My little electric pressure washer died. It wasn’t unexpected; late last fall, I noticed it was leaking oil. Never a good sign. This spring I tried to see if I could take it apart and remedy the situation, but it took tools I didn’t have, so I shrugged my shoulders, and pressure washed the patio pavers, the gutters on the north side of the house, AND the whole north side of the house, which (as is common in the great PNW) was starting to grow a soft, green covering. Much to my surprise, it just kept on working … until I moved to the east side of the house, when it immediately died.
So, like any good American, I went on Amazon, found a new one that fit my needs, and ordered it. It came in a few days later in a nice box, which I moved to my workbench for assembly. Which is where it still sits. As I was in the shower the other day contemplating putting it together, I thought, nah, I can always do that tomorrow. And that’s when I realized covid isolation time had flipped my switch to manana time.
I admit I have a propensity to over-plan. I make spreadsheets about every detail of our vacations; mileage, gas cost, meal cost, sites to visit, etc. Each year I pull up a list of 12 categories where I set at least three goals or projects. Almost every day I make a list of things I want to accomplish that day. It makes some of my friends shake their heads when they find out I actually have a list of my lists, but I just smile – that’s who I am. So my realization that I had slipped into manana time made me stop and puzzle things out a bit.
A formula popped into my head – “If I xxx now, then I can yyy later.” If I work now, I can vacation later. If I paint the house now, I can enjoy summer later. If I plan now, I can make my plans real at a later specified date. Make the list, complete the tasks, check it off the list, and move on to something better.
It turns out that La Manana means tomorrow morning; but manana means maybe tomorrow, but probably some unspecified date in the future. Which is most likely when my new pressure washer will be assembled. The sun will come out, the day will warm up, and I’ll want to finish my pressure-washing job NOW, and I’ll be upset at how long it will take me to put the thing together and get to work. Oh well.
In manana time, it’s easy to lay in bed a few extra minutes in the morning. It’s easy to play a few more games of Words with Friends before getting on with the day. It’s easy to put off unpleasant tasks until they become urgent. A shrug of the shoulders, a quick sideways tip of the head, and hey presto, manana! Unbidden, the image of an older person in a rocking chair on the porch pops into my head. Didn’t someone once say that sitting in a rocking chair was the fastest way to get nowhere? End-stage manana.
Well, I haven’t put buying a rocking chair on my to-do list yet. Maybe I will manana … and now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make my To-Do List for tomorrow.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I kinda rejected the “Faith of Our Fathers”, and went in search of a “better” way. Enlightenment, nirvana, achieving a “Zen” state all seemed to offer an interesting way, maybe a “backdoor” to heaven. That’s not really what this post is about.
Starting week 7 of extreme isolation, with the world all around me being shut down as well, I’ve found myself not really down or depressed, but just kind of floating about in a detached way, with little or no enthusiasm, no exciting projects, no compelling reason to invest myself beyond the very superficial. As I was self-analyzing my feelings (or lack of them), I realized two things.
First, if I remember right, “Being Here Now” is the essence of Zen. And that is pretty much where I’ve been for the last six weeks. And I’m pretty bored with it, which is why I will never reach that state of Enlightenment, where you are 100% happy to live totally in the now.
Second, I realized how much I love anticipation! And therein lies the rub, as anticipation has been cancelled for some dark, murky future date. Someday, there may (or may not) be a cure for COVID-19. Someday, there may (or may not) be a vaccine for COVID-19. Someday, there may not (or still may) be a need to be compulsive about social distancing and isolation. Someday, there may (or may not) be a return to a simulacrum of the life and activities enjoyed pre-pandemic.
As I’m sure I’ve written before, planning a trip or visit provides me nearly as much enjoyment as the trip itself. I can spend hours and hours planning routes, lodging, sites to see, activities, and expenses. My imagination takes me on the trips several times before I go, and my anticipation grows as the time for the trip approaches.
