Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The first Snow

Driving home in the dark the temperature goes from 48 to 33 in 45 minutes. The wind picks up and the rain turns to snow.

Not even November and there is a quarter inch of the white stuff and its flying all around. Probably won't be around in the morning and least after the sun rises and things warm up a little. But its the sign of what inevitably comes.

The wind is blowing in that howling hollow sound that is so familiar and so eiry yet somewhat comforting. For it always seems like the wind is going somewhere and I try to imagine where. There are parts of the valley near where I live where I can see Mt Greylock to the north, probably 30 miles as the bird flies but looking as clear as if it were in the next town. So often I know the wind is headed there and then to whip around and head to the east.

The first snow. Familiar yet different each time.

Friday, October 24, 2008

When life is like turning an aircraft carrier

This past week I was chatting with a manager who I recently hired and he said that there were many ways that he knew he could help improve the way his staff did their work and also make it easier, but they didn't want to hear some of it. I listened for a bit then told him to hold on to his ideas and not be discouraged and that we would talk further. Then I briefly shared a philosophy I have used for many years in management and in many aspects of my life that I refer to as "turning the aircraft carrier". Others might call it "taking the long view" but I like the visuals.

I find that I get varying responses from people whenever I share this. Some get it and some don't. Oh well!

This approach has come from some extremely difficult work and personal situations and experiences and when what was up front of me looked pretty bleak and discouraging and borderline hopeless.

The theory is that in turning an aircraft carrier you have to keep your eyes not just on the present but quite a distance into the future. If you want to turn it, or in life want to change something, it doesn't happen automatically and the initial work and decisions seem to have absolutely no impact. But to turn that carrier you have to have a vision of where you want to be and then start to make small changes that will gradually result in a cumulative big change. Plus once you have that change in motion it is much easier to move something that is moving. Eventually you will look back and go "wow" that's a big change that has occurred.

So in my manager's situation, he needs to make little changes that make people more comfortable with the direction he is leading them and gradually increase the number of changes until the cumulative amount of change becomes noticeable.

Is it easy to do this? Hell no. It takes tenacity and patience and a certain degree of optimism ....A few things I have felt blessed to have in varying degrees.

I have been in jobs when in my first week I was met by the IRS wanting payment of penalties for late payment and left the job several years later with it being profitable and healthy. Did I loose sleep and work phenomenal hours for which I was never fully compensated? Absolutely.

But for the most part I was treated well and these happened to be non profit organizations that provided a valuable service in the community and were also good employers to a lot of dedicated people. If I didn't succeed many people were going to loose their jobs. To get to the end where the "wolf was no longer at the door" I had to remember that I was turning an aircraft carrier and have the one year, two year, three year plan.

About a month after starting to run this spring I decided to go out on a limb and shared with someone that my short term goal was to run a 5k in under a half hour by summer and a 10k in under 60 minutes by fall. I have this spreadsheet that has tracked every workout since I started listing every workout by date, time, distance, route, amount of time a 5k would be finished at that pace and a 10k at that pace. I would tweak my routine to get the numbers I wanted.

If you have followed this blog you know that both goals have been accomplished and that I am now a fairly regular runner. Have I questioned my ability at time and worried that I would not be able to do it or would come in last, the proof is right here that I did. But then I put my head back down and worked at it. I also had a goal of being significantly lighter and have also met that goal and as a result have to buy smaller clothes.

So why am I telling this tale and sharing this philosophy? Because I need to remind myself of it at times. I have some challenges I am working on and its very easy for me to want to say I want out or I just want to avoid them. But I know I either shouldn't (the adult in me speaking) and I also know I can't hide from some tough decisions. I need to remind myself that this is nothing new and that I have done this before.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Its cold and tomorrow's 10k

It cold……………….30 degrees in the morning, the grass is covered with frost and it is still just October. The winter fuel supply, 4 tons of pellets, hopefully will be delivered some time next week. It is hard to believe that by next spring I (and yes it is mostly me) will have moved these 4 tons bag by bag into the garage for intermediate storage and then into the house for the stove. If I treat it like a workout then I see the benefit thought I can tell you that I fail to see that benefit hauling in a bag at 11PM to load up the stove for the night. But is inexpensive warm heat so that surely is a benefit

Tomorrow is my first 10k (6.2 miles) race. www.brocktrot.org. A town race that draws a few hundred people. The route is a winding country road with some long hills then looping around Tanglewood and up a steady grade and then off to the back entrance of Shakespeare and Company.

When I started running in February and March my goal was to do a 5k (3.1 miles) by summer and a 10k (6.2 miles) by fall. While I am confident that I will finish, as I often run 7-8 miles along the same route on weekends, my objective tomorrow is to not finish last. My pace for 6 miles is about 60 minutes, which is about 15 minutes faster than the last person in the 2007 race.

