Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tuesday morning things

* I started reading a new book last night. It's called "Back from the Land" and it's about the rise (and subsequent fall) of the homesteader/back to the lander movement of the late 60s and early 70s.

Okay, confession time: this is something I fantasize about a lot. Even before I was a full-fledged working adult with all the crud and the stress that full-fledged working adults have (which my parents NEVER warned me about), I daydreamed about this. Probably because I watched "The Waltons" and "Little House on the Prairie" as a kid. But also, I've always had a somewhat independent streak, and I tend to be the person who (in many cases) would rather do something MYSELF rather than have to nag someone else (as seems to so often be the case with workmen here) to do it. (Truth: The day before I finally got the garage door guy to come out, I was standing in my garage looking up at the cable and spool and wondering if I could figure out how to rewind it myself. Not so much because of the money but because I had called the door guy three times already and kept getting promised, "Yeah, the guy will call you when he can come out").

And yes, I acknowledge that intellectually, it would be a bad fit for me: I like nail polish and clean sheets and fancy food and tea and indoor plumbing and the Internet way too much to live in a cabin way out somewhere. But emotionally, it's still a powerful idea: the idea of telling the outside world with its stupid venal politicians and its giant megacorporations eating each other like so many amoebas and the idiot drivers on my road to go hang a salami, and go off and just....do my own thing. Grow my own food, maybe learn to hunt (I already know how to fish). Have a well and a drainfield or something instead of having to remember to pay my city water bill BEFORE the deadline each month (because, if they don't have the payment on the day it's due, apparently, they threaten to cut off your water - that happened once when the check I mailed got "lost"* in the mail)

(*or shredded by that city worker who snapped and started randomly shredding people's payments).

And of course, with the rise of solar technology, it becomes a little easier: I could probably get enough lamp-type things that could recharge during the day that I could have light to read at night. And there are radios that have solar batteries, or that you can crank. (Not that there are really any conventional radio stations here I would want to listen to much). Air conditioning would be an issue, but if I moved far enough North, or up into the mountains....

And yeah. My experiments in gardening have proven to me that I'd drop a lot of weight very fast if I had to rely on my own skills at growing to get food. And there are some things that are hard to grow, or at least to process: flour being one.

But yeah. And even though the book is about the ultimate dissatisfaction all those "hippies" had with living off the land, I can see myself feeling more like I want to go and do it....especially reading the book right now.

* Because I'm in one of my periodic bouts of feeling taken-for-granted/like I don't matter/worrying about my future of teaching (based on the meeting yesterday).

And the Science Olympiad is coming up. And yeah yeah, it's a good recruiting tool, and yeah, yeah, I'm the logical one to run one of the programs as it's my field of expertise. But

a. the program I will be doing is different from the one I did last year, which means I have to prep a whole new thing on top of what else I am doing
b. the olympiad happens the weekend before my birthday so I will have to "float" doing something for my birthday for at least another week and yes I am petty but yes that bothers me
c. last year it was, to use an old military term, a goat rodeo. It was extra stressful because nobody know what was going on and it was just chaos, and I deal badly with chaos.
d. the "thanks" we got was a pre-printed (Xeroxed) certificate where we had to fill in our own names. I didn't even bother. And yes, I know, that's not why we do it, but it felt to me like such a metaphor for adulthood in general

and finally:

e. The planning meeting is Friday afternoon. Saturday, I have to drive up to Norman for some meetings so that whole day was shot. I was going to use Friday to run errands (Sunday is out: church, and also lots of places are closed). So I guess I make a run today in town for the fresh foods I will need 'til the middle of next week, and just "float" any other errands I was going to run for another week.

And I can't NOT do it. For one thing, I got dinged for not doing enough "service" on my last PTR (Though that was "she doesn't belong to enough committees" and this isn't a committee thing and apparently types of service are not fungible). For another, this is a recruiting tool and we've been told as much that recruiting students is now on us. So even though I feel a certain vague resentment, I'm going to do it. (Also, it's working with middle-school kids, who are often freakin' nuts. I had to threaten last year to throw two of them out of the event because they were sort of fighting with each other - two members of a team, not two kids from a different school. And oh yeah, it was JUST me in the room with the kids which made me nervous. I hope they give us co-leaders this year)

* Anyway, there's a lot of stuff about adulthood that no one ever warned me about when I was a kid.

