Saturday, September 27, 2008

Musings of sorts

In case you haven't noticed I am rather guarded about personal stuff I put out here. I know some of the people who drop by but others I do not. So If you are in the "I don't know you" category please don't be offended and don't stop coming by. We writers write to be read and don't believe anyone who says otherwise. I also tend to keep personal stuff to myself in general, so when I do share it, it is possible that this is the only place I am I sharing it.

I was thinking today how good I feel. I have been running for roughly 28 weeks and today ran almost 8 miles in an hour and a quarter. Yes its an absolute pathetic time for some but for someone who has been only moderately physically active the last 20 years, this is a major accomplishment and as I have written before, this definitely is not a flat track we are talking about. Plus I am over 25 pounds lighter and have had to go clothes shopping.

I do get discouraged because the times are slow and only improve minutely but I find I enjoy the feeling that comes from running. Yes there is a high and it is a legal and respectful on and one that is a good example for my kids. I am a morning runner as later in the day I just feel worn out from work and commuting. This past week it was so dark that I went searching at lunch for reflector tape and flashers to append to myself. Since some of the roads I run at 5AM are barely illuminated by street lights the flashers go a distance and keep the rare car at a safe distance.

Growing up this time of year was birthday time. My mom, dad and I were born on dates that are within a week. So as my birthday approaches I am reminded of my parents who died five years ago two months apart and who I no longer celebrate a birthday with. I makes me somewhat melancholy. I still get caught on the thought of the two funerals that were in quick succession, with neither being at "death's door" due to illness and then the full year of sorting through their affairs and closing things down. Yes I shared it with a sibling but there are many things you do not share. In a world where I think we all like transitions, there was none to this.

It is the beginning of a new school year and the kids are immersed in classes and new friends and lots of activities. Good Morning America came through the area in their train entourage complete with many helicopers flying over the neighborhood and area to accommodate live satelite feeds and traffic being diverted from its regular routes. Which meant the regular way to drop of the kids at school was not longer the regular way. But it worked out fine and one kid was playing in the band as the train arrived and got to see James Taylor and YoYo Ma perform on the porch of the Red Lion in. Both James and YoYo are locals so their sightings are not that unusual but the chance to see them perform together is always an experience.

The calendar gets a bit chaotic and as they advance through the teen years our role as parents clearly changes. Sometimes like traversing a mine field but most of the time just differently pleasant and I get wistful that this phase also will end too soon and things will become too quiet in the house. But I don't like to think of it.

Fall projects are on the list. The carpenter is scheduled to fix all the damage caused by the ants and at a price that is a small fraction of the first quote we got in the summer that was an amount I could have replaced a car with. The pellets are on order in hopefully will be delivered before the constant cold. All over the neighborhood white stacks on pallets are popping up every day. We started a trend.

So in general life in the Berkshires is good. Some of the tourists came back this weekend for the Apple Squeeze festival in Lenox and Latino festival in Lee. Lots of good food and something for the locals to do as well.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Clocks and gears and pendulum

We have a large clock that stands about 7 feet tall. The simple wood case, with its very dark stain was made by my great-great grandfather about a century and a half ago living in the small town of Colrain Massachusetts. [this was once a tidbit I would use as a response when I started working near there early in my career and some of the locals called me an "outsider" as my family can be trace in that area going back to the 1600s.]

But that is not the point. This clock is tall but not wide. Some people call it a grandfather clock though I have read that because of its thin size that it could also be call a grandmother clock.

But that is not the point either. This clock originally had wooden gears and works that made it run but the story is that some of them broke and my great grandmother stored them in a box until they were unceremoniously tossed in the trash. Eeeeekkkk was even the reaction I can remember 40 years ago.

But believe it or not that is not the point either, but I am getting closer. The clock stood empty and quiet for many many decades, being passed down a few generations until my Mom and Dad who had a friend who liked to work on clocks. Her ordered and installed new insides and another artist friend took the face and repainted it. The narrowness of the case determined the chime that could be installed and this is a very simple gong on the hour and single hit on the half hour. Then for the next twenty years or so it rhythmically ticked and chimed on the hour and on the half and then it stopped. It had become such a presence. The sound heard in throughout the night and the day.

The friend who had fixed it had long died so it again just sat there for another five years until I inherited from my parents.

Fortunately there is a clock shop in the Berkshires who took out the innards immediately after moving it here. Three months later (12 weeks to be precise) and it was back, its rhythmic tic and gentle gong that I would hear though out the house in the middle of the night. And then a year later it stopped.

With a minimum fee of $100 just to come look at it and then more to do something I was reluctant to immediately call someone and decided to look inside myself. The clock would wind up but the pendulum would move back and forth for about a minute then stop. You can see from these pictures that there are several gears and wires and ratchets. But then I spotted that the pendulum was just hanging.

Looking closer and closer, something that becomes less easy with these middle aged eyes, I found that there were many possible places from which to attach the pendulum. Each of which would enable it to move for a minute or so and then it would stop.