Once on the trip, I try to milk every moment of being there then (heh heh), lapping it up, reveling in it, totally opening myself to the experience. Once it’s over, I like to compare my plans with how the trip actually turned out, and I generally get satisfaction from that. But now, planning feels more like buying a lottery ticket, knowing full well that the odds are stacked against you. The conspiracy of life removing the joy I get from anticipation is ANTI-anticipation. On the other hand, the extra joy I get when I’m living life to the fullest in the moment I planned for I call anti-ci-zen-tation.
So for me, this is a battle between anti-anticipation and antici-zen-tation. Terri said I just needed to fight these feelings, so I guess that would be anti-anti-anticipation. I’m trying to fight it; although there is no way I could even think about planning a significant trip anytime in the next 12-24 months, I am looking at some more local possibilities in another six weeks or so. I may be looking at those reservations with the same skeptical hope I do at lottery tickets, it’s a small step.
PS: I know in the light of the profound suffering of many, this seems puny and very self-centered. It is – I freely admit it. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones, who weren’t able to be with them at the end. My heart goes out to those who are losing the businesses they dreamed about their whole lives, and everyone who is really struggling to get by.
I am blessed beyond belief! I was also blessed with a very introspective nature I have to deal with occasionally, helping me to learn more about who I am, even at this age. I share this because you or someone you know is trying in their own way to figure things out right now; this is me, trying to figure out deeper parts of me. I hope your journey, whatever it is, is leading you to light places.
Way back when, when I was a teenager, I LOVED to argue. I’d get together with my friend Jim, and we’d pick a subject to argue about. We’d argue for a while, and then switch sides to argue against what we had just argued for! Ah, those were the days.
In my previous life, my spouse would get a bit extra angry at me, because I seemed to have the knack of taking something I (in all truthfulness) had been in the wrong about, and make it convincingly sound like it was actually her fault. Mea culpa, my bad.
I was never one to back away from a verbal argument, and occasionally said some things I would regret later. During an argument, it felt like I could instantly identify the flaw in my opponent’s argument, and ratchet it up a notch in my comeback, and it would escalate from there. I particularly regret one argument with a family member that very nearly ended in disaster, until I realized what an ass I’d been, and was fortunate that my apology was accepted.
Well, so soon we get old, and so late smart. A few years back, my friend David introduced me to an aphorism I’ve tried to adopt – “Never miss an opportunity to shut up.” Wise counsel I’ve managed to implement maybe 80% of the times I needed to. What generally gets me into trouble is my passion, especially for the environment and when I see what appears to be willful suffering inflicted on the defenseless. Sometimes I just get sucked in, which happened recently. A person from my past asked me for the source of a post about the administration rolling back all the protections of our waterways. I got sucked in, and posted my source, which was the Department of Ecology for Washington State. With an impeccable source, he had to resort to an argument that only works if you pick and choose where your beliefs dictate; not so well in areas you might want to protect. What I should have said was (I don’t remember where I read/heard this) “You might be right,” and dropped it. Instead, I responded with his argument being applied to one of their sacred cows, which led to a bit of vitriol. Well, I don’t need that in my life, so just ended it by saying “Goodbye, xxxxx” and making that real. So not only did I miss a chance to shut up, I missed a chance to snuff out the flame before it turned into a wildfire by saying “You might be right.” Still learning lessons at 70 years old, but I guess that’s how life goes.
Up in my attic someplace are two very old books of poetry – A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, and another I’ve forgotten the title of, quite small and very ragged. I remember my mother reading to me from them, which was my first introduction to reading. I learned how to read at an early age, and it remains a passion today.
Growing up I was always the second fastest reader in my class – Candy Beach (her real name) was always faster than I was, and I could never beat her. One of my favorite times of year was when our classroom got to place orders for books that we could select from a list. I’d excitedly bring the “catalog” home, and wheedle and cajole some money for my mom to buy as many books as possible. A few weeks later they’d come and be distributed, and a couple of days after that, I’d have read them all. I guess that’s about when I started going to our local library to check out books (check out my blog post on my history with libraries here if you haven’t read it).
