Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lily, Get the Ball!

This is our dog, Lily, whose favorite activity is fetching a ball. It is a strange experience, to sit for twenty minutes on a lawn chair in the backyard, tossing a slimy ball across the grass so that your dog can fetch it and bring it back. Strange for the body to throw and wait, throw and wait, throw and wait.

In an article in today's New York times about manual labor, Matthew Crawford said something brilliant about my generation:

"Confrontations with material reality have become exotically unfamiliar. Many of us do work that feels more surreal than real. Working in an office, you often find it difficult to see any tangible result from your efforts.

What exactly have you accomplished at the end of any given day? Where the chain of cause and effect is opaque and responsibility diffuse, the experience of individual agency can be elusive."

Working in an office, sending emails into space and receiving them back again, over and over--can end up feeling a lot like playing fetch with the family dog. I spent a small portion of my vacation throwing a ball--but a much larger part planting bushes and flowers in a garden. I was bored by fetch but inspired by the work of digging, planting and watering.

Crawford referred to a poem by Marge Piercy in his article, and I liked the feel of it:

"The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real."

-Marge Piercy, To Be of Use


  1. To tell you the truth, lately I feel as though I'm playing a game of fetch. I'm throwing the "ball" out there waiting for someone to come back with it.

    I've been waiting a lot.

  2. You need to start a garden. Metaphorically, of course. Or physically even.

  3. Read this and thought of you/your comment:

    "Gardens are not made by singing, "Oh, how beautiful," and sitting in the shade." - Rudyard Kipling


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