"This is insane... this is insane... this is insane."
That was my mental mantra in the early afternoon today, after I'd been using my DR Field Mower for about an hour on our toughest patch of untamed tall grass, brush, and an ungodly number of trees that Laurel and I planted years ago in the midst of the grass and brush, each of which requires maneuvering the heavy walk-behind mower around it.
Like I've said before, it's hell. Also, heaven.
There’s a point when my mowing hell turns to heaven. It’s when my shirt is soaked through with sweat, the water bottle strapped to my hip is empty, my socks are filled with burrs, my arms are bleeding from limb scratches, and I’ve told the trees how I feel about them by running through every creative string of obscenities in my repertoire.
I’m hot. I’m dead on my feet. I’m dusty. And I feel undeniably real. There’s a reality to my blogging, to my meditating, to my talking with friends, to my Tai Chi, to my watching “The Daily Show.” And then there’s the fucking reality of spending six fucking hours under the July sun mowing fields filled with fucking trees that take a fucking lot of energy to miss.
It’s just so fucking wonderful.
Today there were some new wrinkles to the hellish, heavenish, insanity that, when I'm done for the day and have returned the mower to our garage, suddenly seems like the most mentally healthy thing I could possibly do.
What you can't see in the photo above is my absolutely soaked nature. Courtesy, naturally, of nature. After sweating through my Oregon Ducks t-shirt, it started to rain. Heavily. Really unusual for this time of year.
So now, instead of wrestling the mower through super tall grass and around those damned trees we'd planted (this is a photo of a neighboring area that wasn't mowed), I was doing all that in a downpour, getting my sweat mixed with rain drops until my dirty shirt was a dripping mass of clammy goop.
This was the point when this is insane...this is insane... this is insane reached it's loudest level in my head.
It's tough to describe how tough it is to mow this particular field.
Aside from the aforementioned damned trees that have to be maneuvered around, there's a giant downed trunk of an oak tree, other woody obstructions lying hidden in the tall grass, rough ground, large branches that have to be ducked under while steering the mower, and a variety of other challenges that make this The Field From Hell on our property.
Here's what struck me today about insanity of this sort: that's what life is all about, doing insane stuff. Raising a child is insane. Going to college is insane. Riding a bicycle from Seattle to Portland is insane. Losing twenty pounds is insane.
And yes, mowing a bumpy, tree and brush strewn field like this, where the grass starts off as tall as a deer's eye, at the age of 62 with a walk-behind DR mower that requires a lot of muscling even with the newer model's reverse gear (thank you for that, DR!) -- this also is insane.
As soon as I realized this, as soon as I embraced the insanity of doing a really difficult job that I simultaneously hated and loved, suddenly this is insane... felt a lot different.
I can't say that I started to enjoy my mowing. "Enjoy" isn't the right word for what it feels like to experience this sort of insanity. I doubt that someone climbing the last few hundred feet to the summit of Mt. Everest is enjoying his or her oxygen-deprived steps.
But like I said in my previous field mowing post, life is a succession of insanities. It's insane that each of us is here, alive and conscious, some 14 billion years after the Big Bang banged the universe into existence.
I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I know that there will come a day—when I’m 70, 80, 90, some day—when I can’t do this any more. But Laurel will have to pry that DR mower out of my hands. Hopefully they won’t be cold and dead.
But there would be worse ways to go. I wouldn’t mind taking my last breath holding onto the handles of my longtime DR companion, out in a hot field with sweat rolling down my face, cursing those trees.
Which, as I’m sure you know by now, I dearly love.
And it's insane that we each have just a few years to experience existence. Twenty, forty, sixty, eighty, even a hundred -- our time is so short, so precious, it's insane that we aren't looking upon every living moment with a Wow! that it deserves.
I don't remember what an old Sean Connery movie was about, just the title: "A Fine Madness." Great title.
There have been times in my life when I thought I was going crazy. Other times, when I was afraid of being overly sane. I guess I'm living one of those times now. Today I felt wonderfully real, alive, and content when this is insane changed from a negative to a positive, from a feeling to be shunned to a feeling to be embraced.
Yeah, this week I've spent quite a few hours sweating my way through mowing fields of tall grass that will be just as high next year about this time, when I'll do it again, cursing the grass, the trees, the rough ground, the brambles, the branches that hit me in the face, the whole goddamn insane experience.
But you know what? Doing stuff like this is what keeps me from going crazy. Go figure. I sure can't.