Even back in grade school, I’d find an author I liked, and read everything they wrote – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (primarily Sherlock Holmes), Edgar Allen Poe, Zane Gray were just a few. I’d go over to Jimmy D’s house, we’d both sit and read for a couple of hours, then I’d go home. I was incredibly fortunate in high school to have an English teacher who would start out every class reading an excerpt from a book, where I got introduced to The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, which opened up a whole new world to me. And then there was Foydor Dostoyevsky – deep, dark brooding books that suited my teenage angst to a T. Oh, and can’t forget Hemmingway!
Dozens of years and authors later, I’m still at it. Mark Twain remains one of my favorites, and I think Pat Conroy (Prince of Tides and many more) was America’s greatest novelist. Okay, I could go on forever about amazing, even life-changing books I have read, but I won’t (at least, not now). Here is what I am reading now: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is primarily set in Bogota, Columbia, from the late 1899’s to around 1930. The title has always fascinated me, and this just seemed like a perfect time to read it. While historical novels have never been high on my list of favorite reads, I love the use of language and descriptive prose detailing granular details of both the physical and social environment of the times.
Next up, when I finish this is The Next Human Die Off (and how to prepare for it) by Robert Chapman. While the premise seems to be based on collapse of sufficient food production that leads to mass starvation, it also addresses plagues. Yeah, sounds a bit dark, but fascinating like looky-loos going past a car wreck. I might need something lighter when I finish it – so, back to my question, What are YOU reading? Please share your recommendations in the comments!
Life After Work – Gary’s story of an NRE (Near Retirement Experience)
Gary’s last appearance in a post was in The Three Amigos. After he moved out of the Boogie Corner, he married Linda, and started work as a Dispensing Optician in downtown Portland, later moving to Bellingham; long story short, which is why I moved there and also became a Dispensing Optician. He ended up moving to Olympia, where he and Linda have lived for the past 41 years. He is currently owner and manager of Capital Eyes Optical in Lacey. So, a couple of things to know about Gary. He is a bit … eclectic. He sees things in a way few others do, and has … unique … visions of artistic representations. For example, I’ve tried to encourage him to get an Instagram account so he can share his Post-edible Art with the world. The other thing about Gary is that he LOVES to garden.
Gary and Linda’s home of 41 years sits on over half an acre. He has slowly but surely transformed it into an amazing agronomic experimental foodscape. He is always trying new techniques and methods, many of which spring from his vivid imagination. Sometimes they work great; other times he learns something and moves on to the next idea. Take a tour with him through his creation, and you will walk away with a sense of wonder about his passion for gardening. With the temporary closure of his optical business, he has had a lot more time to spend in his garden, which became a sort of epiphany. He calls it an NRE – a Near Retirement Experience. Here is his story.
In a bygone era, a high percentage of folks used to work until they croaked or close to it. I’d heard of retirement, seen pictures of people playing golf and fishing, sailing on cruise ships. I knew it, the elusive retirement existed. Many people plan for their retirement, work years and ease into this dreamy state of leisure.
My work of commerce was now hit by a big bus. This was sudden, a bolt out of the blue. The order from mid-level on high came down. It was all dark as I turned the lights out from the back of the shop – I saw the light at the end of the shop and headed for it. A feeling of lightness and I was bathed in an eerie light much different than the halogens and LED’s. I became aware of familiar surroundings and found myself in a vast garden. It was not the Garden of Eden, more like the garden of Needweeden. … yet this was more satisfying than working. The music of nature surrounded me and enveloped me in pure joy.
Then I heard a voice which told me I couldn’t stay here at this time, that I was to go back. My time was not up on my lease. Yet I could stay for now, bathing in the joy of leisure pursuits. I now do not have to live by faith alone. Retirement exists, I’ve seen it, and I have friends from the other side tell me what it’s like to experience. Work will never be the same after this Near Retirement Experience!
