December 17, 1997

Ice Songs

I now live near the Ipswich River, a tidal river and a major watershed for this area. The river rises and falls twice a day while I go about my business. It is my first tidal river, so I am still getting use to it. The Aberjona River of my childhood was steady and always there. Sure it fell a little in the dry season, but it seemed pretty constant for me. My new river is always in change of motion.

Winter has brought layers of ice to the river. I cannot explain it well because I have not observed it long enough. But the layers are not one on top of the other. The ice looks like a frozen deck of cards spread out from the middle of the river up the bank. The layers step up, having hardened at different times as the river receded to the ocean.

I marveled at this new pattern of nature - at least new for me. It was another beautiful image for me to carry.

And then I heard the sound - a faint high pitched creaking. I thought that it might be a tree, but then it came again - a fine, expanding shudder of air and solid. The ice was moving, ever so slightly and it was singing.

The voice of the ice carried me back to Meatball Reardon.

I know ice. Long Pond, at the end of a trip deep into the woods, was the chosen skating pond of my youth. With my older brothers I traveled the path at a young age to days of hockey joy.

My memories of Long Pond involve more sounds than visual memories: the voices of the players out on the pond, the clicks of the pucks hitting the sticks, the scrape of the chair supporting a young child as she struggled across the ice, the voices of the players exhorting a teammate for a pass. And Meatball.

Meatball Reardon was at all games. Sports were his life. Meatball, as you might guess, was a large presence, always twice my size. He was a little older and not someone I hung around with, but he always appeared at pickup games. He was a little rough around the edges but he was a good soul. He had a love for any game and he had a voice.

Meatball did play-by-play during all games in a high pitched voice. He was always Bobby Orr or Sam Jones and he would “Score!” And he would whine. Boy, could he whine about any pass which was not thrown his way.

I can hear his high squeaky voice now. And I heard it yesterday in the ice. The sounds of the ice reached me like no picture album could. It unlocked imprints of sound memories buried deep inside me. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a sound can be a song.

December 15, 1997


I’ve got rhythm. My son the budding musician will tell you otherwise, but I know that I have it. It’s just a different kind of rhythm.

Actually I have rhythms - plural. I am talking about the rhythms of my life. If I only had one rhythm, life would be easy. It would be like setting the car on cruise control and sitting back and relaxing for the ride. But life is not always like that. Sometimes it is more like speeding with the foot pressed to the floor, the “pedal to the metal” way of life. At other times I cannot seem to get it out of first gear. And then there are those days of demolition derby.

If only I could choose. I would like to wake up in the morning and choose which kind of day it is going to be. I use to wake up and be disappointed if it was not going to be one of those cruise control days. I love those smooth days - no ups, no downs, just mellow. Of course, they hardly exist, so every day I would be disappointed.

I do not get to choose. Instead I am chosen. I have come to accept that my body and mind may have different ideas than I have. I may want to come roaring out into the day, but they say, “Whoa boy, take it easy. There is a rhythm going on here and try as you might to change it, you will not change it. Today is a first gear day. We need one whether you recognize it or not.”

I had a great week last week - five days of highly creative and productive living - pedal to the metal living. I just got things done! But then I crashed and here I am, three days later, still not back at that same level. Why not?

The question is not why not. The wrong question will lead to a useless answer. The question is what do I do with the information that my body is telling me. If my body is telling me I need to be in first gear, then the answer is that I need to be in first gear. I need to honor the rhythm. I need to stop fighting it and stop wishing to be in a different place.

There are no bad rhythms. You see a lot more of what is around you when you are driving in first gear. Things become clearer. I will not be as productive, but I will still get done what needs to be done. But more important than doing, I will be who I need to be. And who I am is the gas for tomorrow.

December 10, 1997

Flying Upside Down

Santa was upside down this year. No, that does not mean that he flew with his head stuck to the floor of his sleigh, confusing Rudolph with his foot signals. No, he did not bungee jump down the chimney. Santa flew upside down in my Christmas cards.

My annual family newsletter was the culprit. This year I chose Santa to be the poster boy for the Hession Family and his subdued visage was the background for my message. The computer was the culprit. It did the job wrong. It was not my fault. The printer was the culprit. It printed the pages upside down. Dinner was the culprit. If my printing routine had not been interrupted by dinner, Santa would have been OK.

