Back to School

Reflection of a window in a guitar.

Kids are getting ready to start school this week and nothing feels right about it. There aren’t new packages of school supplies waiting to be stuffed into backpacks and placed in their assigned cubbies somewhere. No getting just the right shirt to wear on that first day in a new class in a new school in a new town.

Instead, we check Google Classroom logins to make sure they work. We double check email addresses. We print a schedule and make a PDF of it so we’ll know which order to select the various classroom containers for the next “period” of the day. We consider how to work lunch when it is a 30 minute break in the kitchen.

The logistics of it all are upside-down and backwards.

Stress on a lot of families is about to go through the roof as multiple children log on for school. I feel fortunate – so ver fortunate! – that our family is able to support this without undue financial stress or worse. While it’s more than inconvenient, I am respectful of our position. And I am trying to think of ways to support those who cannot do what we can.

Part of me wonders if school will be in person for spring of 2022 at the current rate of things. And if it’s not, will my son attend a school in which he has never set foot? What a story for him to tell.


Radio power wires (black and red). One with an incomplete powerpole.

One of the things to be very wary of with radio is how much current one is drawing at a given moment. It determines how much battery is drained in the field and in the shack, well, it can sometimes make for weird smells and smoke. That’s not what happened here. Here, it was just a failure in a powerpole. Something simple. A connector in a system that wasn’t quite right.

It’s in the air right now. Everything feels like one component or another in a long chain is falling over. This is in every person’s life and in the country writ large.

I feel it. I wonder if I can fix all of the little connectors.

Lather, rinse…

A water bottle, nearly empty, on a bookshelf.

A thought that demands remembering from these plague-ridden times is this: every day and every week bleeds together. There are no longer any landmarks for the passage of time. Each Monday could be a Thursday. Saturday is interchangeable with any other Saturday or Sunday. We have no idea if we’re making progress as there are no trees or mountains. Only endless prairie grasses in every direction.

And then my son’s birthday came. We were reminded that the world still spins. The days on the calendar pass. The endless ticking and tocking of the clock is still very much in play.

We saw some family briefly. The ones we’re bubbling with. Dogs played together. Food prepared and eaten. Jokes told and laughs had.

But know this: it feels endless. Featureless. Until we count these seemingly tiny details. And that is part of navigating the new normal.


Radio gear in a stack

The ups and downs of the pandemic continue. I read a great article yesterday about managing our expectations in times of uncertainty. The brain simply can’t stay on high alert all the time. And the amount of change and the failure of so many concurrent systems is all too much to take without recharging regularly. But it’s hard to recharge as often as we need to. It isn’t like plugging in a phone at the end of the day and expecting the battery to be at 100% the next morning.

I notice it in myself. I’m trying to be careful with commitments. Cautious with appointments. Keeping the days open as much as I can. The crunches that come with work are about all I can handle at this point. Everything else needs to be optional.

Trying to keep children happy during this time is also a challenge. They are social animals. So we bubble with family. We hike. We bike. We boat. Anything to keep their minds away from the void.

Keeping the frequency in check is critical.

The Big Blue Room

Heron on a log

The weekend was punctuated with a few nice surprises. I got an email from an old friend. We’ve corresponded since he was my student almost 15 years ago. He’s a good man and a good friend. I’ve followed his travels around the world with great interest. It’s wonderful to see someone who is smart, funny, capable, and, most importantly, a good person go out into the world to see and do big things. Getting his email on a Saturday morning was a treat.

The other notable treat was being told to toss my kayak on the Jeep and go out paddling while my wife took the kids on a hike Sunday morning. It’s rare that I do things on my own. Let’s face it, in The After Times we’re always on top of one another. Getting out on the water where it was very quiet and having no responsibilities aside from keeping myself upright was a wonderful gift.

I’m not a nature photographer (or any other kind, really) but I took a few quick pictures of a blue heron that was allowing me to get very close. It was like a segment from “Sunday Morning” with Charles Kuralt. Well, in my mind it was.