Hello again, world! Here we are, just trying to make our way through this crazy time, along with everyone else – at a social distance. Saturday felt good, a great combination of things. I called my Uncle Don and Aunt Martha in northern California (they were in the car, trying to see if they could safely buy an azalea bush or two from their favorite nursery). He will be 90 years old soon, still driving, living at home, and sharp as a tack. Then Terri headed outside to plant our flower starts we got the other day; I was going to help, but got distracted by all the moss growing between the pavers on our patio and backyard. Only about four hours later, I was done, it looks so much better.
After we came inside and cleaned up, we did another FaceTime happy hour, this time with my cousin Deb and her husband Jim. We love hanging out with these guys, and they seem okay with us; lots of good memories from our trip to Italy, down to Sonoma and others. It was great to see them, and catch up on their lives. After dinner we got to practice using Zoom with my daughter, SIL and grandsons.
Sunday was bittersweet. We were able to worship online with our church, and they did a fabulous job. The music was great, a very inspiring message, but we did miss the fellowship of physically worshiping together. Then we headed back out to the yard again, Terri to finish planting the flowers (at least until the weather warms and we get more), while I edged and mowed the lawn. Yep, yards in the neighborhood are going to be pretty awesome this year!
We decided to take the rest of the day off, and just sit outside and read. Very relaxing, and something we almost never do, although I bet we do it more in the coming days and weeks. We packed up and came in to get ready for a family Zoom Easter get-together my daughter Kalise had set up. She uses Zoom every day as she works from home, so it went very smoothly. It was awesome to see family members from around the country all get together and hang out for a while, checking in on each other. Definitely need to do that again to keep in touch! And, just for icing on the cake, Terri’s son Nate called to FaceTime us with his family! If there is one good thing coming out of this, it’s that we are communicating with our kids and grandkids and other family members more now than we have in a long time, and we love it!
We were going to ease our way in to Monday, but then got a notification that our groceries were ready to be picked up at Fred Meyer! Somehow we thought it was going to be in the afternoon, so we had to hustle around, then head out; picked them up on time! I actually sat down Sunday for awhile and made out a menu, and added the ingredients to the grocery list, so I’m back in my comfort zone again, cooking dinners with a recipe.
Once we got home, Terri got to work sanitizing the dry goods and using her vinegar soak to cleanse the vegetables while I headed outside and started up the pressure washer. Although it’s electric, it started losing a bit of oil last year, so I wasn’t sure it would last very long before the motor burned out, but, yeah, still running after about five hours cleaning the moss off the surface of the pavers. It grows exceptionally well in our long, wet, gray winters, and would probably take over our whole yard in just a couple of years if it wasn’t cleaned regularly.
I realized a few days ago that keeping busy around the house was going to be key to keeping me relatively sane during this time of isolation, so Sunday after I finished in the yard I took a clipboard out, walked around the house, and made a list of projects that I’ve successfully put off until now. Looks like about two dozen of them, some of them requiring major time investments. Tackling that list is going to be a mixed blessing …
So, that’s all the news today from Lake Wobegon. Chin up, nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel, stiff upper lip and all that!
I know I’m not the only one who is finding that the days are all kind of blending together, causing me to lose track a bit. I just figured out that somehow I have overestimated how many days we have been in Extreme Social Distancing. Yeah, Thursday is “only” day 27 (and now 28), not day 31 as my previous post postulated. Heh heh, sorry about that.
Anyhow, years ago, Pastor Bob had a great sermon of the Fear Of Missing Out, which you can watch here, it’s great! No one wants to miss out on the cool stuff! Right now, we are missing out – we were supposed to go to a Lauren Daigle concert in Portland on the 27th. Postponed until August … on the same day we have tickets for a Leadership Conference. Yeah, no refunds on Brandi, so we will definitely miss out on one of those. We were supposed to go on a three week road trip to four National Parks on May 1, cancelled. Then all the small trips and adventures we always manage to find, gone, as we are sequestered in our home. Missing being able to go to church on Easter Sunday to worship; missing out on Easter dinner with Eric and Julie and family. Missing out.
