Sunday, April 25, 2010

The trees are beginning to fill in and for that brief moment in time there are beautiful views of the mountains and fields that are softened by the light green of spring.

One big thing that sold us on buying the house we are in now was the yard. The house itself is fine, much newer than the money pit we had left behind, on a quiet dead end street and located in a town where real estate retains value and is one of the better school districts in the state. But the house itself, when we saw it, had enormous bird cages in the family room and most of the room were very dark wallpaper, including rooms with only one window facing north and it has electric heat, which in New England draws is costly.

But in a town with a limited number of mid priced houses you make compromises. The irony of our decision to live here for the schools comes back to us on a regular basis as although we live less than a half mile from the high school, neither one of our kids ended up going there. As this is a public blog, I won't get into it much but there are challenges when you don't fit the mold in a very small town and though the schools are great, our kids thrived in a neighboring district 20 minutes away(you can go out of district at no cost) with a larger more diverse population and a broader curriculum.

How hind sight gets you. Had we known a dozen year ago about the job situation and the schools we might have moved somewhere very different.

But that rainy day when we looked at the house a second time, I walked to the back of the yard with the kids, while my wife was in the house. It was the softness of the trees that isolated and defined the property but didn't cut it off and the uneven grade of the land creating pathways and coves that was magical.

But living so near the woods has challenges as the woods is always seeking to reclaim the land, I never realized how much work property is, especially when your power equipment consists of a push mower and a Jeff powered rake and saw. Its good exercise and the kids pitch in when they have the time. But the clearing of all the debris from the winter and spring is where the burning season comes in.

From January through April, with a cheap permit, you can burn. So handling the dead limbs that are always falling and clipping back the bushes that seem to gain 3-4 feet of year each summer as well as disposing of the Christmas tree and wood pellet pallets becomes possible.

I think burning tends to be more of a primal guy thing, having the blazing fire and chopping and hauling wood and brush. It definitely is satisfying seeing things get cleaned up from the winter and the big piles disappear. Plus and area of grass that was previously just weed has a chance to come back seeded.

I know that when the kids are off to college and it is time to downsize there will be some things I'll miss about the house. But it will be the yard that I know I will miss.

Sitting out on the back porch listening to the wind, the animals trouping through, the views of Mt. Greylock in the winter through the bare trees, the way the fog settles between the trees and the blossoms of the trees in spring; camp fires in the back with kids gathering around; the way it connects with the woods and forest and a times becomes one.

I think by then the maintenance will have worn me a bit, as I feel it more and more now, but it will always be something special.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

So two posts in one I was a little on the rushed side this morning having decided to go out for a run and then start on my lists of things to do only to look at the clock and see I had to run out for a few hours. A blurrr!

I have been working on paperwork most of the afternoon. I deal with so much paperwork at work that I am usually loathed to do it at home. But then it backs up. Its tax time and financial aide filing time and I have wrap up a major project as part of volunteer school group, so there is enough to keep me busy for a while. So as I look out in the sunny yard and the rest of the family is off doing more enjoyable things I am doing this. But it is all for a good cause.

This post isn't about complaining, in fact it is about the opposite. I tend to be a "glass is half full" type of guy. Not that I don't complain or feel sorry for myself at times, but I usually get around to the positive and usually try to find the positive in what is going on around me. Sometimes its difficult and sometimes easy and many times it just takes shifting your perspective a bit.

The last couple of weeks I have been feeling like the cheerleader. At work there are major systems upgrades going on and as staff complain that the new features aren't working the way they want, I am pointing out that the new features are finding errors that the old version didn't and once they are fixed it will run fine. Also that while the testing it a pain, it is going mostly well. Rah rah rah!

