Mule time, 3

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There's a downside to the mulish grind through work. (There are many, but there is only room for one thought at a time in mule mind.) Pulling and pulling and pulling on a plow, one row at a time, one row at a time, one row at a time, pulling, onward, repeating, repeating, pulling, row, row, row—there isn't much space for introspection. Some activities, boring and repetitive as they are, offer some space to expand—simple work that doesn't last long. Mule time is different. Mule time is the longest month you've had this week. Sun down to sun up. Pulling, rows, etc.

Where does the mind go?

For that weird, brief interlude when I was running long distances, well-meaning jokers would ask: what do you think about for that long?

I'll tell you:


If you're lucky, nothing. The brain—fantastic piece of evolved machinery that it is—only gets in the way if you're going to go run all day and part of the night. As soon as that thing starts thinking about the situation that it's gotten itself into, it's going to figure out that it's a situation it wants to get itself out of.

Row. Row. Row. (In a field, not in a boat.) Put the brain in a cradle and rock it to sleep. Row. Row. Row. (Gently down the field.) The fuzzy, swaddled brain has no thoughts to think. Row. Row. Row. The sleeping brain might work out some ideas while it dreams, but the mulesleep brain is on standby.

During the mule times I look at this screen, and I shake my head, and there is nothing but the sound of a few loose pebbles clinking around the inside of the skull. Eventually the thoughts come back, but it's tiring to think about it. Pulling the plow is one kind of tired. Pulling thoughts out of the ether is another kind.

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