Each day I would come back to the clock and take off the face and try another position for the pendulum to hook to until finally it continued to swing and was back in business. The pendulum swung and the gears moved and parts spun around and around and the hands turned until that familiar bong.

I took these pictures of the insides to remind me of where it attaches for when it happens again. But as you can see taking pictures really close up makes it difficult for the camera to figure out how or what to focus on.

So is there a point to this post other than a pleasant story about a clock? I really is about how things fit together, how one piece out of place can totally stop the works and how it can sometimes be just a delicate attachment and connection that starts things back to working again. But how that connection can be broken again, but as you learn the weak points you can work around them, fix as necessary and the Little fixes stay little, even though not doing them makes everything stop.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


One of the physical realities of living in my part of the Berkshires is the hills. They are everywhere and even a grade that looks somewhat flat probably isn't. In a car that doesn't matter much but if you are biking or running they are always something to contend with.

When I run in the morning and run the route that goes into town I leave my driveway, run uphill a tenth of a mile, round the corner and run down a steep hill a tenth of a mile, then do another turn and run for two miles up this steady grade, which even minor, is uphill. I round the town center come back down and then meet the steep hill just before turning back into my street. Most people think its easy running down hill and it is easier, but it also requires holding yourself back from going to fast and crashing into a tree or car or just the ground.

I just finished reading "Uncommon Carriers" by John McPhee and he notes how hitting a 1-2% grade can cause a long coal train to grind to a hault and that subsequently many of the rail line grades are purposely kept very low. I thought of my long gradual uphill runs when I sometimes loose steam 3/4 of the way up.

The same can be said about biking. The up hills are brutal and the downhills can either be a rush or downright treacherous.

There are very few ways for me to avoid hills unless I drive somewhere first and then there is only limited flat grade before its uphill. Last weekend I picked this 6 mile route that is scenically beautiful and the road rolls up and down, at least in the car it rolls. At street level its a freak'n lot of up hills with not enough flat in between and I didn't seem to notice the downhill. But I consider this training and I feel relatively goood when I am done.

I do find this deceptive as I never really know how well I am doing as I still occasionally stop on some of those hills. At least when you are biking there is the satisfaction of the downhills and coasting in-between. With running you get none of that.

I have a new respect for people who run in the Berkshires, having become one. We are definitely not whimps and not scared off by a simple hill and then another and then another. Its still a fine time to be out in nature and just taking it all in.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I have several times of day that I consider my favorite. They aren't what I expect is common but they are special in the qualities and moments they bring.

I have come to love waking up at 3:00AM. Not to get up but just to wake up. I can remember days when it might be anxiety and worry that would have me awake at 4 staring at the ceiling but I seem to have been able to tame that beast, at least for now.

Waking up at 3, it is peaceful and quiet and very dark. It is these times when I can sometimes hear the bells of the church in town or hear owls or coyote in the back woods or when there is a full moon the beams streak though the side window. The house is peaceful and I just barely wake up. This time feels like the joining of two worlds, the threshold leaving one day and approaching the next, a very thin space as I like to call them.

I've taken to using this brief time to send positive thoughts to a list of people who can use them. As I think the name I feel that I am handing it off for safe keeping. I think requests for assistance or for guidance. I send messages of peace.

Very peacefully and methodically I go through this and drift off to sleep again.

Then there is 5AM when I usually love waking up. Again it is dark, darker this time of year than even this photo and I get up quickly when I wake and make my way to the coffee pot and bathroom, all in the dark. Then for a half hour or so I just sit near the window and sip my coffee or walk out to the porch to feel the morning breezes.

Then on really good days, at 5:30 I get on my shorts and sneakers and mp3 player and head outside to run into town and back. The sky is dark and street lights are dim, there is rarely a car and only occasionally are there lights on in the houses I pass. Running through town it is quiet and peaceful and I head back home to get ready for the day and start waking up the family.

On an average day the daytime is fairly routine with an occasional special moment, but nothing I can count on. But then at 6:30 I am home and usually everyone else is too and that is my next favorite time. Eating dinner with my wife and kids, hearing of their day, hearing them laugh, enjoying their presence and then doing nothing special or like tonight leading a congo line of teens around the house in goofy laughter.

Of course there are are other special times on many days but these are my special times that make things feel right and if missed I feel off kilter.

Do you have special times? Think about it, I'm sure you do.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Good Morning America comes to the Berkshires

As part of their Whistle Stop Campaign ABC Good Morning America has been crossing Massachusetts and was in the Berkshires. But the lead up was much more and there have been train cars running through the rehearsals on the tracks, helicopters dashing around the sky all weekend testing satellite hookups and getting aerial views. A big stop was Stockbridge this morning with a visit to the Red Lion Inn. Since we have to go through Stockbridge each morning to get the kids to school this became a logistical questions of what did it mean when traffic is being rerouted around a downtown that consists of 2-3 streets and includes a main state highway.

So Sunday while I'm cooking dinner for friends who have a family member in the ICU and our own dinner my wife ventures down to Stockbridge to see what she can find out. Their she finds enough police to get the information we need then finds Yo Yo Ma and James Taylor sitting on the porch of the Red Lion doing rehearsals and sound checks. Probably 2 hours worth of playing and replaying songs for what eventually will be a few minutes of air time.

