Not that there have not been long stretches when I woke up every day and hated going into work. Those were times when I had a hostile supervisor, which can make all the difference in the world. The worst year of my working life combined the Boss From Hell with a very difficult and overburdened route.
But the job itself is sweet.
I have only worked indoors for six months of my life, a miserable time laboring in factories. Other than that I have spent my working life out of doors, in orchards, ski slopes, and in construction.
Of all of these orchard work is the finest: days spent in the treetops, eating as many apples or peaches or plums as one likes. And believe me, if you are picking fruit the only ones you are going to eat are those which are stunning in their perfection.
But picking fruit is low-paying, without benefits, and seasonal. Not a good way to support oneself, let alone a family.
Carrying mail is a close second. Unlike construction or agriculture it is quiet, clean, and you work even when it rains.
And it is contemplative, at least when you don’t have a boss making your life miserable.
At this point I have the nicest supervisor I have ever had, and I am on a route that is not stressful: 560 deliveries, compared to 840 on my last route.
As all but two hours of my day is spent outside, beauty is inevitable. Especially as the neighborhoods on my route are lovely. I have a two hour stretch of walking early in the day which is like walking in a park, only with houses. It is an older part of town, and the trees are huge; mostly oaks, but also a lot of maples, beeches, and various conifers. And while much of the beauty is random, watching the seasons unfold and the weather change, there are two moments every day when I can expect beauty.
The first of these is early in the day, delivering the Gallaghers’ mail. They have wind chimes just above their mailbox, really nice ones tuned to a pentatonic scale. Every day I pull the string and listen to the sweet sound.
The other is later in the day. I take a shortcut, turning around a garage, then down a slight hill and then suddenly am under the spreading limbs of a huge beech tree. In the spring the leaves are translucent yellow-green and the light that is filtered through them is transfigured. Later, in the summer, the leaves are deeper green and more opaque. Now, in the autumn, they are russet, with lingering traces of green underneath. The effect is magical, a brief interlude of a better world.
Beauty, by its nature, tends to be random.
But in my life there are two moments every day that are reliable brushes with God.