How it gets done.

May 31, 2020 § 5 Comments

This post has been sitting in draft form for months. It is a relic of the “normal” we lived prior to Covid-19.

In some ways, we have achieved the heightened awareness the post suggests, something we often only gave lip service to before the pandemic.

“Getting it done” often begins with a list:

Bathe the dog, pickup a dozen eggs, lose thirty pounds, finish reading the book started last summer, bake bread, call my sister, write that memoir….

The “how” of “getting it done” will fall somewhere between the following two choices:

1.You juggle. Everything on the list will get done incrementally. A little here, a little there. You move fast and leave each project with an I.O.U. and an apologetic, “Hey, I’ll be back,” and hope no task hits the ground before you can catch it again.

Upside? If you’re good at juggling there is rarely a big mess to clean up, and you don’t disappoint anyone–at least not completely.

Downside? Completion of each task comes with, at best, a moment of relief before you rush on to one of the other projects keening for your attention.

2. The single-project strategy: I will sit in this chair until I write ‘The End’ on this damned memoir! All other projects can pout, twiddle their thumbs, even wither and die because, for me, there is no other project.

Upside? The payoff is huge. You’ve slain the dragon! This calls for a ticker tape parade! A new national holiday!

Downside? You look up, and all your other projects are sickly and wilted, and those who have a stake in those other projects, or simply wanted a decent conversation, are good and ticked off. Still, for some there is only one project and it is worth living for, maybe even dying for: martyrs and saints, writers and artists, scientists and dictators—the rest of us have spouses, bosses, friends, and lists that natter at us too loudly to be ignored.

But neither strategy solves the underlying problem.

Time.

Time is the get-it-done problem that can never be solved. Time, a river that flows without end, is infinite. We, the list makers, are not. We, ourselves, are items on a list of a higher order and we will, one day, be crossed off.

As finite beings we have limited time to get anything done. Perhaps we should expend a little of that limited commodity to question the whir that keeps us in constant motion. Perhaps we should sometimes set it all down and do…nothing.

This idea can cause panic. Americans are a get-it-done people. Whether in increments or in one long march, we define ourselves by what we accomplish. The busy person seems far more important than the guy sitting on a bench enjoying the warmth of sunlight on his face.

Still, let’s entertain this idea as a third strategy.

3. Don’t get-it-done. Don’t do anything at all. Just be.

Sit still and feel the sun on your face and call it only, the moment.

You won’t vanish. You won’t depreciate in value. And you won’t sit quiet for long before you are, once again, doing.

But sometimes…sometimes…it is better to be the rock in the river, the rock that simply is, as the river rushes by.

The weight we carry.

September 1, 2019 § 3 Comments

Does time have weight?

Do we store it in our bones,

or carry it, unwieldy,

in our arms?

*

Is it the accumulated

weight of time that

wears us out,

makes us old?

*

I wonder…

can we set that burden down,

travel light again like

a child who lives

in the splendor of right now?

*

Can that newness be

snuck up on and captured

like a firefly

in a jar? « Read the rest of this entry »

The eye of the beholder.

May 7, 2019 § 5 Comments

What is real? Real is what you witness with your senses–then it is interpreted through your mind, your preferences, your past, and reality becomes personal.

How do these personal realities co-exist?

Let’s say we walk in tandem, briefly sharing the view. Side-by-side, we come as close as we ever do to seeing things in the same way, but even then, what we choose to notice will differ.

What we notice is based on a lifetime of noticing, a lifetime of learned preferences. Because of that filter, even when together we see different versions of the world, each of us perfecting our individual perception of what-is.

As we go along together we talk, trading an approximation, not of what-is, but of how we perceive what-is, a perception shaped by our individual experiences, our place in the world, our historical moment.

As the one who has gathered those experiences, those observations, we believe we know reality.

But when it comes to knowing reality, each of us is one of the blind men with a hand on a particular part of the elephant, each of us describing, based on what can be perceived through that limited touch, something too big for any single human being to comprehend.

We can become strident about it, insisting that what we have decided is true is the only valid way to describe the elephant. We can be humble and ask others to tell us what they have learned about the elephant. But ultimately, we come to our own conclusions and then forget the question entirely, assuming we know all we need to know about the elephant. « Read the rest of this entry »

Choosing off a limited menu.

January 15, 2019 § 4 Comments

 

At first, life is an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Stuff yourself!

There’s plenty more in the kitchen!

 

 

But time and mortality begin to take

options off the table.

 

So far it is just friends and family members—

Ones who are older.

Older than we are anyway.

 

We watch them peruse a narrowed menu

and feel sorry for them.

But the day will come when

we too will have to choose off a limited menu,

one that won’t disagree with who time

and circumstance and our own

I-am-immortal behavior

have made us. « Read the rest of this entry »

Five things I know, and how I know them.

