Author Archives: j.c.w.

An Island

Three Oil Lamps

It seems to me more and more that our home has become an island. Set back from the street and bordered by an empty field near an elementary school, it feels like we are far removed from the comings and goings of the world. In The After Times, this isn’t a bad feeling. It can be a bit eery, but it’s not “bad”.

When we first moved here, we were going from a county that was a COVID hot-spot to a state that had fewer cases than said county. It wasn’t planned. No, it was another in a long line of situations where it was better to be lucky than smart. Because a smart person wouldn’t have made the move the way we did, when we did.

My wife does an amazing job of making our house feel cozy. I tease her from time to time about reading all of her decorating blogs, but in truth, she has amazing taste and a way of making every room in the house feel like it’s exactly where you want to be. It’s brilliant.

Sitting in our house and listening to the quiet, which is quite a change from the old place, allows me to feel gratitude. These are strange times and we’re all isolated in some way. But the island isn’t the worst place to be.

Preparing

A GPS, a 2 Way Radio, a Map, a Bandana, and a Knife

A thing that we do as humans is think about the future. Sometimes, it’s a simple as a daydream about a hike or a trip to the lake to fish. We do have a tendency to go long and think about where we’d like to be in 5 years. In The After Times, it’s hard to see 2 or 3 weeks ahead, forget about 6 months.

But planning and dreaming are important. So I assemble bits and pieces for trips to the parks. I put together lists of things that we should carry with us to be prepared for our little adventures. We’re not usually out very long with having a puppy at home and two kids that run themselves out after a few hours, so this isn’t like an expedition to Antarctica, but it’s something to consider for any trip out. Scouts are prepared, right?

Yet in my mind, these are grand adventures. I think about taking my radio out to an island on the reservoir and making contacts. I imagine catching large fish early in the morning and snapping a few pictures. I drift to lunching on the shore before paddling back for the day. Again, quiet time on the water.

Is that what we’re all doing right now? Baking bread and adopting puppies so that we can give ourselves a future? Having things around that provide us with a sense that we will have something to do that is different or important tomorrow seems to be a zeitgeist of a sort.

We all need a long game. So we’re making them ourselves.

Quiet Water

The view over the bow of a kayak.

It is very difficult to think negative or hopeless thoughts while paddling on a body of water on a calm, sunny day. Perhaps, that body of water is nothing more than a reservoir frequented by anglers and paddlers. It’s usually quiet. There are birds here and there. Hopefully, there are fish that pop up once in a while. Maybe the boat drifts over some thick vegetation or catches on an unseen piece of wood. They sky can be blue or grey. It hardly matters on green water.

Listening to the sound of the paddle passing through the water is beautiful and serene. It allows for deep breaths and for the mind to drift from thought to thought like the clouds overhead. It forces a sense of the moment. After all, what is more important in that moment than maintaining balance and motion? Very little. Strange that all it takes is the thought of falling into perfectly safe fresh water to clear the mind of all else.

I know that not everyone is finding these things, but I do see so many more people at the parks than I have in years past. More on bicycles. Renting canoes. Hiking on trails. Moving through all of that green and blue simply to have some fresh air in the lungs and the relief of not seeing the same walls day after day. Perhaps we can keep that as a part of The New Normal.

Lantern

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.