Monday, August 15, 2016

August 15: Pleistocene Herds, Summer Months, Lack of Urgency

The landscape of the earth is dotted and smeared with masses of apparently identical individual animals, from the great Pleistocene herds that blanketed grasslands to the gluey gobs of bacteria that clog the lobes of the lungs.  The oceanic breeding grounds of pelagic birds are as teeming and cluttered as any human Calcutta.  Lemmings blacken the earth and locusts the air.  Grunion run thick in the ocean, corals pile on pile, and protozoans explode in a red tide stain.  Ants take to the skies in swarms, mayflies hatch by the millions, and molting cicadas coat the trunks of trees.  Have you seen the rivers run red and lumpy with salmon?

Dillard is astounded by the fecundity of the planet, so much so that she devotes an entire chapter to the subject.  The above passage is just one of her poetic musings on God’s great generosity.  Ants and mayflies, bacteria and salmon.  Dillard points to them in wonder.  I can almost picture her shaking her head and saying, “Holy shit, that’s a lot of life.”
It is early Monday afternoon, and I am easing back into my autumn schedule.  Work, school, home, sometimes school again.  The summer months, for me, are slow.  May through August, I usually have only the job at the medical center to worry about.  Next week, however, fall semester begins at the university.  Students are already returning to campus like Pleistocene herds or mayfly hatches.  For me, fecundity begins next week.
I spent the day taking care of business.  Working, e-mailing anxious students, planning out my life for the next three or so months.  I have to admit that I enjoy the relative torpor of summer.  Sort of like a dog, lying in the shade on a boiling August day.  That absolute lack of urgency appeals to my inner introvert.

For the majority of the year, I am forced into the throng.  Don't get me wrong.  I love teaching.  However, the relative calm that I've been enjoying these last few weeks (every since my summer teaching ended) is difficult to relinquish.   Yet, the water is frothing, and the salmon are climbing.  (I am not equating university students to spawning fish.  This is merely a metaphor for the change of seasons.  Spawning is but one of the things that preoccupy the college-age mind, along with pizza and how to avoid classes that require essay writing.)

For the time being, I will enjoy the canine days of August.  Do a little more pleasure reading.  Watch a little more mindless TV.  Prepare myself for the approaching swarm.

Saint Marty needs to get some insect repellent.  Or a pepperoni pizza.

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