September 27, 2017 § 7 Comments

1. The old are like Russian nesting dolls.

All the earlier selves are hidden inside the one you see, still there, preserved.

But unlike those wooden dolls, each of the selves hidden inside that old body is different.

One has skinned knees.

A second is reading a Nancy Drew book.

A third wears a prom corsage.

Another holds a baby in her arms.

I wish I’d known that when I was a kid seeing my grandparents as only that, grandparents. Inside each of them was a kid as young as I was, and on the outside, a kid as old as the one I would become.

I know about these hidden selves because, much to my surprise, I am old. And young. And everything in between. I am every one of those dolls down to the tiny one at the very center.

2. The inanimate is just the animate holding still.

Existence is an addition problem. It is the sum of everything.

Each rock, feather, man-made object, holds the life force.

It moves like a cloud shadow across the landscape but we are too distracted, too human-centric to notice.

We, the kinetic, the perpetually in motion, are not attuned to it, but if we become aware, the inanimate befriends and anchors us, it puts our insignificance into perspective. Feel that force and we understand that we are just one more number in that long, long addition problem.

I know, because I feel the life in the rock I rest against, and in the favorite sweater I wear year after year. Still my whirring self, and the company of all that is surrounds me.  « Read the rest of this entry »

Over 16.

August 12, 2017 § 4 Comments

Young, we set out like those brash southern boys so eager to join the fray they were afraid the war would end before they saw action, whupped Yankee butt.

Some, too young for the fight, chalked the number 16 on the sole of a boot so that when asked if they were over 16, they could swear they were without lying.

Surrounded by friends, they paraded out of hometowns.

Mothers and sweethearts waved and blotted their eyes with cloth handkerchiefs.

Some of those aspiring soldiers carried rifles, some knives, and some a canvas sack home-packed, as if the boys were picnicking, not going to war.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Back Home.

May 28, 2017 § 4 Comments

For me, songwriting usually begins as a back-and-forth with my guitar. Noodling around, I find a loose thread of melody and give it a tug to see if a song is attached.

Then a bit of lyric comes, the melody choosing the subject it will take for a ride. Little by little, the song reveals itself. The message of the song may be powerful, emotional, but the process isn’t. It is the equivalent of doodling, or casting a line into dark waters to see if anything bites.

But once in a great while a song wells up. It pours out as if from a reservoir I didn’t know I was carrying. This uncontrolled outpouring is always triggered by an emotional disturbance so profound it overwhelms the logical it’s-okay side of my brain.

Back Home is that kind of song. (The title is the link to the video).

« Read the rest of this entry »

There is something embarrassing about death.

April 2, 2017 § 4 Comments


If you forget to lock your car and it gets broken into, indignation masks embarrassment. You have, in a way, issued an invitation.

Die, and it provokes the question, what door did you leave unlocked? How did you invite death in?

Perhaps the dead look forward only, but if they glance back, that unlocked door is probably easy to see.

Too much sugar, cigarette smoke, a failure to look both ways, a blithely ignored message written into the genes, a job too stressful.

If only…. I sure wouldn’t do that again.

But dead is rather final.

« Read the rest of this entry »

My catalog of you.

January 29, 2017 § 9 Comments

trike1

Claudia, Chris and my mother.

You and I go way back.

Way, way back.

I know you through a trail of moments that shine like a comet’s tail all the way to the horizon.

Vanished moments, vanished days?  None are really gone. They’re all right here in my catalog of you.

Versions you have outgrown or discarded? Got ’em, right here. Preserved as if in amber. The you of right-now is the hardest for me to see because I view you through the lens of all the yous I have known over the years.

I carry with me at all times, the scrapbook of you–I can open to any page.

Old? You’re not old. I’ve known you young and that’s who you are. What wrinkles?

matthews-classIf you are my best and oldest friend I still see you with chapped knees, waiting with me at the school bus stop up north. Remember up north? We’re still from there although it’s been years.

We don’t see each other all that often. Family and work obligations. You know… We are arrested at some point in the past, back when we had time, back when we were close.

That’s who you are to me, and who I am to you, still a couple of kids at the bus stop, or college roommates, or student teachers at the same elementary school. We could pick up that thread easy, if and when we get together.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Not grouchy. Just old.

April 24, 2016 § 7 Comments

catfishI glanced around the meeting room table.

Every one of the women gathered to discuss library business wore a catfish frown.

 

Catfish can’t help it. It’s simple anatomy, but as a young person I assumed the human face was mobile, and that facial expressions revealed the emotions within.

If so, I was in trouble. New at running a public library, I read the frowns of those women-of-a-certain-age as disapproval.

I hadn’t reckoned with the way age creates unintended facial expressions including the, “Hey kid, get off my lawn” glare, the “Life is one long disappointment” slump, and the face-at-rest frown.

« Read the rest of this entry »

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