Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Toad Work

Back to work tomorrow. We've been plugging away at this and that job for college all break, of course. I was writing a syllabus and re-re-reading my new climate text just yesterday for at least three hours, before I gave it all up a little too easily and went for a penultimate, long, unhurried walk with the dogs.

I'll do much the same today, and that will be all she wrote for the pups until spring break in March. They'll have to get by on shorter excursions, even those very lazy dog "walks" where we just kick them out the front door and let them run around the dooryard by themselves.

We'll all get by, of course, dogs and humans. We shouldn't complain. We all have to pay the piper, bring home the bacon, earn our daily bread, whatever metaphor you choose, we all have to work. Aimee and I are lucky to be able to spend our days doing something we like.

I guess as a college professor who makes his living primarily from teaching, what the British would call a "lecturer", I'm one of Larkin's examples of men who live off their wits. Not in such good company, either, listed with "lispers, losels, loblolly-men" and "louts."

What on earth is a "lisper" in this context? Who knows? Poetic license, no doubt.

I'm not sure he really understood how much work good college teaching really is, either. Or how psychologically difficult, for the student and the teacher.

I do know I couldn't do it all year long. The stress would kill me in a year or two. But after four weeks off, I do feel up to another semester. A two-mile hike with the dogs each day, better nutrition (more home cooking, more of our own farm produce), some time to relax, some time to keep up with house and car maintenance, some vegetating in front of the TV, all this was needed fairly badly.

And the spring semester, which really starts in mid-winter, does end in spring, specifically spring planting season. Something to look forward to. Along the way there'll be lambs in April. The six bred ewes are all showing the curvy, filled-out look of early stage sheep pregnancy.

Lambs! Now there's a thought that always makes me happy.

By the way, talking about spring, there were tiny spinach plants showing in the soil in our new plastic greenhouse the other day.

That made me happy too.

Philip Larkin

Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life?
Can't I use my wit as a pitchfork
And drive the brute off?

Six days of the week it soils
With its sickening poison -
Just for paying a few bills!
That's out of proportion.

Lots of folk live on their wits:
Lecturers, lispers,
Losels, loblolly-men, louts-
They don't end as paupers;

Lots of folk live up lanes
With fires in a bucket,
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines-
They seem to like it.

Their nippers have got bare feet,
Their unspeakable wives
Are skinny as whippets - and yet
No one actually _starves_.

Ah, were I courageous enough
To shout, Stuff your pension!
But I know, all too well, that's the stuff
That dreams are made on:

For something sufficiently toad-like
Squats in me, too;
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,
And cold as snow,

And will never allow me to blarney
My way of getting
The fame and the girl and the money
All at one sitting.

I don't say, one bodies the other
One's spiritual truth;
But I do say it's hard to lose either,
When you have both.

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

The earliest posts, at the very end of the blog, tell the story of the Great Farm, our purchase of a fragment of that farm, the renovation of the homestead and its populating with people and animals. Go all the way to the last post in the archive and read backwards from there to get it in chronological order.

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