Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Jackhammering in the Holocene Extinction

This morning I'm very tired, a Friday kind of tired.  I had to be at school for an 8:30 conference call, and I stayed until 5:30, when I left to end the day with a church council meeting half way across the county.  It was a good meeting, more like dinner with friends, but it still put me home later than I'm used to.

And my work day was exhausting.  My school is now next to a construction site, as yet another plot of land gets transformed into parking garages and high end shopping and condos.  Yesterday, right under my office window, the workers were breaking up concrete for most of the day.  The loud jackhammers made my desk vibrate slightly, and my head vibrate mightily.

My head would have been aching anyway.  We're beginning the task of getting the files into order for the accreditation visit in 3 weeks.  It must be done, and I'm paid good money to shepherd the task.  But it means paying attention to minute details, which is not my strong suit.

I know, you think that because I majored in English that I must be great at proofreading.  I am not.  If you wanted me to fill the files with figurative language and intriguing symbolism, I could do that.  If you wanted me to do literary analysis of the syllabi, I could do that.  But to find every last error?  Not my strong suit.

In a way, it's a shame, since assessment, institutional effectiveness, and compliance are some of the fastest growing areas of higher ed.  But I just can't imagine spending every day of my work life doing what I've been doing yesterday.

But I'm lucky in many ways, not the least of which is that I'm not the guy jackhammering concrete in 95 degree heat all morning and afternoon.  To remember that, let me post a poem:

Life in the Holocene Extinction

I complete the day’s tasks
of e-mails and reports and other paperwork.
I think about which species
have gone extinct
in the amount of time it takes
to troll the Internet.
I squash a mosquito.

He drives to the grocery store
to pick up the few items he needs
for dinner: shark from a distant
sea, wine redolent of minerals from a foreign
soil. He avoids the berries
from a tropical country with lax
control of chemicals.

As she packs up her office,
she thinks about habitat loss,
those orphaned animals stranded
in a world of heat and pavement.
She wishes she had saved
more money while she had a job.
She knows she will lose the house.
She wonders what possessions
will fit into her car.

This poem first appeared at the wonderful online journal, Escape Into Life.  I encourage you to go here to see the wonderful image of a fiber collage that's paired with the poem.  And while you're there, enjoy the other poems and images too!

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