* Another thing about the "Back from the Land" book - and I'll maybe add direct quotations in here when I get back home and can get to the book - but they talked about how in the late 1960s there was a growing resentment of the news media, and a feeling (which was probably backed up by reality) that people were more responsive/affected by stories that were repeated A LOT regardless of how serious or true the information was. (Hm. Sounds oddly familiar.) (And I also suspect - since I have dipped into the different 24 hour news channels over the past few years - each channel seems to create its own reality by what stories it endlessly repeats. It's like the dang blind men and the elephant, except probably some of them are feeling of the rocks or the grass next to the elephant)

And while there was a strong streak of....not quite smugness, but close.... in the back to the landers, because they thought either they'd save the world, or at least, the world could keep on going to Hell and they'd just opt out, thanks, I do think maybe there is something to the idea of having more agency over how you live.... I don't know.

(More later. Time for class)

Added later:

* I didn't grow up in a back-to-the-lander family BUT my parents did do a lot more on their own than many people I know. They had a giant garden - every spring, my dad would Rototill it and then help my mom plant it, she did most of the maintenance (he was often at field camp during the height of gardening season). She grew lots of things - tomatoes, of course, and also green beans and corn but also things like Brussels sprouts and lettuce and carrots. And one year she planted a few peanuts even though the climate in Ohio was wrong for them, because she wanted my brother and me to learn how peanuts developed (the nuts develop under the soil surface after the flowers are pollinated - there's a term for this, something like "hypogeous" but not, that I forget now). And she baked all the bread and nearly all of the other baked goods we ate. And my dad did most of the basic car maintenance, and he built shelves when they were needed, and built other things, and even occasionally did stuff like rewire lamps...

And that may be where some of my independent sense comes from (And definitely where my frustration of "throwaway" culture comes from, given that "fixing stuff" was a big part of my dad's tinkering). But also, I think I did see the appeal of making stuff (whether food or clothing) yourself...that the process was almost as good as the product.

And one of the things that was mentioned in the book (I really only read like the first chapter or so last night) was about how people in that era (the late 1960s) had come to feel a certain hollowness and dissatisfaction with how life was, the idea of just being a consumer and all that....and yeah. I think there's some of that going on now. (I suspect a lot of the "hipster" movement was just a more-urban, more-gentrified, more-willing-to-consume-certain-products version of the hippies). And yeah, in the past 3 years (starting about the time all the budget cuts and related Angst came down), I've been feeling a certain "Is this all there is" sense to things, like....if you win at the campus rat-race, what do you get? A deanship or something, where your time is even less your own and you get people hating you for your position and you take flak from all sides, and the six figure salary probably isn't worth that. And so I don't know. And that may be the reason why I've said in recent years that I feel like I need increasingly more down time to do other things than plan research or work on teaching prep - that I am truly happiest in my sewing room working on a quilt top, or listening to music and knitting, something like that. And yeah, I know that "our careers may provide the means to live but not the reason" isn't exactly a brilliant insight and I am probably somewhat slow for not having had it before but.....yeah....that's how a lot of it is sold to us in grad school, that this is a Calling, and if you're not happy every day, why don't you just quit and give your job to someone who will be grateful for it....

But so much has changed in higher ed. I think it's not just that I had a romantic vision; I think it WAS better when my dad was teaching than it is now. Maybe not in all ways; it would have been harder then as a woman or other under-represented group. But it did seem like there was less administrative stuff he had to do, less paperwork, less responsibility-without-authority.

I dunno. Part of me says "maybe you need to start baking bread again and doing more of that type of stuff" but part of me is also just tired. 


Anjeanette Milner said...

Did you ever watch the Alone in the Wilderness on PBS? There was also Alone in the Wilderness II. He was a man who went to see if he could live alone in Alaska for a year (68?) and spent almost 30 yrs alone. His name was Richard Proenneke and there is 2 movies and a book written up. Mostly his own journal entries (someone edited them) and all of the filming he did himself with a tripod (again, someone edited them). I just did a google search and you can watch a 9 minute clip of the first and second films, there is a wiki article, and you can likely get the book pretty easily. I know Sue bought it for her dad a few years ago. I have a couple friends obsessed with Proenneke and who watch the films and read the books pretty regularly.

Lynn said...

You probably shouldn't watch Building Off the Grid. (HGTV or DIY, I forget which) You might be tempted again if you see how easy they make it look. Of course I'm sure it's not really that easy. Edited for TV and all that.