11.3 Miles

Between semesters i had a week and a half to get a lot of things done. I knew i only had a certain amount of days off to do them in. To maintain my license and certification to practice occupational therapy in case i ever wanted to use my degree again, i would need to complete 40 hours of online courses by the deadline for renewal. I also desperately needed to mow the roughly 1.5 acres of cleared land on my property as the grass was over 4 inches tall in all areas now and if i didn’t do something about it right quick it was going to be another year of constant unbearable chiggers for myself and the dogs. I needed to steam and hang dry all my masks for work on the clothes line during the only forecasted sunny day in two weeks. I was also in the process of writing and formatting two projects i needed to get finished before starting a new semester. On top of this i thought it seemed like a really good time to learn Russian. Sometimes i do that; throw something else on the plate that i want to do more than what’s in front of me that will cause me to exert a herculean effort in getting everything else done so i can focus on what i really want to do, which is whatever last task i threw on the heap that seems super important in this moment.

I had worked an 8.5 hour shift which meant i had sprinted down the aisles gathering 8 to 15 objects at a time, wedging the corners of chip bags between my fingers, stacking boxes in a tower and tucking them under my chin, and stuffing spice bottles in my jacket pockets to carry them while i sprinted back to the cart. The carts were too bulky for the customers to navigate past so we weren’t allowed to bring them down the aisles. You just had to stuff your arms and sprint. Every second counted and the smart phones tracked everybody’s performance. I had a quota, as most jobs do, but beyond that there was an expectation of performance in order to keep people content. So you run. I mean literally sprint for 8.5 hours minus two fifteen minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch break, but you still have to run from the front of the store to the breakroom and vice versa. I usually run around 8 miles per shift but on this particular day i came home, took a look at the land, and decided that i was not going to sit down just yet. I put my headphones on, got out all my lawn mower batteries, and ran about the yard until sundown. I say ran because each battery lasts a total of 40 minutes at full charge. I had 3 of them. I needed to mow 1.5 acres of 4+ inch grass. In 40 minutes the battery would be dead and the mower would turn off. How much grass got mowed in those 40 minutes was up to the one mowing the lawn and the speed at which they ran. So i sprinted back and forth, back and forth across the land to some good tunes. When all was said and done i had run 11.3 miles. I had to quit because the batteries were all dead. I still needed to mow the front field and the back half of the dog run but that would have to wait until the following day when the batteries were charged again.

Round 2 began the following morning when the batteries had each had their turn on the charger. I set about mowing the lawn but every 20 minutes i had to stop and put another 2 masks in the instant pot, replace the water, and turn it on again, then start timing when the steam had built up and was coming out in a steady stream. I would wash my hands, switch out the old masks, hang them on the laundry line, place new ones in, and reset the device. I was also washing laundry in the house. By the evening i had the whole property mowed down to a buzz cut in comparison to the wild inches of flowing grass it had been just the day before. Now the jack rabbits had nowhere to hide and i could see the toads when they hopped. I even mowed up by the orchard and reclaimed some of the wild area over by the pin oak tree. The land looked more expansive after i cleared the brushy weedy area over there.

The next task on the list was the 40 hours of courses. It was actually a requirement of 36 hours but i always did an extra course in case the organization rejected one of my submissions (which does happen sometimes) either because it was not considered an approved course or because they didn’t feel the topic was treatment centered enough. i made myself a big breakfast, sat down, and got it done. During my break between semesters i had managed to cross everything off my list except clean the chicken coop.

I left the boxes undisturbed, hoping that the bird would return and raise babies in the nest under the cardboard layers again next year.

Sili watched me cut the grass in the dog run from afar, always being careful to stay out of range of whatever whirring monster i was pushing. Cashew, on the other hand, rang alongside me, lunging and snapping at the mower every time i slowed, turned, or got hung up on a branch or rock. She seemed to be intent upon herding the mower in some direction. She wasn’t sure what that direction may be, but she felt the need to herd it, pretty much because it was moving. I’m not going to lie; i was relieved to be done with the dog run. I was trying to protect her from the mower, the mower from her, not dull the blades on rocks or stumps, and refrain from injuring myself. I probably should have put her in the house but it was the one sunny day in two weeks of forecasted weather. I thought that they should be out to enjoy it. Eventually i would collapse into bed, physically and mentally exhausted, but the semester break projects were done.

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