Tag Archives: outdoors

Random Impulses


Generally, as most of us get older, we have a very good idea of what our likes and dislikes are. Recently, though, I have been thinking about doing some things that I know I do not enjoy or usually want to do. It’s an odd feeling.

As I wrote before, I don’t like to be outdoors. Maybe I spent too much time outside when I was growing up, but the great outdoors has far too many hazards and discomforts for me to want to spend hours there. I know there are people who love the outdoors and spend a lot of time there, and that’s all right. They can have my share.

The odd thing is, I’ve been thinking about aboriginal Americans who lived very close to nature. Whether their shelter was a lodge or teepee or pueblo, they had to have been aware of the elements. With a fire for heating and breezes for cooling they were right in the midst of nature.

I have been camping exactly once in my life. I was ten years old, and I remember not sleeping much and just about starving since each of us was responsible for his own food. Lately, though, I been wondering what it would be like to stay outside in a tent. I could pitch one in my back yard and not be that far away from the comforts of the indoors. Of course, I’d have to buy almost everything I need, including a tent. I do have a sleeping bag from my daughters’ Girl Scout days. It’s a thought, but a strange one for me. Still, I find myself thinking that being outside with nothing but a thin nylon wall between me and the outdoors would be intriguing, although I’d probably wait until spring to try it.

Then there’s traveling. I’ve decided I don’t like to travel. Oh, I like to see different places, particularly places with history and good restaurants and good bookstores, but actually getting there is pain. I don’t care for driving, which is mostly monotonous and occasionally terrifying. My wife is a great driver (and a wizard parallel parker, even left-handed), so she does most of the driving when we go somewhere. I do the navigating, and I’m good at that, except when I’m not. That’s a subject for an entire column, but not just now. Anyhow, if there were a Star Trek-style transporter available, I’d use one, even at the risk of scrambling my molecules. To be able to be some place instantly has a huge appeal for me. And don’t even think about flying. That used to be fun and an adventure, but I don’t have to tell you what a pain it has become. No, I’m comfortable where I am, with everything I need right here. That’s why my travel impulse is a strange one. I’d like to fly around the world. I’m not talking about flying around the world non-stop on one tank of gas. What I’m thinking would be fun would be to fly around the world using scheduled flights. I’ve checked and it’s possible. It would take about three days. I think I would like to go business class since I would plan to be on an airplane most of the time. I wouldn’t even leave the airports or clear customs—I would just go right on to the next flight. This is even crazier when I consider that I am mildly claustrophobic. That’s why business class. I could leave on a Friday and be back Monday if my calculations are correct. It would be cool to say I had done it.

Then, I’ve been having an impulse lately to have another career. That’s not that unusual for an early retiree like me, but I’m talking about an entirely different career. When I was in my early teens I wanted to be a rocket scientist. (I was too tall to be an astronaut then.) What dissuaded me from this career path was the sad reality that I was not very good at math, and math is important to being rocket scientists. My impulse is to take science and math classes and earn a degree in astronautical engineering. I figure with the coursework I’ve done already I can skip the core classes and things like phys ed. and go right on to advanced science classes. It would be a whole lot easier for me to earn an M.F.A. in creative writing, but becoming a rocket scientist in my 60’s sounds much more appealing, even if I am probably worse at math than I was in high school. Grandma Moses started painting when she was in her 80’s, so maybe I do have a future with NASA.

So I have these random impulses, but I’ve found if I lie down for a while, they soon pass. Thank goodness for small favors.


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A Tale of Two Picnics


Normally, I suspect that many of us think of the time after Labor Day as being too late in the season for picnics. Of course, there are no Picnic Police (not yet, anyhow) to prevent us from having a picnic any darn time we want to. I taught with a fellow who grilled out on his balcony every evening, regardless of the weather and of the season. He used the leftovers for his lunch, and he had one of the best lunches going.

This weekend we went to a couple of really good picnics. One was at Caton Merchant House Saturday, an assisted living facility where my dad lives. It is a fabulous place, with a caring and competent staff. They had all sorts of food and a bluegrass band, with residents and families enjoying the fine weather and the good food.

