Sunday, June 27, 2010

Adventures in Early Retirement

Friday was a day to celebrate early retirement. Thanks to Sousan who found the groupon to the Cameron Hills Golf Links in King George Virginia, my friend Bob and I were treated to unlimited golf subject only to the constraints of daylight and the scramble outing that clogged the course for a short period in the afternoon. Rising before dawn we ventured south for the opening tee time of 9:10.

It was Bob who first introduced me to this novel concept of early retirement. Most of us think of it as stopping regular work weeks before age 65, with the "goal" of seeing how much before then you can pull that off. But a couple of years ago Bob took the day off to meet me for a round of golf on my birthday and he explained it differently. That day, and every day you take off while still working was early retirement. It's hardly like you are robbing the future. You might even live longer as a result. You'll certainly be more sane.

There's a real sense of accomplishment in this approach. You've reached your "goal" earlier than you would have imagined. Even though just for one day, it's a state of mind you can carry with you every day. And after all, you've only got the day at hand. As for other accomplishments, the competition was better than the golf as a whole. Bob was able to show his mental toughness to sweep the tiebreaking final 9 holes (of 45), and he did manage to summon a shake & bake 95. There was but one birdie - a scarlet tanager.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Diamonds in the Rough

I remember an ancient Superman TV episode starring George Reeves where to appease the natives he (as Clark Kent) reached into the quicksand with a lump of coal in his hand and squeezed it until he plucked out a perfect, fist sized diamond. The peasants rejoiced, and Lois and Jimmy were spared the kettle. I knew this was remotely possible, because after all..."pressure makes diamonds".

Unless the diamond is cultured or lab-created, it will have naturally occurring flaws embedded within it knowns as occlusions. These are in effect shortcomings of the perfect diamond. Diamonds can't remove their flaws. If we look closely enough at ourselves, we can see many of our flaws and even do something about removing them. We'll never get them all, but we should have the courage to remove those we can.

In writing this post I couldn't recall if the right term was occlusion. Turns out inclusion often gets used interchangeably. I stumbled across a pretty cool blog that I'll share:

http://occludedsun.wordpress.com/

Oh, and in case you didn't know, George Reeves ended up painting the wall with his brains. Too much pressure I guess.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Windows on the World

In the movie "Repo Man" it was said that the more you drive, the less intelligent you are. This week I had to take a defensive driving course online for work. There were a lot of things worth thinking about in the course, but I thought I'd share some of the highlights:

"Drive for Five" Picture your car in the left lane of a 2-lane road. Cars are in front of your position and behind you in both lanes, and there is a car next to you in the other lane. These 5 drivers can have a major influence on you, and the way you drive affects them. Name the 5 people that matter most to you, and think of them as the drivers to 'personalize' it. I went with Wilma, Barney, Betty, Pebbles and Bam-Bam, mostly because I didn't want to leave anyone out. Mr. Slate was not named. Who are your five?

"There are no winners and losers in driving." Driving aggressively to 'get ahead in line', speeding, tailgating and letting people know you think they are "Number One" actually turns control over to someone else who you already thought was incompetent. It also turns out that your chances of dying in an accident double for every 10 mph over 55. That's 2x at 65 mph, 4x at 75 mph.

And finally, some classics from growing up on the annual drive to Rochester to see my grandparents. I think this lasted until I was 7 or 8. Courtesy of Bermashave:

"Don't stick your elbow out to far, or it will go home in another car"

"As you go through life brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye on the donut, and not on the hole."

The only winners are those that arrive at their destination safely. So, where do you want to go today? How about tomorrow?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Defining what IS is

Sometimes when I'm lucky, I have dreams where I can either fly or breathe underwater. I think I owe the latter to scuba lessons, but I'm not sure where the former comes from. There's nothing like soaring through the air or water, effortlessly looking over the landscape from a vantage point not usually your own. And the freedom.

These dreams can be very lucid. Enjoying the ride, I suddenly experience the desire to fly higher or faster, and just with that I lose the ability. I can't understand it. I guess a lot of dreams are that way when you wake up. So is life. It seems like a very coherent experience, a beautiful thing when experienced as a whole, but when examined closely there are all sorts of loose ends that don't tie it together.

And when you try to define what IS is, it's too late. It was. See what is. Don't spend too much time defining or you might find yourself unable to fly.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

GOOOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!!!!!

Take the high road.
Do a good deed daily. Try it without the other person finding out.
Call 3 friends you haven't spoken to in a while.
Get outside of your head and connect with the god of your understanding.

Then, tear off your jersey (optional), run to the sideline, undulate wildly as you motion to the crowd like a cowboy slapping his horse with one hand while shooting his six-gun with the other.
Finish with 180-degrees worth of "water sprinkler".

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mary Mary and the smell of Victory

When I was growing up in the 60's there was a practice known as "tree-hugging". Typically used today as a derogatory term for a particular brand of radical environmentalists, few may realize that it was actually something people did to get in touch with nature. Oddly enough I remember my father of all people having quite a relationship with the huge oak tree in our front yard. He tried all the trees in the yard, but he connected best with that particular tree.

Perhaps this is where I subconsciously developed a notion that relationships were somewhat like living things such as plants or trees. I envisioned that important relationships could be symbolized by strong and healthy trees - disease, drought and storm resistant, capable of providing habitat for many small creatures. Over time, I expected to have a forest of sorts, with a high canopy of varied species, capable of providing shade but also allowing a filtered light to fall to the forest floor, where a richly foliated understory grew ferns, smaller flowering trees and wildflowers at the forest edge.

One should not be surprised that noxious weeds and other exotic invasives could infiltrate the forest if careful attention to detail and regular maintenance is not performed. This can be done by the Vine Vigilante through meticulous gardening or a generous but carefully applied dose of Round-Up. Even the most pleasant flowering shrubs and wildflowers need to be dead-headed once in a while to keep them healthy. But there is no need for napalm.

Today I will continue to do some weeding but also take the time to watch the boughs sway in the breeze, relishing the filtered light shining through the canopy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Smoky the Bear Plays Golf

I have a plaque that reads "in golf, as in life, it's the follow-through that makes the difference".

One thing about golf. Every time you address the ball you have to think the greatest shot of your life is going to happen. Every time. More often than not for me the resulting shot is far from it. A split-second loss of concentration, lack of 'commitment' to the shot, or simple operator error in the mechanics leaves you in the woods searching for a ball, dropping one next to the lake, or taking a few steps and trying again.

Another thing about Golf. It is "a game of recovery". Recognizing this makes it easier to keep your head in the game after a less-than perfect shot and lets you appreciate having the "opportunity" to recover. And of course, one must follow through.

Everyone has issues. Some are "burning issues" and others are "garden variety issues", but we all have them. Some you can do something about, others you can't, and some you can't even see. Today I'll pray for courage and wisdom, and remember Smoky's motto.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Building or Burning

Today I needed to get outside of my head, so I set out for a bit of a longer ride. The destination: the western end of the W&OD trail in Purcellville, about 21 miles one way. The weather complied, and I set off into the climbing hills. Somewhere around Leesburg, I recalled something a wise man once said - You spend all this time building your barn. Then you burn it down. Sometimes the gods burns it down for you. You rebuild it. That's what we do - it restores our sanity. As Jimi Hendrix once said, "And so castles made of sand, melt into the sea...eventually". Even still, I choose to build rather than burn.