Tag Archives: spring

Random Impulses

Camping

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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Blowin’ in the Wind (Or Not)

falling-leaves-connie-valasco

As I’ve written here before, we have a number of large oaks and maples in the the neigborhood and on our lot. The upside of so many mature trees is their beauty and shade, and watching them change through the seasons: the fresh green leaves in the spring, the coolness of their shadows in the summer, the spectacular display of color in autumn, and the stark beauty of black limbs against a wintry sky.

There are some downsides to having big trees around, of course. If they become diseased or die, they have to be removed, and that’s not a job for Harry Homeowner with his hand saw. A tree company charged over $1000 last time we had one taken out, but it was worth it to me to be able to live another day. It’s money well spent.

The other main downside comes when the leaves have fallen. I used to rake ours to the curb, where the City of Manassas picks them up with a great leaf vac that is very cool. After a few years, my back hurt badly even  after using an ergonomic rake (which I fondly referred to as my “snake rake). Fortunately, our nephew Jonathan Pankey, who has cut our grass for years, also takes care of fallen leaves. It’s not his favorite activity, but he and his crew come four or five times until all the leaves are gone. Jonathan and his helpers use leaf blowers, which is necessary because time is money in the business. I have to admit that the whine of a blower is far down the list of my favorite sounds. I recall the quiet and contemplative pleasure of raking leaves, back breaking as it was.

The New Yorker ran one of their incisive articles about the noise pollution of leaf blowers about three years ago, showing that I’m not the only one who doesn’t like the noise. Here’s a link to the story: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/25/101025fa_fact_friend .

I don’t begrudge my neighbors the use of these machines. Jonathan uses them, after all. I just wish there were a quieter way to get the job done. Ah, well, it’s not a perfect world we live in, and a little noise now and then is a small price to pay for all the gifts of trees.

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Friday Poem of the Week: Efficiency vs. Beauty and Grace

Daffodil

Efficiency vs. Beauty and Grace

Having left a car for my aunt to use
At the assisted living place where my Dad lives
While she visits him
I walk home, a distance of about half a mile
In the bright spring sunshine,
Wondering why I don’t walk more.
I see things I don’t see when I drive
But, darn it, I have places to go and
People to see and don’t have the time
To walk everywhere and so I don’t.

But I should.

I remember my grandmother talking about
Walking to see people a distance of eight miles
One way. That would take five hours total,
Visiting time not included.
Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy walked
Twenty miles in a day just for a lark
Or a daffodil or a beautiful spring lea.

I am such a weakling, insulated from nature
Most of the time, moving from heated space
To heated space or air conditioning to air conditioning.

I am missing out on so much Beauty and Grace
In the name of cold Efficiency.

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Poem of the Week: Lament for Boston

Boston Skyline

Lament for Boston

I am weary of names of places
Tied forever to acts of terrible mindless violence
Of the grating pull through hours of
Recounting suffering and loss
Of raw associations with
Oklahoma City,
The Twin Towers,
The Pentagon,
Columbine,
Virginia Tech,
Aurora,
Newtown,
And now Boston.

Do we need so many opportunities
To prove our resilience,
Our ability to bounce back,
To make change for the better?
At what cost?
Once again the innocent lie slain
As the rest of us mourn a while and then
Pick up the pieces
Of our hearts and journey onward.

The blossoms today drifting from the
Flowering pear trees did not seem so much
Like spring snow
As they did bitter tears
Falling to the ground.

–Dan Verner 4/15/2013

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