Sunday, July 29, 2012

sundays

Sundays are peaceful at Pea Pickle Farm. Buster is pooped from his day at the farmers market, a day in which he stays in the van, which has been rigged with a blanket for shade and an old ottoman to barricade a wide open door, all in an effort to prevent him from frying or steaming or otherwise overheating, but he stays on watch, standing most of the day looking out either of the front windows, watching, in his semi-blind way, the world go by, and by the end of the day his back legs are so beleaguered he's got an odd, squattish look to him, all akimbo, and I wonder how it is he doesn't just collapse. (For those who don't know, Buster is a rather old dog, 17 years old, to be exact.) Buster will collapse after the market is over, when we are loaded up and heading out of town. He settles down, chin on my knee, will sleep the 80 miles home. On Sundays, he continues to sleep.

On Sundays I am tired from the market, having talked with more people in that five- to six-hour stretch than all the rest of the week, having unloaded the tent, the table, the beeswax candles, the display, and all the paraphernalia from the van and then back to the van, usually, this summer, in a bit of heat and bearing-down sun. But it is a good tired, as there is the satisfaction of having gotten out, having sold a few candles, having had some fun, and of having a little money in the pocket.

On Sundays Elliott, the cat, sleeps the day away. It is just like every other day, for him.

And on these peaceful Sundays I clean house. I dust, I vacuum, I sweep away cobwebs and fur and dervishes of dust. I clean the bathroom. I might change the sheets on the bed. Maybe I'll do a little laundry. While the dog and cat snooze, I clean and enjoy every minute of it. When I am done, if the weather's agreeable, I go down to the river for a swim. So this, now, is my Sunday habit.

There was a time when my Sunday habit involved the Sunday newspaper. The comics first, then other sections, the sections changing over time, but usually the front section, the actual news section, last, and putting the crossword puzzle aside for later. The ritual of separating the ad circulars into two piles, one for looking at, the other for tossing in the recycle bin. The ritual of idling through the colorful, glossy pages, looking at all the possibilities for stuff I increasingly did not need or want. It was a comfortable habit, sitting in my chair, tea on the side table, the paper all around, strewn about, but a few years ago I stopped delivery of the Sunday paper. At first, Sunday mornings seemed odd, but then not. The Sunday paper habit had gone the way of many others: the soap opera habit, the cigarette habit, the beer habit, the root beer habit, the ginger ale habit. Now it's just an occasional root beer float at The Drive-In.

There was a period of time when my ability to discard habits that I no longer cared for worried me. What if, I thought, habit is all life is? And if I keep discarding habits, what will I be left with? Who will I be? Oh my - what if all a person is is his or her habits? Without my particular habits, who am I? And how will people know me, if I keep changing my habits? Shouldn't I be more consistent? (My father was a model of consistency, as is my mother.) Do I have a problem with habitual behavior? Believe it detracts from free will and all that? Well, no. I am actually still a mess of habits - like it's about time for dinner so I better either wrap this up or put it away for later because, uh, it's about time for dinner, never mind whether I'm actually hungry or not, but of course I am, because stomachs and appetites, I am sure, adhere strongly to habit. For the most part, I think we are, or at least our lives are, very much the sum of our habits, and that's OK. Just as long as we are each free to choose our own habits and to break them when ready.

There are times, of course, when a change of habit is forced upon one. It causes stress. "Life events," I've heard them called. Divorce. Marriage. Death of a loved one. Loss of a job. Moving. I spent about half of last year moving and for six months or more kept a foot in each of two places that were a hundred miles apart. One, the one I was moving to and couldn't wait to move to, did not have running water and, for a while, no electricity. The other I had to sell and pack up and clean out of and even though it had a toilet and hot water, it became increasingly difficult to stay there. I had a grand sense of dislocation - discombobulation, to use a favorite word - and my only routine was packing up to spend the night here then there and back again and wondering when it would all end and how it would work out. That, and the Saturday farmers market. I remember thinking: What I wouldn't give for a little homey humdrum routine.

So now, peaceful Sundays. A habit I'd like to keep. For a little while, anyway.