A restored railroad lantern.

Strange odds and ends live on my shelves. One of the many reasons I don’t turn on video for the myriad of meetings I’m in all day long. I look at some of them and they make me think. Sometimes I think too much. These days, we all think too much. Or far too little. It’s a time of extremes.

In any case, the railroad lantern fascinates me. The lenses work very well and when it’s lit, it is fun to have in the room. It’s a reminder of all of the progress made and the pieces of tech developed out of necessity. And, of course, how that fades over time. So many clever inventions are deprecated and lost.

With the current seismic shift within our culture, how many things will become railroad lanterns?

Old Books

Advanced Geography by Tarr & McMurry – 1909 Edition

I love books. Especially old ones. And it’s 100 times better if there are pencil markings and notes and underlines throughout. And this particular book? It was marked up by members of my grandmother’s family.

My dad likes to sort through things and pass on items that he won’t use or doesn’t need anymore. I’m the family reader, so he offered me a pile of books. Only 6 or so. All of them of similar vintage. All of them marked up. This one has markings from 1911 when a family member or someone adjacent had it. Right around the time of the Spanish Flu. Ironic? No. Just coincidence that I’d note that.

I’ve been picking through them. There are some primers in there and even a book of arithmetic which is mostly interesting for the word problems. The things we as a people calculated regularly is fascinating. It’s over 100 years ago now. Seems strange. I remember 2000 rolling around and thinking that I was in the future. Those were the days, I suppose.


We’re awash in dogs right now as we adapt to the new puppy and have taken on dog-sitting for my brother for a week. It’s a crazy time, so Nacho – aka MY dog – and I are holed up in the office for the day. It’s what we do every day, but it feels more like hiding now.

This weekend, we went to a reservoir and put in some boats. A double kayak for the ladies of the family, an inflatable for the boy, and my new fishing kayak for me. I can’t say enough good things about my new boat. It was stable, agile, fast, and fun. Is there another adjective I would add? Not today.

We paddled around as the rather impolite motorcraft buzzed the no wake zone and the jetski crowd terrorized other kayakers. We won’t be returning there anytime soon but will instead head off to the body of water nearby that doesn’t allow motors. We can paddle and fish in relative peace there.

Paddling felt good. Being out in the sun felt good. It was restorative to all of us. It was a reminder that there was still something outside of our home compound for us to do. We will do more of it because we can.

Like plastic exposed to the UV of the sun for far too long, people are starting to crack. The stress and strain of trying to get through the day and navigate the world on its new terms is showing across the board. Those who would put their heads in the sand and scream about going back to the way things were are not making the process move any faster. In fact, as is their general wont, they are impeding progress to a solution.

Summer is past its halfway point. It will be autumn before we know it and those of us who signed up for it will be trying our best to get our children educated over the computer. Real people will be forced to make difficult decisions based on very little access to data and in the middle of a field of fear generated for profit and power. The consequences are so very real.

What does one do?

If one has the privilege, one goes to the park and fishes. Or sits outside with a book and tries to forget for a bit.

Everyone’s to do list should include unplugging. The internet isn’t helping.

And Now This…

A Rottweiler Puppy

In the Strange Days we make fun choices. We make them based on having no idea what is next. We know that the days all feel like they are a copy/paste of the day before. Thinking about the future is not an exercise for the weak of stomach. And yet, we must pass the time and find ways to amuse ourselves. We do things that are not exactly impulsive, but perhaps they weren’t on the table when we knew Things.

So a puppy. I hear it’s the new sourdough of the U.S. Epidemic.


A Fly Fishing Reel

When the economy is tanking or the world is ending, what business booms? Bait and tackle shops. Why? Because one of the things we do as people in this country is fish. Even those of us who weren’t raised fishing or who aren’t good at it at all. There is something very therapeutic about pointing a stick at the water and waiting in silence.

My daughter loves fishing. She enjoys it mostly, I think, because she caught a fish her first time out and the fishing bug sunk itself deep into her. She can cast and wait and catch nothing for hours on end. I think it’s the same thing that gets gamblers: that next win is just one more try away.

For my part, I’ve caught plenty of fish. I’m a poor fisherman by any standard, but I enjoy it. The point is to be outside, near some water, and very quiet. Doesn’t hurt that fishing gear is fairly inexpensive (I’m no BASS MASTER!) and a license is cheap. But it can get expensive if you want by simply adding watercraft to the equation.

My family loves going out in boats. We like rowboats, canoes, and kayaks. We got inflatable kayaks for the kids, a paddle-board for my wife, and a fishing kayak for me. Why do I get the fancy boat? Because I’m what my friend kindly calls a “Country Gentleman” and need more buoyancy, thanks for asking.

I doubt that we’ll catch any more fish as we paddle around the lake than we did from the shore, but it frees us up to have different kinds of fun if some of us are more serious about contemplating the shadows under the water than others.

What is all of this, really? A way to get out of the house/compound as the summer drags on into autumn and the current situation stretches into a horizon we can’t see or navigate. It’s a challenge. Being out in a boat alone and having to make your own choices. Is it some kind of subconscious grasping at control? Or is it a palliative? A way to forget the world because all there is in front of you is the bow, the water, and the next stroke of the paddle. Resisting the urge to make this too Hemingway-esque, but there is truth to what we do in the outdoors. Whether it’s hiking, fishing, boating, or camping. There is an element of testing and control.

I’ll dip my paddle in the water this weekend. Push off and see how it goes. No expectations aside from a little quiet.