Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Days are Just Packed

Thanks to my Sister-in-Law Valerie (who has one of the youngest hearts I know) I have copy of the Calvin & Hobbes compilation that shares the title of this post. I truly love this pair of characters and was saddened when they stopped appearing on my Sunday Morning comic page. But so it is with all things, yet further testament to the notion of enjoying life while you are in it.

Speaking of which there is a veritable highlight reel swirling around every day, and the last few days have just been,,,well, packed. To start with, both of my college student children (Max and Stefani) returned home for the holiday on Wednesday afternoon. We played Sporcl together and were later joined by Kelsey, Cullen and Houser for the traditional festivities:

We opened with a 5k run benefitting the Loudoun County Abused Womens Shelter. We all got to wear pink gloves courtesy of my wife the ringleader.  Max won; Cullen's chip didn't register his awesome time; I managed to improve despite several bouts of walking; Miss B zoned on the ipod until the finish line came; Stefani gritted her teeth through the pain of an ankle brace; Kelsey did the same despite bone chips in her dislocated knee and Houser flashing us at the finish line - all captured by the family photographer, cheering section and ringleader.

After the race we savored the resplendent Cougar Gold cheese, sent across the country from the University of Washington. I also learned that Santa is always the last float of the Thanksgiving Day parade, thus signifying the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

We tossed the Pigskin. We enjoyed an excellent meal with more family and friends. We played Catch Phrase. We walked off the meal only so we could tamp more in.

Friday brought the trip to Randytown - 2 cars full of Christmas music, elf hats and reindeer antlers. Actually it was Lovettsville for tree hunting, nature walk, and photo-ops with lifesize cartoon characters. Although we followed the tradition of missing a turn, we were rewarded with an eagle sighting.

In the evening my movie buddy Stefani and I took in Harry Potter. Upon return home, more friends had arrived. A music video had been published and it was time for more games. I settled in to a book and some apple pie, having passed down a game that was "a symbol of a misspent youth" as my father used to say.

So we all have so much to be thankful for. The days are just packed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quality vs. Quantity

My good friend Sam gave me a book for my birthday called "One Month to Live". Funny. Actually the book poses an interesting challenge - 30 days to a regret-free life. The basic premise is that if you had one month to live, what would you do differently? Noting that the quantity of life we have is finite - but because we either don't want to acknowledge our mortality or perhaps because it may not be "in your grille" so to speak, we typically squander the time we have. We fail to look critically at ourselves and at the infrequent investments we make in the quality of our lives.

For example. I usually go out on the weekend for a fairly long bike ride. The distance covered often becomes the measure of the adventure, or how fast I covered it in. I soak up as much outdoors as I can - trees, streams and wildlife. It only figures the more miles traveled the more of that I can absorb, right? This weekend I decided to invest in ride quality - a much shorter ride, basically free-spinning and coasting as much as possible. Untimed. I decided I had time to explore off-pavement on a trail through a field with pine trees that wound down to Goose Creek and back again. When the ride was over, I took inventory.

The ride was good - I enjoyed it more than my usual ride. And I will accept the challenge. It may not be the brand new key to happiness, but I only have one pair of brand new roller skates. Thanks, Sam.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Early Exploration

Once upon a time children looked forward to Saturday morning cartoons for the entire week. Kind of like training for the real world. There were many odd shows that attempted to capture the attention of the meek, only to penetrate their unsuspecting subconscious minds with commercials, no doubt.

But most of the shows actually carried a social message of some type as well, in the form of a morality tale, parable or homile and I dare say we would be better off watching them than Grand Theft Auto but only time will tell. Rocky and Bullwinkle had a great format, featuring segments within the show like Fractured Fairly Tales or Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Via the Wayback Machine, Sherman would be tutored in Mr. Peabody's tongue-in-cheek improbable history.

In a similar format was King Leonardo and his Short Subjects. One of my favorite segments was Tooter Turtle, featuring Mr. Wizard the Lizard. Tooter would venture into the scene and tell Mr. Wizard of a place or someone he'd rather be and Mr. Wizard would oblige him by casting a spell and putting him there. The adventure always got Tooter into trouble, and he had to call out "Help me Mr Wizard!" at which time the famous incantation would be cast thus: "Drizzle, Drazzle, Druzzle, Drome, time for this one to come home!" And Tooter would be pulled back miraculously through the Cosmic Infidibulum in the nick of time. And upon his return, Mr. Wizard would give Tooter the same advice -

"Be what you is and not what you is not.
Folks that is what they is, is the happiest lot".

Most often one needs to explore to discover what one is. The Cosmic Infidibulum can be daunting and seems uncharted only to the untrained eye. Be fearless.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One Moment Please

There are special moments in life that stand out among all others. Somehow etched deeply in the psyche, forever like they were only the moment before. Often one can look back and say - "that moment changed my life". Wouldn't it suck if you missed one because of Operator Error? If you weren't paying attention? Because you were not living in the moment? The moment is still there, but you cheated yourself - because when you know it's one of those moments while it's happening - for that instant - wow. You are aligned with the Cosmic Infidibulum.

I remember that night in Kennedy's in Blacksburg like it was yesterday. Looking up two flights of stairs I saw her. She smiled at me and somehow I knew. The night was in its infancy. My head was clear and there was no need to rely on plastic cup courage. My confidence lied in that moment - I knew she was the girl for me. I strode, nay - swashbuckled - my way up the stairs.

She appeared surprised at my bold, easygoing attitude but readily explained -  she was smiling at the person behind me.

It is often said - When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. This is the moment of learning. Be ready. Keep a clear head so you'll recognize it. That night, I knew it was one of those moments. We'll celebrate 28 years this May.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Near Field Effects

Growing up in rural Maryland the bicycle was my primary mode of transportation until I was fortunate enough to drive. Being anywhere from 2-15 miles from anywhere I wanted to be, this led to many, many miles on the road and the need to be home by dark. And I never wanted to be wherever I was.

In all of those hours I learned to appreciate the solitude and joy in cycling that I could never find in running. The rhythmic, hypnotic pedaling; the bearing down for a long uphill grind; the rewarding breeze of the downhill coast, and a thing I call Near Field Effects.

There is a place about 3 meters in front of my handlebars where the pavement's coarse aggregate is always discrete. Look closer, and the particles join the rush streaking under the wheel, no longer individual. Like the stars as Captain Kirk pushes the Enterprise to Warp Speed, or snowflakes on your windshield at night. When the going gets tough I zone on this spot. I am able to trick my mind that uphill is downhill. I stay down waiting for the breeze to come, and lose track of everything else.

There is another place, just past where the Near Field Effects are, that I prefer. Here I can observe the beauty in the world around me, and I can avoid small children and potholes. And I don't like looking back - that can be really bad for your health.

I spend less time focusing on the horizon - for the path is hidden and there is not enough detail - and the details I can see may well be different when I get there.

So as I move in this stream I find the best place to be is right on my seat, but to have my mind between the Near Field Effects and the horizon, in the present. Here I can gratefully observe the world around me, and think about all the mud that didn't get to sit up and look around.