Thoreau wrote romantically about the unseen in Walden, in the chapter “Where I Lived and What I Lived For,” one of the best written and widely read parts of the book. He wrote,
“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep…”
Much of life happens out of our awareness. For example, I put a pair of winter boots on eBay to sell. I’ve been pleased because people are watching them, but I also put a “buy it now” price on them. This morning I opened my laptop to find that someone had bought them. Of course, I have to wait for the money, but all that happened when I wasn’t aware of it.
Sometime in March, 2015, a big white dog gave birth to a litter of puppies out there in the big lonesome of the ranch-land of the San Luis Valley, very possibly at the very same time as I was holding Lily T. Wolf tightly on my lap at the vet’s office, discussing the treatment of senile old dogs and the best options for Lily’s future. The best option made me feel that someone was tearing my heart out of my chest, but I loved my dog, so we got down on the floor together on the sleeping bag the vet’s assistant laid down for us and Lily died in my arms. A few months later one of those white pups was picked up by the sheriff and brought to the local shelter. I saw her on Facebook, looking out of my computer screen with Lily’s blue eyes, and I knew she was my dog.
It’s true that the iceberg that is our life isn’t always bringing us a wonderful new dog. Somehow, somewhere a little guy — let’s call him “Virus T. Virus” — made it through the barrier that is my skin and now I’m homebound in a coughy hell, drinking hot drinks to soothe my chest, and waiting for him to leave. But one of these mornings I’m going to wake up to find Virus T. Virus has abandoned me for greener pastures. Meanwhile, I have decent medical care (dogs), a warm house and time to get well. It was not long ago I would have stressed whether to teach or not, back in the day when my college made it very difficult for a teacher to miss school.
But I’m not there now. I’m here, retired, in a pretty little house in a beautiful place between two mountain ranges. How did that happen?
Well, I went to Italy in the summer of 2000 and came home to find that one of my colleges had forgotten (this is true!) to give me my usual Saturday class. I was going to be in financial hell. They’d finished scheduling, they were sorry, it was an honest mistake, I was on the fringes of their staffing, anyway, as a Saturday teacher, they’d fix it next semester yadda-yadda. What to do? “Update your resume and get your ass to San Diego State,” said my friend, Denis Joseph Francis Callahan. “You should be teaching there anyway.”
With nothing to lose, I did just that, then went home and put on interview-worthy clothes and hied myself hence to the Department of Rhetoric and Writing at SDSU with my packet in hand. It was a cold call. I arrived, went to the front desk of the front office and said, “Hi, I’m Martha Kennedy and I’ve brought my resume in case you’re still looking for teachers.” I’d actually sent them this same packet some six months earlier and had heard nothing.
“Fabulous!” said the woman. “We’ve been trying to call you. We have two classes for you to teach.” And that was it. More than fifteen years teaching full-time at SDSU = great health insurance and retirement for life. 🙂 Who knew?
Photo: Bear Care