My daughter is also playing in the school band that will greet the train at the station so we have to be through Stockbridge and at the school at 6AM for them to suit up and get back to Stockbridge. It was a bit of a nuisance with traffic being rerouted and schedules being messed up a bit but there was some excitement in the air of being profiled on national TV if only for a few minutes.

and here is the link to the James Taylor spot.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

So what do these photos say?

The light is changing, more shadows are cast late in the day on the hills.
They were taken completely on the run, arriving late for a cross-country meet, as everyone was leaving or left, walking back down the hill to the car. Alot of things are seeming rushed even of there is time. I feel like there is much that is on the run, I am having to defend my time more than I like to have to.

Then there are the shadows. I am feeling blue. Unapologetically an absolute total liberal who finds it continually difficult to feel at odds with so many that I just do not understand how they think. I also want some things to be easy for a change. I want Caleb to wake up in the morning and find that his accident was a bad dream, I want the same for a friend who has cancer and one who has Krohn's. I want work to be uncomplicated for a change. I want someone to make the ant damage in my house go away without costing the same as a used car.

So for now I hunker down a bit, feeling like I can't be too down beat because I really don't want a pep talk or drag down everyone else, but not wanting to be upbeat. So I am quiet. I want something different. On Saturday I'll quietly help out on a Habitat project with my son and others and try to feed good karma to the world, I'll go for a longer run and try to feel good about the progress I've made, even though my times are quite lousy for the race I am hoping to do next month.

The glass is half full but it feels like it has a leak in it a small crack that lets energy drain. I need some glue.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Stuff in the road

The rain is heavy, the clouds are low, the wipers are working furiously to keep the vision clear, motion everywhere, claps of loud noise, people trying to pass you and people holding you up.

Oh, you think I am talking about being in the car and these pictures? I guess I can see why but I am not.

A friend posted on her blog that she felt like a squirrel in the road, dashing back and forth, not sure which direction safety lies.

While she has big time issues going on with the well-being and future of a child I think this feeling is all to common.

I am feeling at times like that squirrel and the deer in the headlights. Not sure what direction to go, questioning myself when I make a decision on direction and like both freeze in indecision and sometimes letting time make the decision for me.

At work lately I am neither of these, which is good, but in a way I am both of these. I don't freeze from total indecision, I freeze because another issue has come up that is more immediate and seems to keep pushing everything off to the side. Then when the items that were pushed aside become crucial I lecture myself about having gotten into the situation to begin with.

And then there are the home issues that can only be dealt with during the day but get trampled in the stampede, the carpenters, winter approaching that all compete for space in an already crowded mind.

Its a no win and not a good place to be at.

But I am tenacious and resilient, so I turn up the speed on the wiper and take some more deep breaths, chip away and dream of my run tomorrow morning, when I just accomplish something for me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Random thoughts and pictures

At 5:00 AM it is dark again. As the calendar hits September there is always a dramatic shift. By 8:30 pm its the same. The challenge is how to go running when it is dark and to also be motivated to get out.

The tourists have pretty much left town, though they'll be back for the long weekends. Tanglewood has wrapped up its season as have some of the theater companies, Jefferson Starship, a name from the past, was at Eastover down the street this weekend. I heard them through the trees. The new second home owner neighbors, whom we haven't yet bothered to meet, have gone back to the city. The new full time neighbors, whom we have partially met, seem totally moved in. The neighborhood is quiet although it always is.

The pellets are on order, all 4 tons, and should be arriving any day now for me to start moving them in the garage. That's alot of pellets to be hauling at least twice during the season.

Coming back from kayaking on the river this weekend I parked at the public ramp which is a short dirt road going down to the river off the main road with parking for a few cars. Some city folks had pulled in and were in their lawn chairs eating lunch and they asked me if I knew the name of this nature preserve. It doesn't have a name, I shared, its state and local land and just a boat ramp. It just happens to be along the beautiful river, be surrounded by wetlands and flowers and farm land on the other side of the river running up to the mountains. Actually pretty average, but isn't that wonderful that they are awed by our average. I am too.

The light and clouds are unusual tonight, possible rain, possible storm. I just hope its not too intense and doesn't drive itself in through the outside wall covering where the ants have done their damage.

Back to work from "vacation" and already behind and not happy about it. Vacation should be rest and that one was not.

The Google ads are gone. They say there have been "invalid clicks" and shut me down. I have read its not uncommon and happens to large companies as well little bloggers and the unfortunate thing is that they inform you in a way that implies dishonesty and take back anything that has been earned. While I like Google and am even a small shareholder they are impersonal and big and come across heavy.

My blog got rated by a critic and got an 8 out of 10. Cool, I guess and I get to add their rating button. Perhaps Zagats is next.

So that is the randomness of the day. Measuring out new off season running routes trying to imagine if I'll be able to do a 10 k next month in under an hour, avoiding convention coverage- the red gives me a headache.

The week is almost over- hurray!