Case Study

Ten quiet minutes walking on a dirt and gravel path winding among a stand of pines won’t vanquish the full frontal assault of contemporary life on my soul and sensibilities. But I’ll take it.

For now, I’d rather stitch together those peaceful patches than engage with the fractious world; or more insidiously, engage with the internal, incessant struggle to decipher and rationalize, to painstakingly distill meaning from each day.

This is my vacation from existential hand wringing.

Tests of my nascent resolve arrive frequently, and one in particular induced a wavering that nearly pulled my attention from the lenticular clouds hovering over the San Francisco peaks like the aspirations of an artist’s faraway mind.

The occasion was the outcry of a restive few raised up against a discrete phase of the master plan for campus construction—a phase that called for some tree removal. All of the classic elements presented themselves to me, as a representative of the institution, and fought for ascendancy: duty, loyalty, work ethic, environmental ethic, authenticity. Campus administration called the work revitalization. Others called it degradation. My young son called it “the tree fuss.”

At another stage of my life, this is the juncture at which I would dispassionately outline and analyze both sides of the argument while tearing myself up inside by pitting conscience against conscientiousness.

But I won’t because I choose not to go down that path.

I’m not looking the other way on this matter; I’m just watching out for myself. And if that means keeping my head in the clouds for a few minutes each day, then I’ll take the respite and return to work. The vacation isn’t over yet.

About Eric Dieterle

A writer of environmental literature and a public affairs coordinator at Northern Arizona University.
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