November 28th, 2010 :: Ordinary Days
I have a pumpkin growing in my flower bed.
At least I think it is a pumpkin. Could be a watermelon. Or a squash. A really big one.
This startles me more than it does you, I'm sure. Maybe for most of the likes of you, growing pumpkins in your flower bed is an ordinary occurrence, nothing to take special note of or worth mentioning. But for me, this belongs right up there with the Ripley Believe It or Not! entry about the fat lady.
I shouldn't be so surprised at the emergence of a pumpkin-like thing in the midst of my irises and lavender. After all, for several years now, when it's time to get rid of the pumpkins and decorative squash (I do love my harvest mantle) I have simply thrown whole pumpkins into the compost pile. I don't even pretend to chop them up. I just toss them in and forget about them.
From the beginning, Matt has been reprimanding me about this behavior, declaring that those pumpkins would not decompose or whatever it is that we want them to do. But I have great faith in the 500 worms crawling around in the compost, and besides this time of year can't be bothered with chores like chopping up pumpkins. There are better ways to spend my time. Like baking pies.
Actually, the idea of baking pies is a pipe dream, right up there with managing compost piles (as opposed to just throwing things in there and crossing my fingers). Who has time for pies?
Once again, the refrain of a busy life is the tune we are singing these days. I have come to realize that this is simply the soundtrack of our lives and hardly deserves a headline. It isn't even, I have recently decided, a bad thing. It just is. We are busy people. We are also generally happy people. These two things can, in fact, co-exist merrily.
By all rights, we should have eased into this fall. What with that broken leg and all. ("I am a tough cookie," I said to my husband this summer after we learned I had been walking on a broken leg for 7 weeks. He looked at me amused, "Yeah, and for all these years I have thought you were basically a cupcake.") But it turns out I can limp at a record pace. There were concerts to give, a "world tour" to attend to, lessons to teach, rehearsals to play. I gave a workshop at the New Mexico state convention on teaching and thinking holistically. I swam my laps at the pool, and hobbled to yoga classes. I folded cranes.
In the moments in between, I moonlighted as a graduate student
. This semester I have been taking Motivational Theories and Intro to Statistics. Want to guess which one is motivating? Thanks to motivational theories, I have a hundred and one ways to talk intellectually about concepts I only intuitively understood before. On the other hand, I am a hundred and one standard deviation points away from buying into statistics. Apparently, as I look around at my classmates, I am the only one in the class who understands that these numbers are All Made Up. I will jump the hoops required to pass this class, performing the mathematical operations necessary to manipulate the numbers into strange and unusual shapes, but I haven't forgotten that these numbers represent an experimental world that doesn't actually exist. That this experiments and these statistics might be somewhat helpful in understanding the world, I'll accept. BUT I take it all with a big grain of salt. As far as I can see, we are lightyears away from reality. Nothing about these numbers has any bearing on Lucy and Linus when I am back in my studio trying to focus unruly 8 year-olds.
In October a college friend died of pancreatic cancer. Three weeks before she died, Debbie and her husband Dave traveled to New Mexico to visit. We were having dinner at our house, and I shared my frustrations with trying to juggle finishing a degree I am not completely sold on, with the day-to-day challenges of my musical life and career. "Well," Debbie said with the wisdom of someone who had been forced to wrestle with her own issues many, many times since being diagnosed with cancer, "you have to decide, is there any other way you'd rather be spending this time?"
I think of that, and her, a lot these days. The answer isn't simple. For all the days I think, yes, I can just shut up and jump these hoops and stop trying to wring meaning out of every step of this degree, there are at least as many days I think that there are 500 other things I'd rather be doing. I want to throw pots. I want to dive deeper into my yoga practice. I want to go on a silent retreat. I want time to hike in the Sandias. I want more time to write and practice, instead of trying to force these practices into the margins of my days. Richard Rohr writes that that wondering is standing inside the question itself. I am doing a lot of wondering these days.
In the meantime, my sister Beth in New York is having a baby. Beginnings and Endings. Life goes on. This is the first grandchild on my side of the family, which means every one's focus is pointed east. Around here, the "festive season at the Greers'" has begun, as our friend Jerome calls it. In the weeks ahead, we have a startling number of parties to host, beginning with the annual St Cecelia
night. The day after, I will wash a hundred wine glasses and throw out the pumpkins, changing over the house in time for the next round of Christmas parties.
Which, of course, brings us full circle back to the mysterious pumpkin. I have no question how it ended up in my flower bed, for in spite of Matt's dire warnings, every year even the biggest pumpkins I toss in disappear completely. The worms are doing an admirable job. Apparently, the compost that then ended up in the flower bed had a pumpkin seed ready to take root, and so here we are.
"Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?' poet Mary Oliver wrote. In painful, specific ways, we have been forced to look life and death in the face this fall, reconciling our own beginnings and endings. As the festive season begins, we raise our glass once again to the saint of music, celebrating life.
Contact Amy Greer at: firstname.lastname@example.org