Page 1 of Pictures at an Exhibition by Modeste Moussorgsky

The best time for me to practice, when I was in school, was very early in the morning. Most of the practice rooms were empty. It was absolutely the wrong way to practice for a performance, because those are always in the evening and you are usually in a different mental and physical place at that point in the day, but it was the best time for technique. My mind was clear. My hands were fresh. I wasn’t tense from any interactions with other people yet. It was good.

This could be a good time for focus and reflection. The world that we knew is burning or gone. It’s not coming back. So what do we do now that we’ve removed some things? What grows up in the spaces between the empty buildings of the mind?

I’m trying to make space for music. I restrung an instrument today. Movements must be slow and deliberate right now. Everything is heavier. Resistance is everywhere. Maybe the space between the burned hulks is meant for focus and honing a touch of intent. Intent leads to good work.


Himalayan Pink Salt

In The Before Times, we would take a vacation in the summer. This was always important to me because when I was a kid, we didn’t really do a lot of vacations for a lot of very complicated, grown-up reasons. Being able to take a week and go fishing and hiking and relaxing with my family at a cabin somewhere in the hills of Pennsylvania always felt really good.

At the cabin we rented the first time we took a vacation in PA, there was a shaker of Himalayan Pink Salt. I thought this was the neatest thing. I made comments about using “The Fanci Salt” on vacation. My son thought it would be hilarious to get me some of that very salt when he saw it at CostCo. Now I have enough to last for a good long while.

We didn’t take a vacation this year. We stayed home. But most days, we’re trying to eat outside. We have wine with dinner a little more often. We grill things and take our time with the food we eat on many nights. Not as many as we might, but it feels like we’re more mindful around meal times about some kind of experience.

These Strange Days have me trying to make the mindful choice to slow down. Read more. Less screen time. More time in the hammock. Enjoying the summer before what will certainly be a long winter.

I’m writing more. I don’t know what that means. But I’m home. And writing again.


Rain from the Porch View

We needed rain. The grass started to brown up almost the day after the last time we mowed. That’s never pretty. By Shire Reckoning, it’d been about 2 weeks since the last decent rain. So the skies felt like giving us a little something. We had a few showers and it was nice to sit on the porch and listen to it.

I find myself going out of my way to find time to stop and listen. Things are strange. 2020 is a beast. I find myself wondering if we aren’t stepping backwards in terms of tempo. We were never really wired for the rate of change that we’ve seen in the last 20 years. From landlines to ubiquitous communication seems like a Sci-Fi utopia on paper. In practice, like all things, it lacks subtlety and refinement.


Office Conditions measured in temperature and humidity.

This week there was a bit of a heat wave. Sitting up in the 90s for a chunk of each day with no rain to break it up. The grass is looking unruly and dry. Thought there is a breeze, it’s more of a hot wind. The birds are quiet. Nothing much moves in the afternoon. I can see the heat coming off of the asphalt from my office window.

It could be worse. I did live in Houston for a time.

It’s Friday, and that has no meaning except that I can stay up late tonight and sleep in a bit. Of course I can’t actually stay up late because I will fall asleep at my regular time. And I will get up at the regular time. And the cycle will go on and on unbroken.


ARRL Extra Class License Manual

If I look back on it, the real reason that I started poking at ham radio to begin with was entirely to do with stress at work. I needed a place to apply my brain that I could pick up and put down without guilt, fear, anxiety, or loss. Most people might have once described that as a hobby. But our culture has become increasingly hostile to the idea of recreation for its own sake. For all of the talk of Self Care, there are still people talking about what side hustle they are going to develop during These Strange Times. That’s an illness.

What’s the cure? I think it starts with reclaiming some space for fun. Fun that doesn’t come with pictures of sunsets from inside of a tent or a perfectly posed photo of children picking up a flower. That space that seems to be missing is in the empty spots between pictures and stories. They’re the things we do to make ourselves whole again. Those deep breaths between the long series of sprints that make up the marathon that is life in 2020.

I can safely say, that in terms of personal accomplishments, I hadn’t done much for myself in many, many years up until I walked into the Ben Wilson Senior Center to take my test for the Technician License. Most of my achievements were around family or work. But the studying I did between calls and the books I read before bed were little bits of me being reclaimed. And when I walked out of the exam with a perfect score and my ticket in hand, it felt amazing.

I hadn’t felt that way in so long that I couldn’t remember the sensation. It was personal pride mixed with excitement and a huge dash of accomplishment.

No one but me cared at all. And I smiled all the way home.

Now that we’re in The After Times, I’ve decided to grab the manual for the last rung on the ladder. I want to hit that Extra Class. I don’t care if I make it by one point on the test, I want to do it. So I will. And again, no one will care but me. And that? That’s the point.