A few things I actually took up in retirement

Most of these weren’t on my radar, back when I was planning.

  1. Singing in the bass line: On the eve of the big change, my wife the incredibly insightful gift-giver presented me with a choral workshop session with the Boston Revels. Though I could hold my line in Mennonite four-part, a cappella hymn-singing circles, I was intimidated – the Revels Christmas production’s chorus was one of the best in the city. This all-day event led to the formation of the organization’s amazing community chorus, Revelssingers, with me as a charter member. Other singing opportunities have included Dover’s annual Messiah Sing and a world-premiere for a music director’s 50th anniversary on the job.
  2. Swimming: Taking after her mother, our elder daughter (the next Christmas, I think) gifted me with an annual pass to Dover’s indoor pool. Again, I was intimidated but ventured forth, embarrassingly, truth be told, by how out of shape I was. The only swimming I’d done lately was in the ocean. Had I even been in a locker room more than once or twice after high school? But swimming those laps soon anchored my weekday routine, and I patiently worked up to a half-mile a day.
  3. Blogging: Again, credit our elder daughter, who suggested a blog when I was considering establishing a Web site. It started out modestly, but you can see where it’s led.
  4. Photography: As I realized the need for visual support for the blogging, digital photography soon followed. Back in high school, I had considered a career as an artist – and the protagonist in three of my novels is a photographer – so I now had a way of visually showing much of the way I see the world around me. The camera I’m now using, and the cell phone that will likely supplant it, are later gifts from the said Mother-Daughter duo.
  5. Spanish: My first Spanish teacher, back in high school, was great, and we became pretty proficient. Not so, the second. So I switched to French in college – a big mistake. They rather wiped each other out. Flash ahead and trying to communicate with visiting Quakers from Cuba. As I was thinking about a refresher course, the said daughter – a linguist by nature and training – suggested Duolingo, the free online program. Now my daily routine had a second anchor.
  6. New England Yearly Meeting Ministry and Counsel committee: Think of Yearly Meeting as an archdiocese, if you will, and ours covers all of New England, tending to about 5,000 Quakers. My work schedule had precluded my serving on M&C, a big committee with big responsibilities, requiring attendance at its retreat and full-day meetings through the year around the region. It’s also meant getting to know and work with some amazing members.
  7. DARLA: This informal fellowship of religious leaders in Dover, both clergy and laity, meets once a month, serving both as a support group for its members and as an information swap for their congregations. It also presents some community-wide events, including a Thanksgiving service that’s turned into a festival of choirs and readings. Again, I can tell you of some amazing folks I’ve come to admire as friends and colleagues.
  8. Dancing: I had planned on resuming New England Contras, now that I had my evenings free. The Greek dancing was what was new, thanks to the Dover Orthodox church’s annual festival. Well, that led into experiencing their worship and fellowship, too, even if it is quite a leap from my Quaker base.
  9. Reading the Bible straight-through: You can follow the experience and my reflections in the archives of my As Light Is Sown blog. What I came away with is nothing like what you’d hear from a Fundamentalist.
  10. Writers’ circles: The first was the Poetry Society of New Hampshire, before my retirement focus shifted away from the poetry and over to book-length fiction. Still, for the first several years I was active in the Granite State group’s meetings four times a year and other readings. Their schedule, unfortunately, clashed with Ministry and Counsel’s, and something had to give. The second was Writers’ Night Out, usually on the first Monday of the month, when many scribes of all sorts around the Granite State get together at any of ten or so locations to socialize. For me, it was in Portsmouth, just down the road from Dover. While some of the groups had pretty big agendas, even programs, our joy came in schmoozing and swapping information. It’s where I learned about Smashwords, for one thing, where my novels then appeared as ebooks.

Since moving to Eastport, hiking has also resurfaced. It’s taken a while to get back to this, but relocating to the wilds of Downeast Maine leaves me no excuses not to. I’m just not going to be back to the distances or speeds of my Boy Scout days, OK?

What new activities are you up to? Or perhaps hoping to engage?

Beyond those declining mass media numbers

Newspapers were in trouble even before the Internet. In general, fewer people were reading, period, and that included books and magazines as well. It was easy to blame television, but interests were shifting, too – and editors were at a loss when it came to hitting viable new directions that would capture attention.

Another factor was that the workplace and lifestyles were also changing. Fewer people were employed in factories, for one thing, and fewer were taking mass transit to get to and from work. Waiting for the bus, train, or ferry and then riding were prime time for many readers. Driving, then, meant less time for reading. More likely was the radio or even audiobooks.

When I entered daily journalism, afternoon papers generally had the larger circulation, fitting blue-collar work schedules that often let out at 3 or 4 pm. As the factories closed down, so did the afternoon papers in towns that had two or more newspapers. Most of the others shifted to morning publication, where they could be on the newstands all day and still look fresh. Thus, American dailies declined from 1,750 in 1970 to 1,279 in 2018.

The Internet’s whammy has been mostly to the papers’ business model, an arcane system I describe in my novel Hometown News.

