My dream routine? Pre-Internet?

For decades, I dreamed of getting free from the demands of the newsroom – meaning any paying 9-to-5 job – so I could concentrate on what poet Gary Snyder aptly dubbed the Real Work.

That goal entailed something resembling financial independence, which was hardly likely on a journalism income.

As for 9-to-5? It never fit the places I was employed, sometimes straight salary for 60- to 70-hour weeks, and even when I’d left management and joined the union, it was typically nights and holidays or a double-shift on Saturdays.

I had hoped for a breakout via a bestseller book, and some of my non-fiction projects might have turned the trick, though I found it difficult to respond rapidly when I was tied down by other time-consuming obligations.

The closest I did come in those years was a year’s sabbatical I gave myself between jobs back in the mid-‘80s, when I submerged myself in drafting what later emerged as my novels, after much revision and the openings finally provided by ebook publication.

One thing I learned from that experiment was that I couldn’t continue at that pace – I required more balance in my life. My bank account wasn’t the only thing that was depleted.

One of my annual exercises after that involved setting goals for the year ahead, usually by season. The categories included things like Home, Relationships, Creative Projects, and Quaker Practice – I’m starting to see a forerunner of the Red Barn, eerily – but also had me thinking about how my daily life might look if I ever “made it” as an independent writer.

Part of the impetus was a fear of letting my life just kind of ooze away. I suppose it goes back to some of the sermons heard in my youth, the ones about time being God’s gift to us.

In response, how much could I rely on a tight daily routine, starting with an early morning rise for meditation and then hatha yoga before a light brunch and maybe an hour with the Boston Globe and the local paper followed by a big block for writing and supporting activities?

That thinking was countered by a recognition that I couldn’t fit everything I desired into straight days, so I also played with chunks of time staggered through the week – Topic A on Mondays and Wednesdays, for example, with Project K late on Wednesday.

And then, I still couldn’t fit everything in.

After I’d remarried, my wife caught one sight of one of my schemata and reacted with scorn. She saw so much daily reality I wasn’t including, such as cooking, cleaning, gardening, time for others, and even myself.

Now that retirement has finally provided the independence I sought, I’m having to admit I still haven’t achieved that ideal, intentional scheduling. Instead, so much has revolved around big projects like the novels and random to-do lists.

Still, it built upon the bones of daily Spanish lessons and half-mile swimming and a weekly commute to Boston for choir practice, in addition to Quaker worship and committee work.

But then Covid hit, followed by the move to Maine.

Quite simply, I still haven’t hit on the balanced pace. Maybe now, that the last book’s in place? Or maybe after I stop blogging intensely?

The biggest surprise for me in all of this is how much the Internet has changed the picture. I want the early quiet of those early hours for my writing and revising. What happened to the meditation? As for regular exercise? The nearest indoor pool is in Canada. Or for spreading out with a newspaper? I do most of my reading online, even books, no matter how much I love ink on paper. Even interacting with others occurs largely via email.

One thing I don’t feel is “retired,” but I will say in all of this I feel more engaged than ever.

Naturally, that won’t stop me from tinkering with a routine. I’m sure whatever I come up with will be far superior than what the nursing home would arrange.

How do you arrange your days and weeks? Any secrets to share?

 

The celebration should range far beyond today’s city limits

As Dover gears up for its big 400th anniversary next year, folks need to be alerted to the fact the early history spills far beyond today’s city limits – and that includes both sides of the state line.

While much of the settlement is along Dover Neck and then grows around the Lower Falls of the Cochecho, the town itself sprawled across today’s Durham [but then Oyster River], Newington, Madbury, Lee, Barrington, Rochester, Somersworth, and Rollinsford. That’s a lot of geography.

It’s sparsely populated, at least by Europeans, as is reflected in the 42 signers of the Dover Combination, essentially all of the freemen in the town even if a number of them are soon living elsewhere in the watershed or even returned to the mother country.

When the itinerant Quaker troublemakers arrive two decades later, the town has maybe 60 households. There are perhaps no more than a thousand English total all in New Hampshire.

In 1679, when New Hampshire is separated from Massachusetts and becomes an independent provincial government, Dover has just 61 qualified voters; the remainder of the province, 148.

The picture magnifies when we look at the Piscataqua watershed.

