Unpacking the past, opening space to move on

I’ve been up in the loft of the barn, going through many of my goods that have been packed away here. These days, the temperature’s not too hot, and though the air’s chilly outside, the sun on the roof has this space comfy. The wind sends maple spinners tapping overhead, as well as falling leaves and twigs. For me, it’s autumn in more ways than one.

I’ve already gone through my spirituality/religion bookshelf in my studio in the house and pruned nearly a hundred volumes from it – mostly Yoga and Buddhism I’ll no longer be referencing in new writing. I look one last time at these field guides and backcountry maps from across the continent while hoping to find an appreciative reader to give them to. Any ideas?

Alas, I’m finding more books here in the barn, some of them adding to that pile, but also Whole Earth Catalogs, political science, poetry, marketing and agenting guides, art and history, Cascade Mountains trail books and photo albums. Each of them is a reflection of my life’s interests and pursuits, now in my past.

There are also picture frames we’ve never used, rolled-up posters, Quaker outreach materials.

At least I went ahead and burned the outdated assorted financial records a few days ago – credit cards slips, receipts, insurance mailings, and so on. Shredding them would have taken forever.

And then correspondence and photos. What to keep and what to release?

The point is that it’s time to let go and move on.

Soon to follow are the genealogical working notes and files. Four filing boxes stuffed with them. Everything I’ve gleaned is now up on my Orphan George blog. Another completed project, as far as I’m concerned. Yet when I open one of the boxes, I feel myself burdened with some constricting force, likely arising in a self-imposed obligation. No, the time has come.

Along with another filing box of poetry and fiction acceptances and correspondence. I discarded the rejections long ago. I hate to think how much I spent on postage and photocopying in that pastime or of the hours I devoted to it before I shifted my output to blogging and self-published ebooks.

More symbolic is my old backpack basket, at one time a status item reflecting my reaching first-class rank in Boy Scouts and, along with it, the right to weave the basket and attach it to the frame I made when I had earned second-class. It no longer fits and has long been battered in my moves across the continent. Besides, I won’t be backpacking again. With it, I learned to back light in my travels. Farewell, then, as I pack light anew.

Not everything up here is mine, but we are on a downsizing effort.

~*~

I have to admit feelings of failure, of seeing how often I was compelled to move away and start over just as something else was about to open. Of near-misses, too. Of broken relationships.

But there’s also the warmth of past friendships and support. Long, personal letters from busy people, for one thing, something that’s really from a different era than the one we inhabit now. Of deceased elders and mentors, especially.

I have moments of sensing this as a prelude to the aftermath of my own funeral, a kind of this-was-your-life sweep. As I do the work of clearing out things I’ve treasured that won’t mean anything to anyone among my family and friends, I spare them the task. There will be plenty enough as when I’m done, far as I can see.

It’s bittersweet, really, making room for what’s left. Nobody said it would be easy.

At last, an end to a vexing online shopping experience

Today, a month and eight days after I placed a kitchen-goods online order during a Cyber-Monday sale, I finally have closure on a Christmas present that was never shipped, much less delivered. It was supposed to be here December 9, a date that kept getting pushed back to January 20, as it last stood.

Desperately, when I realized the said item wasn’t going to arrive in time for the gift exchange, contrary to promises, I found other presents to wrap and place under the tree for my beloved. But that didn’t resolve the suspense of the tangled order. Nobody could or would do anything to come through for me, not even cancel the order. I hate feeling helpless. Or, for that matter, idiotic. I was told to stay calm, it would be here on time. Except, of course, it wasn’t.

Now, thanks to a vigilant customer service supervisor who followed up at the end of December on a long call I had made shortly before Christmas, the order is now cancelled. Whew! Inhale deeply. I’m no longer hanging in limbo. The email of confirmation arrived today.

It wasn’t easy. We all hate fighting bureaucracies, whether they’re capitalist corporations or governmental agencies.

From other interactions regarding the order, I have the feeling the supervisor was swimming upstream through company policy to finally arrive at a solution, and for that I’m appreciative. Perhaps she was able to identify a breakdown in the bigger system and get something fixed. These actions reflect the kind of dedication that deserves promotion. I’ll always root for the underdog.

In many ways, this was a no-win situation. Who knows how much they spent processing the order or parrying my calls and emails, the ones before she emailed me out of the blue, noting that she had been checking her records and saw that nothing had happened yet. I asked (again) that the order be cancelled, and two days later she came through. All in all, it probably adds up to as much as I would have spent on the product and negatively impacted on the bottom line. Admittedly, I’m now unlikely to ever again buy from the company. At least not until she winds up as CEO.