Sunday our church had its annual picnic, staged by the deacons. They supplied hot dogs and hamburgers, and members of the church brought side dishes. Church people can cook! We spread out under some canopies on the front lawn of the church and had a good time eating and talking. We met some nice people who were prospects both for the Bible study class I co-teach and for Becky’s children’s choirs.

We don’t normally like to eat outdoors, but the weather cooperated and the food and company were great on both occasions. You can’t ask for more than that!

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Buckets, Pool Filters and What Might Have Been


We used to have an in-ground swimming pool. It was great when the kids were younger and had their friends over, but they grew up and moved away, as kids tend to do, and we didn’t use the pool very much. We’re not pool people, so after a few summers of maintaining a pool no one used, we decided to have it filled in. This is not something one can do with a few shovels and a few friends on a Saturday afternoon. It has to be done by a company that specializes in pool removal. They told us if anyone just dumped a lot of dirt into the hole the pool occupied, the liner would rise out of the ground. Sounds like a horror movie or something. So we had the pool removed, although they didn’t, for some reason, take the pump and filter and external plumbing. I’m not sure why. Maybe I kept them because I don’t know, I wanted to put in a huge waterfall in the backyard. I just don’t remember.

So, the sand filter, a large egg-shaped thing made of fiberglas, has been living under our deck ever since we got rid of the pool. I decided I wanted to take it to a pool store and see what they would offer me for it and the pump. The problem with taking it to the store is that, filled with sand, the filter probably weights three hundred pounds. There is no way I would be lifting that and putting it into my little Mazda wagon. So I decided to take the sand out, which is done by removing the filter lid and scooping the sand out. The problem with this is that the opening in the filter is about four inches across. The on-line articles I read said to use a bucket, but we don’t have children at home any more and so there are no little beach buckets at our house. I ended up using a twelve-ounce Styrofoam cup, which took a long time to empty all the sand out. But at least I could lift the filter shell.

This is what got me to wondering about buckets and their history, and I found out that buckets as well as being useful (when they’re not too big for the task at hand) are a very old artifact, dating back over five thousand years. Egyptians used buckets, which is probably why they walked like an Egyptian. Once I had established this bit of knowledge, my associative mind, which you’ve witnessed at work here for a couple of years, got to thinking about bucket lists, which I’m sure everyone has heard of. It’s a list of exciting or unusual things that you want to do before you die, such as cliff dive (not thanks), bungee jumping (ditto) or swimming with the sharks (ugh). Some people don’t like the term bucket list, and I understand that. One alternative is “lifetime to do list” which, if it’s anything like my daily to do list, would NEVER get done.

All that to say this: I don’t know if you’ve seen the list of the Top Ten Regrets of Dying People.

It had its origins with an Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying
Ware wrote that people at the end of their lives gained phenomenal clarity of vision. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

Some other people have expanded the list to ten based on their experiences, and I think the regrets of the dying have a great deal to teach the living.

1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. I missed being a part of my children’s lives and I missed my wife’s/husband’s friendship and companionship.

2. I wish I’d have had the courage to live a life TRUE TO MYSELF, instead of living the life that others expected of me.

3. I wish I would have had the courage to express my feelings honestly instead of thinking they didn’t matter or they weren’t popular.

4. I wish I would’ve stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I would’ve allowed myself to be happier, smiling more and complaining less.

6. I wish I would’ve gotten to know God better. I’m realizing now, just HOW MUCH He’s always been there.

7. (Women) I wish I had just let the dust sit a little longer, and gone out to play with my children when they pleaded. (Men) I wish I had just let the phone ring, and chosen to stay home with my family more, or gone to that ballgame or that play.

8. I wish I would’ve known NOT to sweat the small stuff. It wasn’t all that important in the end when you are looking at the ‘big picture’.

9. I wish I would’ve had the attitude of celebrating life instead of enduring it.

10. I wish I would’ve taken a class or two to learn some new things.

Wise words, and ones that should give each of us pause. I know they did me.

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