I had hearings to attend this morning, but I forgot to take the materials home with me, so that at least one important document that I sorely needed was in my office. It was the sheet specifying the starting time. 8:30? 9:30? I could not remember. And so, to be on the safe side, by 7:30 I found myself on the bus to campus, arriving at the Law School at an hour when few are there. Ah – sunrise over the Capitol. Almost like a view onto the Pantheon or St. Paul’s, there rising above the chimneys and rooftops of the city.
It turned out I was rather early. By an hour.
Presiding over these hearings is not nearly as fun and glamorous as you’d wish. I take comfort in the fact that I respect and like the remaining hearings officers (these are nonresident appeals hearings) and today the panel included one of my favorites – a woman who lives on a farm south of Madison.
I feel, now especially, that there is much to be learned about life on a farm. (Even as this panelist has farm animals and Ed’s farm only has one cat.)
She talks about how they grew their horses from one, to two, to three, to thirteen.
Thirteen??? How is it that you have thirteen horses?
They mate and give birth. And donkeys – we have donkeys too.
Why? – I ask.
Well, just because.
What do you do with them?
I think about why people have the things they have. Coveting horses or donkeys or goats. (Or something else.) She has a goat too.
Then there’s the cattle. She and her husband raise cattle for the beef that you and I might want.
Do you name them?
Sure. And when we give them up to the slaughterhouse, next day we’ll get the beef, neatly labeled with the cow’s name on the package.
I doubt that I could eat a steak with a name on it. Even as, every few weeks, I think longingly about having a steak or a burger.
After the hearings, I head back home. You always feel spent after listening to people present their sad stories. From Bascom Hill, I get the usual view of the Capitol, stately as ever, seen now from the campus perspective.
Much much later, I make a final trip to the plumber, reviewing the choices I had made for the farmhouse, regretting some, not others, and then I drive home, marveling at how there are so many ways of doing any one thing well.