Still, it’s reassuring to know somebody cared and knows what it means to be doing the real job.

Ten values I expect in a bud

Defining just exactly makes someone a best friend can be rather elusive. But here’s a stab at it from my end.

  1. That is, someone I can deeply respect and trust. Included would be honesty, confidentiality – a gossip, never, and kindness.
  2. Gentle sense of humor or playfulness.
  3. Mutual interests. There doesn’t have to be a complete overlap, but having activities and causes we undertake together is vital. For me, it’s typically Quaker Meeting or the music we sing together in a choir. Oh, yes, and I can’t overlook reading itself.
  4. Curiosity – and a delight in learning. A desire to understand the world around us also opens my eyes to so much I’d otherwise not know.
  5. Shared friendships and community. If they reject you – or you find them annoying – there’s trouble.
  6. Equal give-and-take over the long haul. Yes, there will be rough stretches where I’ll need to be quite supportive and other times when I’ll be the needy one, but it can’t always be one-sided.
  7. Appropriate tone. I have difficulty being around a loud individual. I prefer a good listener, someone who can also be comfortable with silence.
  8. Generosity and caring. Just look how they treat others for a clue.
  9. Good taste. That is, a touch of class and style – nothing vulgar.
  10. Not too picky. They’re dealing with me, after all.

~*~

What qualities would you add to your list? Which ones would you delete?

~*~

Continuing the poetry parade, see what’s new at THISTLE/FLINCH.

Ten things I do every evening

So much of my evening routine these days depends on the indoor pool swim schedule. Sometimes I get my laps in the midafternoon, which seems to define the beginning of my evening. And at other times of the year, I the pool’s open at 7 or 8 for my use. With that perspective, my late afternoons and evenings often look something like this:

  1. Swim a half-mile.
  2. Hang up wet swimsuit and towel.
  3. Afternoon nap, if I can. Likely in the guest room or on the floor of my studio.
  4. When I’m back up, some chore. I’m flexible.
  5. Dinner. I prefer my big meal of the day to come around closing time.
  6. Clean-up, wipe counters, start dishwasher.
  7. Feed the rabbit and change the water.
  8. Martini.
  9. Listen to a round of music.
  10. Slip into bed, reflecting on the day and the morrow.

~*~

What tips or even secrets do you have for settling in for the evening?

~*~

A pot of decorative red cabbage sits beside our front steps this time of year.

Of course, this is totally unrelated to the theme. Just another thing on my mind.

Ten sets of wheels in my life

  1. My 2002 Camry. Coming up on 300,000 miles on the odometer.
  2. My wife’s 2013 Prius.
  3. Her Saturn before that.
  4. My Plymouth Neon.
  5. My VW Fox, a two-door wagon.
  6. My 1600 model BMW coupe. Oh, the memories!
  7. The company car, a Chevy Impala. Burgundy.
  8. My Subaru, when they were first being imported into the States.
  9. VW Bug. Classic memories. Anyone else ever pop the clutch to get started?
  10. A ’66 Buick Skylark, purchased from my dad.

~*~

So what are you driving. And what’s been your favorite?

~*~

Nothing I’ve ever owned. This Pontiac convertible got a lot of attention in mid-coast Maine. Look at this as inspiration.

TEN THINGS I’D DO IF I HAD A MILLION DOLLARS

Admittedly, a million ain’t what it used to be, and at this point in my life, I’m looking at it quite differently than I might have a while back. For one thing, I’m more cognizant of the security of my wife and family, now that they’re part of my life. That said, here goes.

  1. Invest the initial sum and live off the income. Just a 5% return would be an additional $50,000 a year income. That would be a huge change in our lives. (A prudent strategy would also require ways of protecting the capital, should I be afflicted with a long-term illness.)
  2. Can some of this be applied as angel investing for startups without involving great risk? Or low-interest loans to worthy individuals? This could be fun and satisfying.
  3. Increase our charitable donations. We do have many causes we passionately endorse.
  4. Contribute to political candidates. Relatively small amounts still add up, especially at a local level.
  5. Travel. Even getting away for a few days can be great fun and refreshment.
  6. Home renovations and repairs. A three-season porch with hot tub would be at the top of our list, but there’s plenty of upkeep needed in an old house like ours – energy-efficient windows on the second and third floors, painting inside and out, tree-trimming … oh, it’s a very long list, believe me.
  7. New wheels. Nothing fancy, mind you. But I’m really pushing the limits on my Camry.
  8. Attend more concerts and theater. We really enjoy going when we can.
  9. Quality of life gifts for others. These don’t have to be big or splashy – just little things that can make a difference. A class for a child, for instance, or a pound of good coffee.
  10. Support for my own writing. It would be wonderful to hire an editor for the revisions, artists for new covers, or move into paper editions for my lifetime of creative output. (Oh, dream on!)

