Thursday, July 25, 2013


Fishing with friends on Intigram

Best to spend time wasting time

Back in May I was going to write about how a single sunny day is so significant to the Northwoods' spring. At the intersection of shoveling sidewalks and mowing lawns, the sun popped out for a few glorious days to make the transition complete once again this year.

People came out of their houses in droves. Like wild herds freely roaming the city parks and sidewalks. Folks actually stopped to talk to each other outside the gas stations and on the street. The baseball, softball, soccer, and track teams could all finally practice on the fields, and in one fell swoop, spontaneous life was returned to our northern society.

I was able to spend one of those afternoons outside with two great friends of mine. As has become a sort of miniature tradition of ours, we grabbed a baseball and a few mitts and walked down to the little league field in town. We also brought a pocket-sized portable radio and a big bag of sunflower seeds. The radio was used to listen to the Brewers' game (there was hope back then), and the seeds were for spitting - you know, because we're tough guys.

Baseball caps, sunglasses, tennis shoes, and shorts - just a few red-blooded American boys...

We tossed the ball around to limber up before whipping it hard at each other, but you know how that goes - there's always one person who starts zinging it like he's some starting pitcher remembering his glory days (ok… I admit that's usually me [I never played baseball]). Before you know it, we're all backing away from one another and throwing like a center fielder to home plate, because, you know, we're all super athletic.

This usually leads to some sort of over-exertion and ends with someone getting hurt (typically also me), but I suppose it's fun while it lasts. On this particular day, though, injury was avoided. We threw hoppers, grounders, pop-flies, sidearm, everything we could think of, just to enjoy the raw satisfaction of laces thwacking into leather gloves at a high rate of speed.

We spent a lot of time just winding up for the throws, leisurely chasing down overthrown balls, and, of course, spitting seeds onto the ground. The sun roared down on bare arms and glinted off the grass just turning green. The warm southern breeze whipped up the first smells of summer and melted away the cabin fever from our joints. It felt good just to be alive.

Now in the middle of summer it seems like I've forgotten to set aside that open time with friends. I'm busy during the week and all my weekends are booked for the rest of the summer with so-and-so's wedding, camping trips, get-togethers, festivals, etc.

Yes, these are all fun-filled events I'm looking forward too, but the simplicity is missing. The pick-up game of catch, the impromptu afternoon fishing from shore, the morning spent sipping coffee and watching the sunrise - it's all available for a limited time only.

Soon it will be August, and summer will start to dwindle. I'm hesitating to hit the panic button because I know this is how it goes in these parts, and I know what I can do to remedy the sensation of precious moments in the sun slipping through my fingers - visit more.

One of my favorite social concepts in this small-town society is the open invitation for anyone to drop by anyone's house, and this is the best time of year to do it. When you see your neighbor sitting in a lawn chair or grilling out, working on the family vehicle, or taking the dog for a walk, it's encouraging to know that you're invited. Stop and say hi, catch up on what's new, or just sit quietly and talk very little at all. Some of these times have become my favorite memories.

They've become my favorite because they are so spontaneous. I never planned to grill twice in one night at my step-brother's house, or leisurely help my dad push rocks around his driveway with a rake in one hand and a beer in the other, or race homemade go-karts down a hill in a pasture at a friend's house until dusk, or go to Springstead and never come back - it all just happened out of nowhere.

We need more times like this, and during the summer when people are most flexible and there is the most amount of daylight available sure seems like the best time to make it happen. It's simple, really, but you can't force it, either. You can't force spontaneity and relaxation, but you can open yourself to it.

Open yourself to your neighbor, to your friends and family, and then, let them in. Start visiting more when you can, and then just relax. The people you really connect with will become evident, and you'll strengthen a lot of bonds just by passing the time together. After all, isn't that all we really have to do? - pass the time together.

“When one pays a visit it is for the purpose of wasting other people's time, not one's own.” 
- Oscar Wilde

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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