I'm a parent volunteer for a school a major event (6 shows) that has just been completed for the year. It took more than 3 months and lots of work to put on and many weekend of some people doing things couldn't do and I did things I'd rather not have had to do, but hey we do it for the kids. While most forks were great, I repeatedly heard from a certain group about the parents who wouldn't do "anything" or about the ones who were just willing to bring food for the day long rehearsals or to sell at the shows. Yeah there are always a certain number that don't help out in just about any community endeavor but there were lots of people that in fact were helping out in ways that they could and for some that way was food and say bless them for that gift because that means the rest of us don't have to do it. I also knew that for some of the kids involved that this was a really important thing developmentally and socially to be part of, that their family lives were on the dysfunctional side and there was no way their parents would help. If they were pressured then they would pull their kid from participating. Why is it that we could see this yet the complainers could not?

So each time I heard a complaint, I'd make the correction about how many people I have seen helping out and try to give the positive spin. I 'm not even going to talk about the people that don't help because some of that just becomes gossip.

Then I hear that they really wanted was more people with specific skills. So don't dump on the people who help because you want more people to do something else.

At that point I asked for stage time ( I can be nicely pushy at times) and prepped my "thank you" to all the volunteers that helped out and then did the plug for next year. I heard no more complains for the remainder of the shows. The complainers knew where I stood.

This morning I head off to church and things are different, people are in different places in the church, the music is different and someone forgets to do something at a key moment. I had to smile as I saw people maneuvering around human obstacles and waiting longer than usual and I could almost hear the complaining and I am sure it will be heard later.

Trying to keep a calm sense, I thought of the biblical stories of the time right after the Crucifixion and the chaos and disorder that must have been felt by the apostles and followers of Jesus. Here it is the week after Easter and we too have a little bit of chaos and disorder, how appropriate.

I must admit that being cheerleader is wearing and after a while I want to escape and just be somewhere where no one is going to complain and I find myself slipping into a mood that is that of a crank. The scanner at the grocery store is slow, the car behind me is always too close, the glass is nearing the half empty stage. That is when I need a break.

For now, having been out in the wonderful spring weather, having filed my taxes and organized piles of paper into what it should be, there is still a lot I didn't accomplish this weekend. But there also a lot I did.

So for now I'll get off my soap box. My mission continues, to try to look on the bright side of life, to try not to dwell in the pits too long when things have me down and continue to look for the opportunities and doors that open and not just look at the doors that closed.
So where the hell have I been? I can't recall in the 3 year life of this blog being away for this long. Time accelerates and distance between seems less until you look.

I just got back from a 4 mile run into town. (well actually by now its a few hours ago) Between volunteer commitments on the weekends and several nights and a more hectic work schedule, the time and energy for runs has bee sparse. It help that I keep a log of every time I run with the distance and time to keep a visual reminder of how long its been and what impact the lapse has had on my times.

It a bright sunny morning and has to be in the mid 50s, which is clearly spring and that seems unusual for early April. The past week has been up in the 60s which is definitely unusual, but I'll take it. The forsythia is in bloom, which when I look at photos from last year, came a few weeks later. The daffodils are blooming in the yard and that has been known to not happen til May.

As I ran around in the little downtown of Lenox I was thinking how similar this is to areas like Cape Cod. (I run in one side look around a large circle the run back out to the "other side of town" where we live.) I am sure I have written about this before but it always strike me how life in a tourist area goes on outside the "show" that is for the tourists. There were a few tourists are around (you can tell by the out of state cars) but clearly off season.

The town of Lenox has a small village center but also has a good amount of area outside and the tourists mostly know the village and the "downtown" as all there is to the town. There seem to be more empty store fronts and for rent signs around. Some businesses that just can't make it over the dry spells of the winter and especially January and February which is really dead. Others were places where you knew the business owner had been trying to sell or retire for a while and eventually just closed when the lease ran out. There are still several restaurants and galleries that have been around for years and they seem to have enough of a following with the locals to pull them through the winter.

It will be interesting to see what returns and reopens in the later spring. As a local who works out of the area, the openings of closing of businesses in the business has been more of a remote interest but having two kids who have relied on the local tourist industry for summer jobs makes it more personal than it has been in the past.

More later as now I dash out for another Sunday morning volunteer assignment, I am recycling guy at church this week.