But as I look at the predictions it is for 34 degrees at the 9AM start time. So tonight I am digging out the gloves and trying to figure out the layers so I don’t freeze but also don’t overheat. For the 7:30 registration it will be full sweats and fleece.

Then after the race its off to be a parent driver on a teen trick to a corn maze. Should be an interesting Sunday……..

Wish me a warm tail wind…….

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Olivia's Overlook

One of the nicest views around. Up Lenox Mountain a couple of miles from Tanglewood. Olivia's Overlook sits on part of the Yokun Ridge. Owned by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council there are several beautiful trails around the ridge. Click on the title of this post for their page. The opening in the trees was created when a gas pipeline was laid and there is a small parking lot and has a spectacular view of Tanglewood fireworks, watching the stars and just checking out the view like this.

The water is Stockbridge Bowl, a mid sized Berkshire lake. The overlook sits in a spot that is very close to being the intersection of Lenox, Richmond and West Stockbridge.

Here is  More information on Olivia's Overlook that I added in a blog entry on December 3, 2011 with more pictures.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tanglewood off season

As the range and distance of my morning runs has expanded I often find my self running across town past the old white church and the "haunted" B&B and the old cemetery and and along what many would call a country road passing a stable, some extraordinary views of wetlands and past a few farms that have become upscale B&Bs. As I make the turn to head back into town, and then out the other side for home, I come to Tanglewood. This is about an 8 mile run with some serious hills so its become a favorite for early Sunday morning just after sunrise. As I usually don't like to carry the camera when I run distances because of the weight, I came back a little later.

The season is over and the BSO has returned to Boston and the tourists and students are have left this part of town. The vast fields that serve as parking lots are just fields along the brightly colored hills. In the winter we locals gather here for sledding.

The gates are open for walking and sightseers and some local high school cross country teams use the vast lawns for sprinting practice. The shop was open with a 40% off sale for the few people that would venture down to these parts.
The road past Tanglewood goes from Lenox through the backroads of Stockbridge past Kripalu and West Stockbridge and eventually down to Great Barrington, so while there is a good amount of traffic its usually people going somewhere else or like me looking to wander around.

The shed is all closed up to protect it from the snow and driving winds but you can still walk inside and climb up on the stage and wander the aisles.
This will stay closed up until spring when it becomes the site of many of the high school graduations. Having use of such a big place means never having to worry about tickets to these events or the fickleness of the weather.

When I was wandering the lawns there was this lone person with his lawn chair and newspaper enjoying the sun. Hard to believe the 15,000 that crowded this same space a few months back to see James Taylor and thousands would be here several times a week.

Occasionally there will be an event off-season but it will be in the lovely Ozawa Hall concert hall, which is a good walk from the shed and accessible from another point.

The views from the old mansion are extraordinary overlooking Stockbridge Bowl(Lake Mackinac)

or the hills to the west.

As you look at this now it is difficult to comprehend the activity that takes place during the season. The tour buses, the students, the cars and the tourists, the world renown artists who have summer homes a few minutes from here and some that live here year round but are just part of the community and no one special. They are parents who pick their kids up from school or volunteer like us on school projects.

The tourists are here this weekend but it is mainly the leaves they have come to see. Soon the leaves will have fallen and the snow covering the great lawns and an it will sleep 'til spring.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Impacting your tiny corner of the world

I guess I am like most people in wondering if I ever really have an impact on the world around me. That sounded quite defeatist and that extremeness is not what I meant, for of course we have an impact. But do we resonate?

I am mildly neurotic about recycling. Not in an aggressive sense but in a persistent sense. We try to do our part at home in making choices on purchases and usually recycling as much or more than the trash we put out for pick up. I am also not shy when I am at work or church or volunteering at school in retrieving all the tossed water bottles, and plastic containers from the trash and bringing them home. It no longer bothers me that my head is in a barrel poking around for plastics and cans. Often when I do it I get a comment of "oh you are so good and I should do that". Well that wasn't the point (although it really is the point, yes they should, we all should.) But I don't do it to guilt people or make them feel bad, I just do it because it bothers me to see how much stuff is thrown out that can be recycled. Preaching takes up too much energy and laying on guilt never works and makes me seem really compulsive, which I am far from.

But as we have had parties at work, more people started asking if I wanted to take the recyclables and cleaned them and put them aside, then a couple of weeks ago the blue containers appeared for collecting plastics and cans and I was asked if I wanted to share the pick up job, which of course I said yes.....and the containers are close to being full each week. I am still working on the paper recycling at work but that is tougher because there is a cost involved.

