I AM the luckiest man alive.
No really. You can look it up. I can prove it.
It all started before Halloween as I was flipping around the TV channels and came across “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” show from 1966 and I recalled the glory that was my youth. As soon as I heard that iconic music I had this huge, overwhelming rush of contentment. It was just a feeling that I was born at the best time, in the best place, a human could want to have been born. No plagues. No roaming hordes. Threat of nuclear war toned down. Vaccinations against deadly diseases and ample food and straight healthy teeth… and free candy at Hallowe’en!
Halloween was such a huge big deal for me as a kid. I loved it. I always had the absolute greatest costumes, which in hindsight probably looked absolutely nothing like what I was supposed to be, but my mom would have put great effort into helping me to create it. I think it often involved a war theme of some sort, like a soldier or a fighter pilot. These costumes were made easier by the fact that there were bits of and pieces of war memorabilia that had worked their way to our house, from uncles or cousins or relatives of some sort. These would have been Canadians that experienced the horror of war. Born in 1959 I missed the great conflagrations of the 20th Century.
I benefited from the outcomes of these conflicts where democracy, while a most flawed system, still allowed me to live the way I choose. And Halloween allowed me to take a pillowcase and, once I was old enough to roam alone, tear through endless suburban streets and accumulate a sugar-coma sized haul that lasted for months. It was the best of times.
I even mentioned suburbia, where I grew up, which was awesome. Today so much of my reading indicates that it was the greatest misallocation of resources in human history. Single dwellings. Automobile dependent. Resource wasteful. Just the worst concept ever. But I didn’t create it, I just was part of the huge blip of humans that were born into it and lived through it and while the band “RUSH” was singing about just how horrible the suburbs were, they seemed pretty great to me. Sorry “intensification” promoters.
The music theme from “It’s The Great Pumpkin” was a huge reminder of the wonderful life I’ve lead, but gratitude has become an ever-increasing part of my daily outlook.
I am grateful to the contract I have working on a website. I think the customer is awesome and while technology is stressful, the challenge is very cool. The steady paycheque vis-å-vis the reality I experienced trying to earn a living growing food is hugely welcomed. We learned the hard way that to earn a decent living in agriculture you need to go big or go home. After 5 months without rain in the summer of 2016, growing food for 25 families just proved too much.
The downside to this computer work is sitting. Endlessly. At a computer.
Hence my other gratitude trajectory. My reading of late has indicated the importance of taking time to meditate. I have often tried and failed miserably. I believe I have often achieved the state of mind one seeks during meditation, but it has always been as a result of physical labor, at a high level. Growing food. Harvesting firewood. Digging holes. The only way I’ve ever found success clearing this endlessly noisy mind, is through sweat and endorphins.
Which brings me to driveway maintenance.
We have a gravel driveway. It is an awesome driveway, bigger than our whole lot in suburbia from where we moved.
But after twenty years, nature was reclaiming it with a mix of grass and weeds, and well, I thought it looked like crap. Well it looked tired anyway. Neglected. So, I decided to clean it up. And yes, I know, I have huge gardens that need work, firewood to cut, other projects that could use my attention. But somehow this just seemed logical to me. Non-sensibly logical.
The goal is to get out of the chair periodically and swing the pick axe. Then rake away the grass and weeds and stand and admire my work. I can admire the website I work on all day, but somehow, it’s just not like a weed-free driveway. And it’s not good for your back to just sit all day.
I know that all the ‘country’ magazines suggest I should purchase a tractor with a ‘blade’ for this process, but I don’t want to. I don’t want another ‘thing’. It’s like the father in the movie “Leave No Trace” who’s been living the woods and is trying to be re-acclimated to society, when presented with another box of items for his home … “I don’t need more STUFF.”
I have awesome neighbors who I am most grateful for, a number of whom have tractors and I have no doubt it would have taken just one call to have them scrape up my driveway for me. They would have substituted kilojoules of energy in the form of fossil fuel, versus the kilojoules of energy I used in the form of calories. I can afford the diesel fuel, but using it doesn’t help me rationalize 4 honkin’ big cookies instead of 2. Because you can burn off those cookies with a pick axe, but not with a tractor.
Pick axing the weeds out of your driveway is such a silly thing to do. What a waste of time. I know, what I really should be doing is driving to a health club and riding a stationary bike … in one place … that needs electricity from the grid for the data readout. Now that makes sense. But I’ll take the mindless swinging of a pick axe and the path to a freed mind it provides.
The greatest benefit of my inane pursuit of a weed-free patch of gravel has been the clarity with which I focus on important thoughts. Inevitably these turn to gratitude. I share our homestead with a woman I met in high school and who still tolerates me 43 years later. I have two exceptional daughters with exceptional sons-in-law and now I have two grandchildren who have brought me joy like I never imagined. Plus, I’m living exactly where I want to live, doing exactly what I want to do.
I missed the retirement train. Michelle and I have never made more than the median income and saving for retirement just never seemed to happen properly. Again, I am grateful to live in a country with several retirement programs that, if they’re still around, will allow me to continue to live well beyond any standard of living many people on the planet would consider luxury. Great political forces worked in my country 60 years ago to establish a program of universal healthcare so I never have to worry about getting sick.
If I keep going down the list, the only logical conclusion someone could come to is that “this guy won the lottery!”. I know, right! I did, in a sense! I put this in writing because I’m pretty sure you don’t win a lottery until you finally admit you don’t need the money, and then you usually win a couple of them in a row. Well that’s my thinking anyway.
If my lottery numbers aren’t drawn next time I will not be devastated. I will wake up in this magical place, and be grateful for the magical life I’ve lived. Later in the day I shall stroll to my driveway, all gravelly and weed-free and stand and admire it. And I shall be oh so grateful.
Michelle’s Note: There’s been a huge delay between postings on this blog, mostly due to the fact that, once Cam finishes up his computer work for the day, he’s pretty reluctant to spend another minute in front of it, tapping out a blog post. So be sure to let him know if you still enjoy reading about all of this, and I’m sure it will inspire him to continue to share these with you!