Engagement

Free Advice, Enjoy the Methodical       

One challenge I give myself each year, dutifully written down in my new year’s resolutions, is to enjoy the methodical; those tasks we hurry through or avoid altogether, simply to get to the free time that we then squander. Whether it is washing dishes, shoveling out a stall, splitting or stacking wood, there is a fulfillment to be found in a slow physical and repetitive work. But, the act of slowing down is at odds with the demands of our frenetic modern world. Which, in its turn, spawns a desperate populace of chasers after an elusive serenity, roaming our streets.

An afternoon spent with a manure pile might just provide the corrective spiritual focus. Hold that pitchfork and who knows where the thought currents might take one.

“Like” vs. Writing Letters

Here is a confession, I no longer write letters. For most of my adult life I typed out letters, put them in an envelope, and sent them off. Then, over the past fifteen years, I completely embraced the email format. Although I don’t get the satisfaction of finding the reply letter in the physical mailbox, the essential pleasures are still observed; me and a friend taking time to share thoughts and experiences.

But, by entering the world of social media three years ago, most of that fell away. I now have more interactions but less contact. It is analogous to walking down a busy street and saying hello to friends and nodding at acquaintances, hearing arguments and avoiding fights, without engaging in a proper discussion.

I’d like to get off that busy street. Perhaps turn off into that leafy park, sit on a bench and continue/begin that longer conversation with a friend.

Last One to Read, Turn Out the Lights

I’ve alluded to my off the farm job in the past. A job that occasions some flying. Over the past twenty years I’ve observed the gradual darkening of the planes. Years ago, most passengers, upon sitting down, pulled out newspapers, magazines and books. They kept the window shade up. Now, the first thing passengers do is close the shade. And, then the next two hours are spent sitting in the dark (except for a few lone lights marking the outposts of those who still read), playing video games and watching movies. This seems a sad surrender.

This Blog

This blog is an act of engagement, my effort to keep the lights on. You may “like it” and I will appreciate that acknowledgement. But, taking the time to sit on this bench and share a written reply is also welcome.

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Reading this weekend: the short stories of Ernie Hemingway.

What Are You Reading

I love books, always have. I grew up in a family that made plenty of space for reading, in a home where the TV was not allowed on after the nightly news. Books were a prominent part of our physical landscape, from the shelf of books in our bedrooms to the bookcase in the living room that was filled with history books.

Fence Pliers in the Library, with....

Visits to the Lake Charles Carnegie Library a couple of times a week during the summer were supplemented by gifts from my grandmother, a librarian, of books deaccessioned from the Acadia Parish Library. And each birthday or Christmas included at least one book as a present. The question “What are you reading?” was raised in each phone call from a relative. Books were then, still are, central to how I understand and experience the world.

As a youth, they took me on adventures and exploration. I sailed on voyages aboard clipper ships, Viking ships, sailing warships. I explored the Rockies with the Mountain Men. I was kidnapped by pirates and later by Indians. I learned to raise a raccoon with Rascal and to navigate the Mississippi with Tom Sawyer. I became a 1930s vet in the Yorkshire Dales and rode with Paul Revere as he raised the alarm to the British invasion.

As an adult, books still provide a bookend to my farm life: a few chapters before sunrise and a bit more before sleep. Visiting others, I’ll gravitate to the bookshelf (or, special joy, bookcase), that semi-public form of autobiography, a map of character, if you will, where the knowledge that a friend has a collection of P.G. Wodehouse means he can be relied on in tough times.

Our culture has changed and people do read books less, sometimes not at all. But it is still a wonderful question to ask, one that teaches if we listen to the answer: What are you reading?

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Reading this weekend: G.K. Chesterton’s biography of William Cobbett