Friday, April 04, 2014

Too soon old, too late smart

Each season it seems I can do less than I did in the same season last year.

My skis are as fast as ever but it seems each year I make fewer runs than I did the previous year.  Flying over bumps is no longer a thrill but a chill.  Cross-country skiing on an un-groomed trail is too much of a chore.  Snowshoeing on fresh deep snow has become a very slow process.  I only do one-third of the trail before I head back to the cabin.

I can get up out of deep snow if I fall, but I might have been lucky the last time.  My foot came out of one snowshoe.  The loose snowshoe became a "crutch" to push myself up with.

Snow shoveling is no longer a one-session job.  Shovel out to the garage. Shovel half the apron between the garage and the alley, maybe both halves if the snow is light.  If the snow is deep or the city grader has been by then I might use the snow blower.

My next session (or first depending on circumstances) is to clear around the house to the front, clear across the front yard and up the porch for the mail carrier.  Next I clear a shovel width to the street and both ways on the sidewalk.

I long ago gave up running.  I wasn’t getting shin splints as I was in high school and college, but I stopped running around a track or on the street.  I do walk the “4.4” mile Brimson Sisu, but even there my times seem longer than the previous year.

I can still stand on one leg to put my pants on or as an exercise, but I often wobble.  I used to think nothing of standing on a step stool to change a light bulb or to climb a ladder on to the roof of our cabin.  I can still remember going up and down the ladder to get a bat out of our chimney.  Now it takes a long time to move one foot from the ladder to the roof, even worse to move the other foot.

We buy juice and wine by the case and store them in the basement.  A few years ago I thought nothing of going down the stairs with a case, glancing only a few times to let me know when I got to the bottom.  Now, I either take a few bottles at a time or go down backwards dragging the full case one step at a time.

For a long time I’ve spouted the mantra: We should never listen to our parents.  They tell us to act our age.  If we do that, we grow up.  If we grow up, we get old.  If we get old, we die.  So, why act our age?

I am doing my best to not act my age.  Instead of playing with all these “big kid” toys, be it skis or yard equipment, I now play with words.

I write this weekly column, which is both playing with words and ideas.

I have all but given up on writing letters to the editor of any major newspaper; too many times what is published is not what I intended.  In fact, with two different papers what was published was exactly the opposite of what I submitted.  But I find that I spend too much time leaving comments on facebook or on a New York Times article.  Leaving comments is not a bad idea, but I rarely come back to see what others submitted after me.

I do post all kinds of ideas to my blog, but I get the feeling that lots of them are read by more spammers’ bots than live people. I think I get more live readers in Duluth of this column than I get live readers in the whole world of my blog.

I do think I’m getting smart in the sense that I see through fancy, deceiving language more quickly than I used to.  Political language, no matter the source, is too often either promising more than possible or putting down opposition more than justified.  Commercial language, no matter the product or service, is filled with hype or misdirection.  This new software makes beautiful documents if you only want to do something simple.  This car gives you carefree driving if you can find the wiper switch in the dark.

Still, I have a long way to go to be smart.

A smart person would not start a snow-filled chipper on a cold day.  The flywheel is frozen in place and the belt gets hotter and hotter until it catches fire!  A smart person would remember to put the cover on before snow got in the hopper.

A smart person would always check for hat and gloves before leaving an event.  A smart person would look under a chair at home for a pen before thinking that he or she left it someplace else.

A smart person would listen intently to a speaker, remember all key points, and not fall asleep.

A smart person would keep a desk neatly ordered instead of spending lots of time looking in every stack and every file drawer.

A smart person would remember to submit an article by the publisher’s deadline.  Aha!  I am redeemed.  Now to be a really smart person and submit this article to the right email address!

Except for the last, italicized sentence, this also appears in the Reader Weekly of 2014-04-03 at  This particular issue is also called the Northland Enquirer.