~*~

Things would get really interesting if we raised the amount to $10 million. So what would you do with that first million? Or the next nine?

~*~

Brussels sprouts get sweeter after they’re hit with frost. We harvest ours for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners the day the cook’s ready. The biggest, tastiest ones are no doubt buried in the snow.

Of course, this is totally unrelated to the theme. Just another thing on my mind.

TEN MORE IRRATIONAL FEARS

Maybe I really am afraid of nearly everything. Here are 10 more.

  1. Sounds in the middle of the night. Running water, scratching in the walls, noises on the roof or the street.
  2. Did I leave the lights on … once I’m 15 minutes from home.
  3. Can others really read my mind?
  4. Offending others. A boss, partner, friend, high official.
  5. It’s my problem … my responsibility when it’s not.
  6. I utter something vulgarly revealing about myself … in vocal ministry in Quaker worship … and am shamed as a fraud.
  7. Auto breakdown in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.
  8. Getting lost in a swamp.
  9. Having my pants fall down … in public.
  10. Anything, actually, arising from guilt or shame.

~*~

It’s your turn to come clean.

~*~

Amsden, Maine.

Of course, this is totally unrelated to the theme. Couldn’t pass it without getting out the camera.

TEN HOUSEHOLD CHORES

Yes, there are those daily and weekly and monthly tasks each of us must do to help maintain our household. My list includes:

  1. Mowing the lawn or shoveling snow.
  2. Bringing in firewood and carrying out the ash, six or seven months of the year.
  3. Vacuuming and dusting. Not in that order. Then washing the kitchen floor.
  4. Cleaning the rabbit cage.
  5. Paying bills.
  6. Taking compost from the kitchen out to the covered container by the woodpile.
  7. Handwashing dishes.
  8. Hauling the green trash bags and our recycling down to the curb.
  9. Picking berries in season.
  10. Making our bed.

~*~

What about you? And which of yours do you most dislike?

~*~

Oh, to get away from it all! Even if there are no doubt chores here, too. (Sandwich, New Hampshire)

TEN IRRATIONAL FEARS

There’s a word for these. Phobias. Maybe you know the particular terms for each one.

  1. You pass a police car sitting beside a highway and automatically look in the rear-view mirror, clueless to any possible offense.
  2. Spiders or rats, just because others in my household freak out at the slightest suspicion.
  3. Any missing item. I’ll go squirrelly trying to find it.
  4. Saying the wrong thing … after the fact. Just what was it, anyway? How could that possibly have been offensive?
  5. I’m going to be late – or even miss it altogether. An airline flight, a crucial appointment, or just a big meeting, maybe even where I’m the featured attraction. But interruptions keep me from getting started out the door. And then there’s the possibility of bad traffic.
  6. Some undiagnosed affliction. Like cancer.
  7. Being powerless or helpless. Especially in the face of bureaucracy or injustice.
  8. Losing my keys.
  9. Can’t find the car. Not just a parking lot, either.
  10. Getting locked out of the house when everyone else is away.

~*~

’Fess up now. Add to the list.

Oh, yes, daisies!

Of course, this is totally unrelated to the theme. Just another thing on my mind.

TEN FAVORITE PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES

Admittedly, I’m a pretty sedentary guy. I spent my career in an office. And a writer spends hour after hour at a keyboard or researching or reading. So here’s what I do when I’m in full-body motion. And remember, “favorite” here is all relative.

  1. Swimming a half-mile a day, usually in Dover’s indoor pool.
  2. Hiking and walking.
  3. Cross-country skiing.
  4. Folk dancing. New England contras and squares, Greek, and English country, especially.
  5. Singing in a choir. I’ve mentioned the Revels Singers how many times now?
  6. Stacking firewood … there’s an art to keeping it from collapsing.
  7. Shoveling snow … just don’t tell anyone it can be pleasurable in short doses.
  8. Mowing the lawn … love my battery-powered Ryobi.
  9. Collecting seaweed for the garden … yes, it’s a pain, as well. Some things are mixed blessings.
  10. Pushing a wheelbarrow. Usually, there’s an additional chore involved, like trimming the hedges or moving compost.

I hope to get bicycling back on the list. I loved it as a kid.

~*~

What keeps you in shape? More or less?

Continuing the poetry parade, see what’s new at THISTLE/FLINCH.