Friday, April 23, 2010

The First Rite of Spring

Winter is officially over. It may not yet be warm enough to say that spring is here, but winter is officially over. We will certainly have some more raw days and cool nights before it gets warm for good. We could even still experience a frost. But six weeks after the ground hog saw his shadow, winter is officially over. My lawn told me that winter is done. It told me by growing green and tall enough that decency forced me to drag out the mower and cut it. It told me by teeming with new life, grass and clover and violets and even the lowly dandelions. Even the bare spots -- of which there are more than a few -- are bringing forth an abundance of moss and wild onions. In the first rite of spring, my mower responded to the second pull of the starting rope with a pop and a cloud of blue smoke before settling into a satisfying purr. After a winter in the shed, it seemed almost eager to get back to work. I acknowledge that winter is over to the point that I am surveying the yard for the best place to grow some tomatoes. The winter storms took out several trees allowing me more choices than last year. Winter is over. The old brown grass is fast being replaced by a new coat of green. In the sunlight all things seem new. Winter can fool a person; on occasion, it can even fool the ground hog. But it can't fool your grass.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Second Cup

Let there be no doubt. I like my coffee. I like my coffee so much that I measure my workday in units called "Starbucks". A one Starbucks day is nothing worth writing about. A two Starbucks day is normal, and a three Starbucks day is a super active "my pants are on fire and the devil is after me" kind of experience. Luckily, I have only experienced a couple of "three Starbuck's" days, and only one "Four Starbucks day" in my lifetime. The fourth Starbuck's was a "Venti Double Red Eye" from which it took several days to recover. The first cup of coffee in the morning is always "wake me up and shoot me flying out the door" urgent. The first cup starts the day, gets the body moving, starts the blood pumping and clears away the cobwebs. On workdays, the first cup is all I have time for before hitting the road and getting down to the business of life and work. On weekends, however, there is time to relax and enjoy a second cup. My second cup of weekend coffee is my favourite of the week. For some unknown reason, the second cup of weekend coffee tastes better than any other. As I drink it, I find myself living in the moment, savouring the aroma and contemplating the subtle nuances of bean, roast, and taste, enjoying the blend of bitter, sweet, acid, and a hundred and one other things only hinted at that combine to make each pot and each cup unique. At such times, the world narrows down to three things: me, the morning, and the coffee. At such times, life is very good. The first cup of coffee is all about waking up and getting down to business. But on weekends at least, the second cup is all about luxury and leisure. Others may urge that we "wake up and smell the coffee." I urge you instead to take your time, linger, and enjoy all that coffee and life have to offer. Life: it's all about the coffee.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring Fancies

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote that "In the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love", and perhaps it does. However, it's been my experience that a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love just about every season of the year and that in the spring a young man's fancy turns to a lot of things other than love. In the spring a young man's fancy seriously turns to thoughts of baseball! From the day that pitchers and catchers report for spring training in late February there is a feeling of expectation. Maybe this will be the year the home team brings home the pennant. After long years of home baseball deprivation since the Senators moved to Texas, I find myself once again feeling the thrill of reading the training reports and grapefruit league results in mild to wild expectations. Alas, after two games my beloved Nationals are zero and two for the season. In the spring a young man's fancy seriously turns to thoughts of vacation! Lazy days on sandy beaches, watching the waves with a book in one hand and a tall cool drink in the other. Or maybe, lounging on the deck of a cruise ship scanning the distant horizon for whales. Maybe this will be the year that my wife and I will get to enjoy the wildlife of Denali National Park in Alaska. From experience, I recognize that planning and anticipation are almost half of the fun. And, for me at least, in the spring a young man's fancy seriously turns to thoughts of gardening as surely as my wife's fancy turns to thoughts of spring cleaning and organizing our mountain of stuff. Maybe, with the snow-damaged trees removed, there will be enough light to grow some really good tomatoes. As John Denver says in the song "What would life be without home grown tomatoes?" He also sings quite correctly that "I forget all about the sweatin' and diggin' each time I go out and pick me a biggun!" And he's right! And not only home grown tomatoes, but maybe we'll also be inundated with zucchini and swiss chard and green beans. In the words of the same song. "There's just two things that money can't buy. And that's good lovin' and home grown tomatoes!" So maybe Tennyson was right. In the spring a young man's fancy does lightly turn to thoughts of love and more seriously to thoughts of baseball, vacation, and home grown tomatoes.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Father's Wisdom

Other than his wallet, my dad always carried two items in a trouser pocket. One was a very short stubby pencil, hand sharpened almost down to the eraser. Too short and blunt to be a stabbing hazard, the pencil rode in his the right side trouser pocket along with the pen knife he used to sharpen it and a clean handkerchief. The other item, always carried in a hip pocket, was a piece of paper, most often the remains of a used envelope, neatly folded and tucked inside of his wallet. Wherever he was, Dad used these two items to record and conduct the business of farming.

I've watched him spread the paper on a dusty tractor tire to record the number of a needed part. I've seen him spread it out on a wagon bed or the hood of the pickup to calculate how much additional fertilizer or how many plants were needed to prepare or plant out a field. And I've seen him support the paper against a wall or even on his knee to write down some item for future action. Once the needed information was recorded, the pencil went back into the correct pocket and the paper was again folded carefully and returned to the wallet from whence it came.

Dad pretty much ran his farm by writing things down. In the evening, he would look over what he had written during the day as he considered and recorded what he needed to do or think about tomorrow, the next day, the next week, or the next time he went to town.

 From my Dad, I learned the wisdom of always carrying something to write with and something to write on. In fact, woe be unto me if Dad ever asked me to write something down and I was found without the necessary equipment. As a result, writing things down became and remains a fairly consistent habit.

As my circumstances changed, I graduated from writing things on the backs of used envelopes with stubby pencils to writing in bound notebooks with some pretty fancy pens, but the principles remain as my father taught me. "Write it down. Get it on paper. Deal with it later".

Amazingly, the act of writing helps me remember what I've written. And, although I review and deal with my notes after I have written them, I'm don't really write them to remember later so much as to remember now!

 Long before David Allen documented and popularized how to get things done, my Dad was using his stubby pencil and neatly folded used envelope to apply the Getting Things Done principles. A wise man, my Dad. Makes me proud to be a chip off the old block.

How do your record things you need to remember later?