Sunday, September 9, 2012


A friend and I were talking about books and other things today. It was a clear afternoon with a slight breeze and the front porch was the perfect place for a chat. She sipped lemonade; I enjoyed a latte.

She grew up on a dairy farm and now she and her husband and three children - well, two are away at college, so really there is just one boy at home - live on what is known as a hobby farm. They have three sheep, two goats, two or three hives of bees (she kindly brought me some fresh honey), a dog, a cat population that increases and dwindles, and sometimes they have hens wandering about. There are two ponds, a barn, a forest full of trees, and fencing surrounding the pasture where the sheep and goats graze.

I was telling her about one of the essays in E.B. White's One Man's Meat titled "Memorandum".

It was written in October 1941 and begins:

Today I should carry the pumpkins and squash from the back porch to the attic. The nights are too frosty to leave them outdoors any longer. And as long as I am making some trips to the attic I should also take up the boat cushions and the charts and the stuff from the galley and also a fishing rod that belongs up in the attic. Today I should finish filling in the trench we dug for the water pipe and should haul two loads of beach gravel from the Naskeag bar to spread on top of the clay fill. And I should stop in and pay the Reverend Mr. Smith for the gravel I got a month or two ago and ask him if he has seen a bear.

White's To Do list runs on for another five pages. There is the corn to husk, hen roosts to clean with a wire brush, plowing decisions to be made, nails and shingles to buy, and raking to do. One ought leads to another, one should reminds him of an additional task, one To Do spawns ten more.

I found this essay to be hilarious because it is exactly how my mind works. I am easily overwhelmed and just thinking of one or two tasks for the day leads to a Post-it note full of errands, which then translates into a list on a sheet of A5 paper that gets stuck into my calendar book; then I need a nap. And not one task is completed.

But back to my friend. I thought she could certainly identify with many of the essays in the book and especially this one because, as she well knows, no matter how much gets accomplished there is always one more task to do on the farm.

And now, unwittingly, I have added to her To Do list. I gave her the book to read.

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