Then there is the Fear Of Running Out … of toilet paper (TPA = toilet paper anxiety). Fear of running out of salmon, chicken, rice, vegetables, and other staples. When the online order at the grocery store comes back with 30% of the order not in stock, we feel FORO. We have taken easy and nearly instantaneous availability of anything our heart desires for granted, and it is a shock to the system when suddenly basics aren’t there for us. Then maybe we find an alternate source, or it comes back into stock. Better buy more, never know what happens next, better be prepared.
I like to say that I am not a fearful person. I get concerned about this and that, but fear has never been a significant player in my life. I will say that my levels of concern have grown to where I have taken out of character steps to ensure I will continue to not be a fearful person. I dislike having FOMO and FORO battling for a portion of my consciousness, so we intentionally try to start every day now with gratitude and thankfulness.
Anyhow, we decided to take Thursday off, once I finished my workout and we whipped the kitchen back into shape. It was forecast to be a beautiful day, and the warmest day of the year so far, maybe in the mid 60’s! We decided to pack a small picnic, and head up to another one of our favorite spots, Birch Bay State Park. Yeah, we know the state parks are closed, but a main road runs right through it, and along the beach, complete with picnic tables, so we packed up and headed out into the glorious sunshiny day.
We WERE a bit surprised to see the road that cuts through the park and ends up at the beach was gated off; no worries, we turned around, and drove to the community of Birch Bay, and from there to the beach front road. No surprise, many others had the same idea, and most of them appeared to be very social distance conscious. We drove all the way to the end of the park, found a vacant table that was reasonably isolated, and set ourselves up. Turned out to be quite a bit cooler than we anticipated, but we had a wide selection of outerwear in the car, so we dressed appropriately, and set ourselves down.
The view from here is fabulous; Birch Bay (Captain Vancouver had spent some time here on his exploration; his crew came ashore and gathered supplies so they could make birch beer!), the point of Semiahmoo to the north of us; beyond that we can see the Sentinels and Sleeping Lady behind Vancouver; to the west the beautiful peaks of Golden Ears and Mt. Robson (I think). Across from us is the Olympic Peninsula, a couple of the Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island behind them. All in all, a spectacular setting. Even better, the breeze flowed onshore, guaranteeing that the exhalations of passing walkers was blown away from us, not towards us!
All good things must come to an end sometime, so we packed up and returned home. Terri’s turn to exercise; I got to connect with Gary and Linda, old friends from way back. He has a fun little story he’s going to share with me so I can share it with you! Always great to connect with others. Best of all, John and Lauren got us set up with a multiplayer version of Hearts online, and then we connected on Zoom so we could have a running commentary on the game as we played it. It didn’t go without a hitch – step away from the game for two minutes, and it kicks you out. But it was SO much fun! Want to play? Get a comment, message, text or call to me, and I will share the info on how to hook up with online Hearts.
Friday – or as Al Roker puts it FRIDAY!!! We have a vague idea of what transpired in the morning, but we were both stunned when we noticed that it was 12:00 already. We took a quick tour of the yard, making a list of flowers we’d like to see in our flower beds, then I phoned them into Andrea, a lovely lady at Skagit Valley Gardens. Explaining our situation, she wrote down our order, got all the plants we wanted that were in stock, and took our payment. Meantime, I actually accomplished something – I washed my car, wiped down the dashboard, washed the mats, and vacuumed the front seat area. Andrea called, letting us know our order was ready, so we headed out. When we arrived, she brought out the card, left it a comfortable distance away, I loaded it up, and we drove off. We can’t wait to get some plants in the ground to cheer us up even more as spring gets its mojo going.
Well, guess I’ve gotten a little “long winded” with this post. Congrats if you made it this far! I’m curious about YOUR story – what are you wrestling with in these uncommon times? Until next time, stay well.