I noticed the problem after I had written a few cards. The Hallmark label was at the top of the page and that seemed strange - and it was. You had to look close to tell, but Santa definitely was upside down.

I need to tell you that I have this small, tiny, minuscule problem with perfection. It is something that I am working on imperfectly. Should I stop the assembly line and run out and buy new paper? Will anyone notice? What will they think of me?

I like to answer my own questions. “Get over it, Jim. These are going out to people whom you love and care about. This is not a resume. This is not a test. You have not failed again. Get over yourself, Jim.”

I answer my answers too. “OK, I will not kill the whole run, but only half are wrong. Maybe I could choose to whom I will send the bad ones?”

“Get over it, Jim...Get over yourself, Jim.”

So I did - I got over it. I think. Maybe. I am not perfectly over it and I would like to be. I am somewhere in that messy in-between - that place of living life.

I like it. Sort of. Some days.

But on other days it feels like I am flying upside down.

December 2, 1997

Far From Routine

My mornings are off - way off. It has to do with my hair. No, not really. My hair is fine - for now. It has to do with when I comb my hair - not how I comb it. I have changed that sacred cow, my morning routine.

For most if not all of my life, at least for as much as my life I have so far lived, my morning routine was this: shower, dress, comb, brush and shave. I could do it in my sleep and I often did. But now the vagaries of the layout of my new house have changed the order to shower, comb, brush, dress and shave. And it is not working.

The shower part is still front end loaded so I am doing pretty well with that. I am clean. And the hair part works well theoretically because by combing right after my shower my hair is still wet and manageable (as in silky smooth.) It used to dry when I was dressing and do whatever it wanted. So my new routine should be better.

However, I have this problem with advanced age and I often forget to comb. I find myself getting dressed with a wet head and fretting over the results. Why do I fret? It was OK to do it that way for many years, but now that I have a new improved method, it is suddenly no longer okay. I do not understand.

The new position for brushing in the batting order is working very well. I find that standing half naked in a steam filled room encourages lingering, so my frequency of flossing has increased. Is that more than you wanted to know?

Shaving is a big problem. It is the only thing left to do after I dress and I forget to do it. It is now two days in a row that I am running around with stubble which only I can see. If I had a heavier beard everyone would think that I was in style like all of the famous athletes and movie stars.

I am thinking about hiring a coach or a management consultant to help me with this problem. There must be a solution! There must be a winning strategy! A systems analyst should be able to bundle these activities into a cohesive and predictable force.

But I am not going to do that because those would be old school answers. The books which I have been reading lately are telling me to get rid of my winning strategies, that they are limiting me, and to embrace the impossible. Or something like that. Make the impossible my possibility! That’s better.

But how will I get the floss and toothpaste off my wet clothes?

December 1, 1997

Rooms For Rent

The sign out front of the Cadillac Motel reads, “Rooms for a night or a lifetime.” Now that is my kind of place. I have never stayed there and I probably never will, but the possibility itself is enough.

I can see myself waltzing into the small store-front motel office.

“Do you want it for tonight or for a lifetime?” the clerk asks.

I hesitate because I had not expected such a big decision.

“Can I get it just for tonight and then extend tomorrow if I want to?”

He sighs his pat answer, “The sign says either a night or a lifetime. It doesn’t say a week. It doesn’t say a month. There are only two choices. What will it be?”

“A lifetime is a long commitment,” I mumble. “Could I try it for one night, check out in the morning and then come back in again to register at night? I am kind of a day-to-day guy. But I am ready right now to commit for the whole night!”

“Sir,” he says, underlining the ‘r,’ “the sign says...”

“Yeah, I know, but I believe in living in the now and the now is tonight.”

The office man clearly is not into Eastern thought. He darts words between his clenched dentures, “Then choose tonight.”

“I would, but I might miss out on the great deal of a lifetime. And I want to be committed. No, not that kind of commitment. I want long term commitment which will fill up my life. But I want my freedom too. Can’t I have it both ways?”

He just looks at me and softly looks past me. Snapping his gaze back he says, “Sir, I am sure that you can have it your way - but not here, not now. Perhaps you should try sleeping at Burger King.”