The tiny outpost at Hilton Point becomes the center of settlement in 1630 when Captain Walter Neale arrives to settle Strawbery Banke, today’s Portsmouth, downstream on the Piscatauqua, the same year Newichawannock, a fortified trading post, was established at today’s South Berwick, Maine, upstream from the Hiltons. Some accounts have the parties arriving on the same boat. I’m not getting into those intricacies.

Besides, it leads to an argument over whether Newichawannock or an hermit who stayed the winter at York was Maine’s first permanent European settlement.

What is clear to me is that Hilton Point is the center of development, more than the other three towns in New Hampshire – Exeter, Hampton, and Portsmouth – by 1638. Yes, only four towns in the entire colony until New Castle is admitted, and nothing in New Hampshire’s Merrimack Valley until the next century.

As emphasis, a 1631 observer reports only three houses or settlements in the entire Piscataqua watershed: today’s Dover, meaning Hilton Point; Portsmouth; and South Berwick.

Sturgeon Creek in Maine, looking at Dover Neck, New Hampshire.

The history gets more interesting when there’s mention of Sturgeon Creek, which is straight across the Piscataqua River from Dover Neck and in today’s Eliot. We’ll get into that later.

At the time, all of the Maine side of the Piscataqua is considered Kittery – but as it turns out, the first settlement is Newichawannock, not Kittery Point on the Atlantic. That is, much further inland than folks assume today.

During many of the early years, settlements on both sides of the river are often called Piscataqua. Many of the legal cases from the Maine side wind up in the courts of provincial New Hampshire, and the other way around, adding further difficulty in determining exactly where certain activities occur.

That, too, indicates how closely both sides of the river interacted with each other, with the center of gravity for “upper Kittery” being Dover.

Maine, as seen from Dover Neck in New Hampshire. Not so far by boat as we’d think today.

Even more, it’s hard to envision a feudal society with Edward Hilton on Pomeroy Cove. Or even later, with Captain Wiggin’s troupe of Puritan settlers along Dover Neck. Not that we really know their names – there’s controversy when it comes to listing them.

The more I look at these early situations, the more I’m amazed that any of it actually survived.

~*~

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.

Third Haven, New Haven, White Haven nexus

wouldja guess Maryland’s official sport is? jousting! (no, I wasn’t jesting, ’tis truly) these tabs from Fitzwilly’s and the Whitby Winery Uncle Charlie! what on earth’s on the radio? maps of New Haven and Providence sorry, such minutia, leisurely spans the Eastern Seaboard only to realize what had been removed to Tampa whoa! Prairie Home Companion it ain’t present background noise, roll the dial this rumbling would appreciate new Verdi’s Falstaff any better? reminded to pay bills, catch up hardly boring and ask how many of them practice, whatever . blessings, stick to it

A musician’s insight on leadership

The question of just what a symphony orchestra maestro actually does led to an unexpected answer about leadership on a YouTube interview. According to the 59-year-old Paavo Jarvi, a conductor is essentially a teacher, regardless of the quality of the players. That, more than his artistic vision or temperament or divine inspiration or managerial skills.

It had me thinking about the best bosses I’ve had and realizing their excellence was as teachers.

How about you? What do you look for in a leader?

~*~

By the way, I was rather startled when I came across Paavo’s age. I still think of him as a “young” conductor, one of Max Rudolf’s last students.

He’s now the age Dr. Rudolf was as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony orchestra, a fine ensemble Paavo later directed for a decade before turning his attention to Europe.

Confessions of a booklover

Looking at my book purchases over the past few years, I’m finding that most of them are ebooks. The new paperbooks in my collection are mostly gifts, gratefully received, augmented by a few used volumes purchased online.

Cost is a factor, admittedly, but so is shelf space. We still have a thousand or more titles to cull from our collections before moving the remainder up here, and keeping them in storage ain’t cheap. My own practice of the past decade requires me to say adios to one copy every time I get a new one, and I find the swapping to be heart-rending. Books really are personal, and who ever wants to let go of a friend?

Among the harder aspects of putting our old house on the market was one we hadn’t anticipated. Our Realtor told us the bookshelves couldn’t be jammed, as ours were, but that buyers were entranced when shelves were only half full. We didn’t want to repulse them but, well, we had several walls to go through on that point.

