Dear Governor Ducey,
I just finished mopping the floor. My sister is coming to town and I don’t want her to think I’m a total slob. I don’t have to mop the floor. She really wouldn’t mind but Bear the Dog likes to find the only mud-spot in the forest and to lay down full body. Then he likes to jump up on me and my running clothes. My running clothes are in the laundry. My leg is flaking its patch of dirt onto the floor—which I’ll have to vacuum again and then mop again. Sometimes, efficiency is not my middle name.
I don’t have to mop the floor or walk the dogs (I do have to walk the dogs or the dogs would maul me with their neediness and pent up desire for muddiness). I could have been finishing the grant application. Or making a volunteer spreadsheet. Or finishing the copyedits on Canning Peaches for the Apocalypse. Or emailing instructors to send me their resumes.
In between swipes of mop, I did some of these things.
Again, probably not the most efficient mode but things pop up in my mind like dirt pops up on my leg—seemingly out of nowhere but actually quite predictable. My job is a hodgepodge of duties and, like most professor jobs, one that seems on the surface voluntary but is by hodge and podge, actually required.
I want to email my student because she’s embarking on a big project—trying to put together a thesis on a single topic. How do you write about a single topic without becoming redundant? Well, I think back to the EGG book I wrote. How did I write Egg? I looked for various clichés and I titled each short essay that cliché. How many eggs does it take to break an omelet? Can you put humpty dumpty back together again? Is the egg truly incredible? Do I really have to walk on eggshells?
I do have to email the student because my job is to teach. And I do have to write a book about eggs because how else will I know how to answer her question if I haven’t grappled with how to write about something before?
I look at my list of things to do: make a volunteer sign-up list for the Northern Arizona Book Festival. This is truly volunteer work—not even in my job description and yet I volunteered to be a part and I want the book festival to go off successfully and how can I volunteer to make a volunteer list if I don’t volunteer myself?
This morning, before I left to go get my sister from Phoenix, I popped over to Puente de Hozho, where my son Max goes to school, to try to inspire the kids to join the Read-a-Thon. Each kid has a bingo-like paper and each square has a particular idea to make the reading extraordinary, like read under a tree, read over the phone. The kids ask their parents and relatives to sponsor each square and the money goes to Puente to buy things Puente can’t normally afford like new sound systems, computers, playground equipment. One of the squares was “Read in a funny place.” I asked the kids where they could read. The answers: on the roof, on the toilet, in the car, on the car, in a tree, while climbing, in a box, in a closet, on stilts. I told them to try to keep both feet on the ground as they read as a precautionary measure. I outlined the prizes, a Kindle, a $25 gift card, but I told them the true gift was a week devoted to reading. Truly self-serving! I, as a writer, want kids to grow up loving to read.
I can write soon but first, I have students with essays for me to comment upon and books to read and review for presses. I have book fests to support and colleagues and students to write letters of recommendation for and previous professors to ask letters of recommendation of [future Letter to the Governor: Abolish letters of recommendation].
An actual part of my job is to write—like that is spelled out and detailed. I’m supposed to teach 60% of my time. Write for 30%. Serve for 10%. And the writing is important because that is how I know what and how to teach.
Now, I guess I have to go let the dogs back in, dirty though they may be. Somewhere between vacuuming and mopping, I’ll find a minute to write again.