll have done a thing. How can I communicate this satisfaction to the self I am when I’m stressed and busy? How can I express that lassitude does not bring joy either, it just stretches out the strings of your body until you feel wind whistling uncomfortably between them? Contentless.
Maybe fall is a season of work. A season of harvest. That’s certainly the pattern we’ve laid out for ourselves as human beings. So now is the time to get down to it, where it is everything, and down is everywhere. At the end of Uncle Vanya, Sonya says that we suffer all our lives, but if we have faith, at the end God will have pity and we shall rest. And maybe one part of that rest, if she is right, is actually a willingness to rest, not just an opportunity. A great sigh of satisfaction as we set down our tools and disperse into the universe.