That meant buying a lot of boxes from U-Haul to pack. Buy boxes? They stack better, for both transport and storage. Worth the price.

~*~

When it comes to how I’m now reading, I do find a distinction between ebooks and paper.

If it’s a page-turner being devoured quickly for pleasure or else an authority I’m using for background reference, I prefer digital. The digital search function’s very helpful, believe me – much better than relying on an index – and if I’m quoting something in a writing project, cut-and-paste beats keyboarding any day and is less likely to include typos. On the other hand, if the text requires slow reflection and digestion, traditional paper moves to the fore. Krista Tippett’s Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living is a prime example, along with Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Poetry and The Art of Biblical Narrative.

Maybe the divide even comes down to whether it’s something I want to read hands-free or hands-on.

~*~

These also play into my considerations in my own publishing strategies.

As I looked to outlets for my big nonfiction project, Quaking Dover, I realized it was the kind of volume most readers would want to have in their hands or even wrap as a present.

It was one I’d want to place in bookstores and libraries, but that became a big hurdle.

If I put it the book up at Amazon’s KDP, the bookstores would back off. As for libraries? Dunno.

The alternatives I saw were prohibitively expensive for what would be a niche item, unless it magically took off on the charts, even as print-on-demand.

The plot thickened when my ebook haven, Smashwords, announced it was being absorbed by Draft2Digital. Yeah, the promises of no changes were there, but really?

Yet from what I’m seeing, maybe not. Maybe this is the big challenge to the Amazon juggernaut.

Upshot is, that’s where I’m planning to place my print version.

Pennamaquan falls and fish ladder

During their three-week run each year, 30,000 alewives a day press up this fast-moving fish ladder beside the small dam and waterfalls on their way to breeding grounds upstream.
The current is strong but the six-inch fish are stronger.
The added touch of the birdhouse makes me smile.
The Pembroke United Methodist Church overlooks the lake just above the dam, with some much bigger ones miles ahead.

What’s the future of retail after Covid?

We all know the boost the Covid shutdown gave to online shopping and delivery. Ordering from the comfort of home, when everything went well, could be a pleasure. For some of us, it even meant being able to find exactly what we wanted, even after we had tried without success to find the item in a bricks-and-mortar store.

Of course, it could also be exasperating, as I discovered when a promised item failed to arrive before Christmas, even though it had been ordered more than a month before, and cancellation and refund weren’t available, due to the fine print that the product was being shipped from an independent source rather than the classy brand name. It was finally delivered in February, even after I had finally got the retailer to cancel the purchase.

As we also know, not every website is easily navigated, either.

~*~

I think about that when I look at the vacant storefronts in Eastport’s historic and charming downtown. Just what would fit in here efficaciously? Retail, of course, is the heart of it, along with a mix of offices and studios.

It’s a situation we share with many other communities, where the pleasures of being able to stroll from one option to another are countered by the expectation of easy parking. Just what do we really want or need, actually? More possessions? Services? Treats for the eyes or taste buds?

If you open a store, you’re not going to get rich at it, even though retailing requires a special insight and savvy. To be successful, you’ll also need value-added lines in ways the online rivals can’t compare. Think of the personal touch as a shopper when you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for to fix a particular problem.

Eastport has the additional complications of a small year-round population that swells in the summer, meaning the retail season can boil down to half-dozen prime weeks with a long slowdown in between.

~*~

You’ll hear people talk fondly of the old Woolworth’s or Newberry’s, with their lunch counters and swivel chairs or their extensive fabric selection or whatever, or the way these emporiums anchored the block. Not so for the dollar stores or Walmart.

I’m well into a stage of de-collection and downsizing, so I hesitate to add more possessions. Still, when I walk into a place like the Rock & Art store in Ellsworth or Bangor, I can be tempted.

Obviously, I don’t have the answer for what will revitalize the district, but my guess is that it will be an array of things not currently in our vision. Who would have thought of brewpubs a decade or two ago, for instance?

Or, as they used to say in the days of black-and-white television, “Please stay tuned.”

A few life lessons

Pack light, run, get out of the way.
I learned that in Boy Scouts.

Much later, that you have to take care of yourself first
before all the complications in whatever role as a parent.

Much less the seed catalogue
midterms or finals.

Porcupine climbing a tree at Quoddy Head State Park. Seems to embody a few life lessons too.