Then tonight I was at a parent meeting holding my water bottle that gets refilled about 50 times before it is recycled (yes I know about plastic breaking down) when another parent who I have worked on multiple events and projects with over the years came up to me and said "you know I have become almost like you. You were always pulling out the recyclables and bringing them home that I found myself feeling guilty about throwing the stuff away and now have a bin at work and sort everything at home and I am making others in my family do the same." She added that when her kids gave me a hard time I say "Jeff would be pulling these out""

It made me smile. Ripples in the waters of life.

So if you are reading this I am going to plan this seed, not guilt just an example. Yes I would pick up the empty water or juice bottle and either take it home or find a recycling bin.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Beautiful Day in the Berkshires

A flock of geese grazing among the chopped down corn stalks

A pair of mushrooms in the yard

The valley beyond the lake

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Feeling green

As I observe the evolution of the several blogs that I follow, the writers often get to a point where they inevitably write "why am I doing this" or they stop writing all together or take a long break. There is also that common "who am I speaking to" statement whether the blog gets high traffic or never a hit. I have been there from time to time. What is it that attracts others to check in on your blog? For some it is something dramatic going on or rants that are amusing to follow or challenges. I don't have much drama going on in my life right now. Thank you! For now if anything, I get frustrated because my camera time (which prompts my writing) is more and more when I am in the car and which is very limited and my writing time is when I can get on a computer when there isn't a line at home. Trying to compartmentalize writing is not easy for me.

I feel like I am on the road a lot. In reality I am. I commute around 2000 miles a month plus occasional trips to Boston and then the usual driving around on the weekend. I hate to look at the odometer. It is a tremendous waste of time but I do try to make it useful by listening to books and as a result I am quite well read. I do however find that I occasionally just space out and have to move the book back or I look at the road and go where am I?

From time to time I reach this point where I am in this total fog. I think I have mentioned this before but I am too lazy to look back. So many things are flying at me at work and at home that I feel like a cross between a deer in the headlights and a pro-tennis player in a match. Strange combination? One is total sensory overload and subsequent resentment of this overload the other is that I usually kick in gear and handle the tasks like the balls. Though the past year I feel like so many balls have been coming in my direction that some I just let go by.

Then I feel bad because I couldn't / can't handle it all. Sort of like being at this rail crossing and you have to get to the switch in time to manually move it and when your constantly busy at the other end of the track you can't realistically cover both ends. For me this also has the price of a crash. When I go through phases like this and the output and stimulation is extremely high I just want to just escape from life for a while. In reality I know it is that I want a total realignment of things that I am too late in my career / life combination to accomplish. They say its never too late, but as I have just had another birthday with a number that makes me cringe and face multiple obligations reality overtakes choice, at least for now. Its in these times when I do best if I can cook or play with some clay or take the camera out for a walk or run or kayak. Doing something concrete seems to settle me for a while as there is so much in my world that is not.

Wouldn't it be nice if in life there were runaway ramps like this? When you are going way to fast you can pull off to the side and up the ramp of gravel and cruise to a stop and let traffic pass you by. Though the shock of the stop, sort of like a bungee cord is also a little jarring as a way to stop. Then you have to pay to have the ramp re groomed. In a book I just finished the price listed for re grooming that trucks were forced to pay was $250.

The seasons are changing here in the hills. Its inevitable as life itself. Fall is pretty but I am definitely more of a summer person. Plus when you live in a house with lots of trees you look at the changing leaves not only as foliage but as "when are they going to fall and I have to rake them up.

So as I drive along I look at life over the guardrail and sometimes imaging what it is like down in the yonder valley. The guardrail keeps us contained, though not necessarily safe. I also think about what it must have been like before this highway came through, the contours of the land, the unobstructed valleys. I seem to be traveling through this world of theirs, contained in this metal box along with several other metal boxes moving in the same directions.

How many times have I seen this view. In the morning I travel east to work which of course means that I return to the west. The sunsets are often different and there are special views I look forward to that last only a few seconds. Too quick to even photograph, I've tried. Sometimes the sunset is intense, especially in spring and fall when the sun is in-between being low and high. In the summer the sunset comes long after I am home though occasionally I am leaving late and it is intense. In the winter it is dark at 5 so what is left of the sunset are only the corners on the horizon.

So what is with this green photo? Its a photo of trees and grass taken at 70mph. A blur of color that I just seemed to like. Aren't the colors neat? It also kind of looks like I've been feeling. A little on the green side and we all know its tough being green.

So I await the parting of the fog, the time when I am not feeling as green, a time when I am not the deer in the headlights, a time when I don't feel as wiped as I often do.