What we haven’t heard much about is the bigger hit to commercial network television, where audiences have defected to cable content and streaming.

In fact, the best new programming is on those newer options.

The thought hit me while watching Only Murders in the Building was that such quality would have never appeared on a commercial network series. You no doubt can add your own favorites to the list. How many of those are on commercial networks? Any?

The meltdown of the monolithic mass media, both print and broadcast, is a mixed bag, of course. Here we are blogging, for one thing, but rarely does that get the same readership as a newspaper column in even a small-town paper. But we’re getting our say, anyway.

Will I ever pick up Spanish again?

One of the things that got dropped in my relocation from Dover was my morning half-hour or so of relearning Spanish via Duolingo.

Problem is I’m not sure I want to pick it up again. It feels more like an obligation. Besides, my aging brain just doesn’t seem to retain much of it. That leakiness is scary. Am I turning into a sieve?

Part of the earlier motivation was a desire to visit Quakers in Cuba, but I’m no longer sure that’s a really viable option, not when I look at the budget.

Worse yet, going from on-the-page to conversational seems like an insurmountable barrier.

In the comfort of my own home

Oh, the joys of online streaming! In my case, music, classical and jazz. Or when everyone else is up visiting, what we’re watching on the big screen. The one I call the wall of death, when it’s black with nothing on, or even when it’s blazing action blood, aliens, car crashes, and meaningless gore.

Yeah, I love having my beloved circle spending time in this place that’s ultimately theirs. For now, it’s like our extraordinary tides. Hopefully, I can roll with it.

Call me a fuddy-duddy, one living in a remote fishing village with a lively arts scene on an island in Maine, but that doesn’t mean I’m isolated from what I might be dialing in on the radio in Boston or New York, much less attending live. I have an ear on weekly orchestral concerts or Metropolitan Opera, for starters. And we do have some incredible live performances here, musical and theatrical, just less frequently. Oh, my, do we! Many of them are only eight blocks from home, an easy stroll.

Well, the opportunities for ethic food deliveries are another matter – even pizza. Things you might take for granted. But that’s offset by things like fresh scallops, which you’ll never eat anyplace else.

I’m not so sure how I’d feel about all this if I were exiled to some small place in North Dakota or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, by the way. But this really feels like home.

One thing for sure. I had no idea this was my destination, back when I was in college back in Indiana. But I really have no complaints, other than trying to keep warm through deep winter.

Whatever happened to my silk scarves?

The first college I attended had an excellent writing program, and somehow most of the kids in it began wearing scarves as a kind of identity badge. I posted on that back in 2013, but am now reflecting on a later incarnation, once I had relocated to New England.

In the intervening years, I had discovered the glories of silk, a fabric I had been taught was expensive and somehow beyond our means. What I found instead was how marvelous it felt to the touch and how warm its lightness could be in winter here or how well it breathed in warmer weather. And then I picked up a few brightly patterned ones that were scarves. They were a stylish touch to my otherwise nearly Plain wardrobe and made a definite impression, often eliciting favorable comments.

But then, when I remarried, they vanished into my stepdaughters’ collections. Fine enough.

The other day, though, I flashed on the thought I could really use those again – they do hold the heat in cold weather – or cold rooms, especially.

So I’m on the lookout. This should be fun, picking up a couple or more.

Now, as for my necktie collection? When’s the last time I’ve even worn one? Will I ever wear one again?

 

Keeping a clean desktop?

Here’s one filing system I used, back when dealing with piles of paper:

File

Toss

Act

Delegate

Haven’t quite figured out an alternative for online “piles” yet. Guess they’re “files” on the screen that’s erroneously called a “desktop.”

Last time I looked, my laptop was sitting on the real desktop.

And I’ve still been getting by without a printer.

Any ideas on how to keep those incoming emails and texts from getting lost in the clutter?

 

A big comfy place for reading?

As we anticipate the renovations to our new old house, one of the big touches I realize I’m missing is a really comfy place to sit while reading. I’m admitting I never really had that in our old place, not until we got the lights above the pillows in bed, but even those were too hot for comfort and the lack of back support took a toll.

So here are the specifications:

  • The seating has to be comfy, for starters. A puffy chair with good backing heads the list, likely with an ottoman.
  • It has to have a small table or other service to hold a cup of coffee or glass of refreshment, plus pencils and maybe a notebook.
  • Lighting is crucial – my wife hates table lamps, at least the ones with lampshades, as well as floor lamps. I hate overhead lighting, in general. So I want something that brightens the page while making the space intimate. We’ll see what we come up with.

I’m assuming it will be in the parlor where the wood-fired stove will sit. The big question now is just, where, exactly they’ll fit.

~*~

I do wonder, by the way, why nobody sells dental chairs as home furniture. These days, they’re quite cozy and seem to contort themselves to everyone’s fit. Any ideas? I’m not sure they’re exactly what I envision for reading, but in front of that giant home screen? Or just for a snooze?