Thursday, April 24, 2014

American breeze

An everyday anthem

I have this tendency to be hard on myself. If I feel I’m not being as productive as I think I should be, or as efficient or healthy, or supportive of others and I beat myself up about it. I feel the pressure to always be reaching for the next step on the ladder and if I’m not climbing fast enough I get frustrated. I guess I’m ambitious.

Sometimes I wear myself out on the weekly climb. I get up too early and stay up too late trying to force just a few more drops of productivity out of this old hide. "I need to produce more widgets, and of consistently higher quality if I’m ever going to get ahead,” I tell myself. “I have to be better, I want to be stronger, and I know I can be faster,” as I sit at my laptop staring at the blinking cursor in the dark and nothing seems to be happening.

This is the case more than I really care to admit.

The thing is, you can’t always make things happen out of nothing. We live in a finite universe and when we run out of energy, it’s all gone, for good. Now, we have the ability to reconstruct some of that energy within our bodies and minds via nutrition, mental breaks, and exercise, but those processes take time and we need to allow ourselves that time to recuperate and grow.

Part of the pioneer mantra is for men to be callused and hardened - to have a willpower like red granite and old pine roots - tough and unwavering. In the midwest we still respect people of this nature, men and women alike, because it’s a proven recipe for success. Self-discipline is part of the package deal with a person or it’s not. You can’t cultivate it in someone else, but you can within yourself and if you invest in that maxim, there will always be a need for you...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Shooting the goblin moon

View of the moon on April 15 at about 3:30 a.m. as the Earth
came directly between the moon and the sun for a total eclipse,
also known as a blood moon.

Full lunar eclipse on a cold dark morning

Tuesday morning we experienced a rare celestial event - a full eclipse of the moon. Also called a “blood moon” for its dark red hue, the entire event lasted around three hours. As the full moon swung in orbit behind the Earth’s shadow it picked up red highlights from sunrise and sunset bouncing off opposite sides of the globe, turning it into a ghastly red goblin, then silently traveling back into the sun’s direct beams to once more becoming a pale white ghost.

Of course I had to be one of the crazy ones that couldn’t bare to miss out on watching the show. Setting my alarm for 3 a.m. before I turned in about 11 p.m. Monday night was not exactly a happy moment. Funny thing was, I didn’t even sleep until three, as I was awoken at about 2:30 a.m. by a little girl who had a bad dream. Well, needless to say I conceded the rest of the night’s sleep was lost and began to don winter layers for my frigid pursuit of the famous celestial body.

The night before I had prepared the DSLR camera by fully charging the battery (it drains quick in the cold), affixing the tripod mount to the camera, and laying everything out to cut down on finding reasons not to go outside in the dark, cold morning. You know how these things go, the more obstacles you can eliminate through preparedness, the less excuses you give yourself to not follow through.

Finally all suited up, gear at the ready, I set foot into the black. I remember turning the doorknob and thinking about all the times my father left the house to work long before the sun rose and couldn’t help but smile. I understand it better now, the drive to get out and trap something. I might be capturing photos and him furbearers, but I believe the principals are the same.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Life’s seasons

And a pile of princesses

It seems as though spring has finally arrived in all of its foggy, slushy, mucky glory. Rivers stream out from below every snowbank, mounds of dirt line every road and sidewalk, and fog banks ensnare all of us nearly every morning.

The ice is rotting on the lakes and the rivers are kicking and screaming to open up. Birds are returning in droves. Marshlands are filled with redwing blackbirds, rivers are teaming with ducks and geese, and robins are on the prowl for worms anywhere there’s a patch of grass to work with.

The world is changing around us as a new season struggles to find a decent foothold where old man winter has finally given up his claim after so long.

Some of it is ugly. Namely, the dirt and trash that melting snow reveals along roadways. Yet other things are stunning, such as the wonders of seeing the sunrise once again, the sounds of flowing water, and the feeling of sunshine and warm air. With beauty comes danger in nature, and we don’t get to choose how or when.

In this season of change we go along with the uncomfortable growing pains of sprouting a new year. Spring puts forth shoots to lay the the way for summer’s lush endeavors, and so it goes with my life in the Northwoods.

Writing Woodsman Enough has often been about personal growth for me, the author. I have made it a journal into which has been recorded intimate details of the fabric of my very being as often as I have used it to distance myself from facing reality. I suppose that is the way life flows, and I am not ashamed...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Customer service

New York couldn't help me out.
Maybe our local postal service can.

500 words from a five minute phone call

I spoke on the phone this week with a young man working out of an office in Manhattan. When ordering a package from his company's swanky downtown eyewear boutique, I inadvertently missed one number in my own street address, and was, therefore attempting to have that misplaced number put back where it belonged so my package might find its way to the correct house in rural northern Wisconsin.

A little embarrassed, I called the minute they opened Monday morning. As soon as the customer service rep answered, I had the feeling this was not a normal request; most people don’t mess up their own house address when filling out shipping information. He did, in fact, confirm this suspicion.

The guy, let’s call him Manhattan man, was helpful in walking me through the steps. This was a much better experience than attempting to wrangle customer service out of a cable company, mind you, but Manhattan man still seemed stressed. He did apologize for the wait and for putting me on a brief hold a couple times, but really, the whole thing only took five minutes.

It wasn’t until I got off the phone that I started to think about it more. See, I was very relaxed and slow on the telephone. While half of this is because I have to take a few deep breaths before calls because I otherwise become anxious, the other half I chalk up to my pace of life as compared to his.

I’m not in a hurry. What is there to race towards? More important to me is a day-to-day lifestyle in which I do not feel rushed at every moment and can take the time to see things done with care and decency rather than quick carelessness. Not to say that Manhattan man was careless, in fact he was anything but. I just noticed a different pace in those five minutes, and that’s one of my favorite aspects of the Northwoods lifestyle - the pace of life...