Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Being Thankful for the Underpinnings

    Everyone enjoys being on top of the heap in sports and in the game of life.  Alumni of college teams  finishing in the middle of the heap will lament their standing and even may reduce their giving when it continues year after year.    However, I like to honor all who play the game whatever their success.   Without the lesser teams there is no league to play in and no games to watch.  If you participate with honesty and integrity and do your best you should be honored  along with the stars.
    So it is with life. Those in the trenches are not sufficiently appreciated.  As a long time member of the academic scene I have watched many professors rise to the top of the heap and receive accolades galore.  And don't get me wrong, they clearly deserved it.  However, in the background there are hundreds of people that faithfully go about their menial duties that support academic success.  These people clean the test tubes, mop the floor, dust the blinds, maintain the heating system,  shovel the snow and do dozens of other tasks to make the environment healthy and welcoming.  I am reminded that too often these people are looked down upon.   They clearly deserve our thanks.
    Tomorrow will be Thanksgiving.  I have so many things to be thankful for in my family and friends.   However there is a multitude of  people underpinning the good life we have.  I am vowing to be more conscious of thanking folks who I may not personally know but kindly serve my needs.
   Further, tomorrow we will consume the bounty of our land, provided by the farmers and ranchers far and wide.   We should pause and be thankful for the dedication of farmers over the centuries who have suffered the vagaries of weather and marker fluctuations.   While many farmers have been quite successful, others have slogged away at subsistence level.  Though the subsistence level farmer may not produce huge quantities of products, they still provide a stabilizing output for the entire system as well as maintaining open land for our enjoyment.  Having grown up on a farm that was in our family for four generations before being sold, I can sympathize with a family spotlighted in a New York Times article today.  After  9 generations their farm will be sold to give them funds for their retirement.  Lets hope that some other under appreciated farmer will buy it and maintain and underpinning to the supply chain.
   And closing on the note of appreciation of the underpinnings, I am reminded to thank the lift operators and snow makers that enhance my life on the ski slopes!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Bearing Fruit

  In Psalm 92:12-15 there is commentary on the righteous.  I was struck by the line that says even when they are old and gray they will bear fruit.  I hope that I am in that category.  Certainly I am old and gray.  The part of continuing to bear fruit may be the question to answer.  I would like to think that bearing fruit could mean continually offering my service wherever I am by starting with the question: "What can I do for you today?"   I shocked my wife when I asked her that  this morning,   She was thrilled to immediately lay out a task for me.   And I've already done it.
     I cant take credit for originating the question.  During my round trip delivering Red Cross blood to West Henrietta, New York last night I listened to an audio book, The Road Home by Richard Paul Evans where person in a troubled marriage redeemed himself by putting this question to his wife of several years each day.    And then carrying out her wishes.  I am inclined to think that this is question we can use to improve our lives in any relationship or even a casual encounter.  We can bear fruit in so many ways.
     There was more to the Evans book as a model for redemption.  The primary character was on a journey to redemption after a fantastically successful writing and speaking tour that hurt both his family and members of society.  As a multimillionaire, he goes off the grid after a plane crash ends up declaring him dead because he was mistakenly on the manifest.  Off the grid he decides to walk the entire Route 66 from Chicago to California.  In the process he finds himself and turns from his narcissism to become a philanthropist redeeming the lives of the disadvantaged.   He found a way to overcome his self centeredness and begin to reach out in the sense of actively pursuing how he could reach out and do something for someone else.
      I would guess that all of us have narcissistic tendencies.   I know that I can become obsessed with getting in my time on the slopes.   And more than once I have rushed ahead of my companions to get first tracks on some new powder.  Also, I need to be more aware of the needs of my skier widow wife during the ski season.  I'll even forgo hitting the slopes if the answer to my question to her of:  "What can I do for you today?"  requires immediate attention.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Coping With Updates

   I enjoy my morning exercise on my recumbent stationary bike by reading the latest news both in the local paper and the New York Times.  That is to say I enjoy it more when they apps on my iPad perform without a glitch.  For whatever reason, this morning my New York Times app was particularly quirky.  Recently I had to download a new version of the app because the previous one was no longer supported!  With the old app I had developed a particular rhythm of articles and sections to read.  With the new app all that is upset.
    In the larger context, I am annoyed by the constant updates that are thrown at me both for my phone and my iPad.   I say leave well enough alone for a good length of time.   I want the basics and I want them to work well.   I don't need the sophisticated alterations that seem to be thrown at us ad infinitum.
    When it comes to skiing, we surely have had large updates in technology and instruction.  I guess for the most part that has been good for skiers and the industry.   I just read that New York State ski areas have an electronic card you can load on your computer or phone for skiing at any of the three ski areas and then just show up at the lift and load without going to guest services.  Certainly it is a convenience.   I haven't followed the instructional scene too closely, but I expect new quirks have been added to the instructional methods too.  As long as the changes either in technology or process run smoothly,  I can  live with it.  However,  I reserve the right to complain when the updates disrupt the flow of my day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Betrayal and Redemption

    We had our monthly Tough Old Geezer Skier's luncheon today.  One of our group had quite a story for us.  An employee in the business he owns appears to have embezzled millions of dollars!  Wow!  What a betrayal of the trust of our friend.   In all good faith this employee heading up the business was hired with the expectation of ultimately buying this very successful operation and carrying on the legacy of the company.  How this act will be played out is yet to be determined. Once a betrayal of this magnitude is perpetrated, there seems to be little opportunity for redemption. 
      All of us have suffered betrayals of various kinds.   Some are very personal and close to home.  I can think of several betrayals when I served as an academic administrator.  In some cases there was redemption but for others the only answer was parting of ways with appropriate discipline.
     There are other betrayals that spring from misdeeds of people you admire.  I have been a decades long admirer of Garrison Keillor.   (As I write this I had just  read one of his now weekly columns).   Allegedly he made inappropriate advances to individuals in the course of producing the Prairie Home Companion.   I am not sure that the allegations were as serious as some think but clearly he was rapidly dismissed from Minnesota Public Radio and the Prairie Home Companion cancelled.  In no way do I support misogynistic behavior but let's say I think that he is on a redemptive path.   He, for the most part, has kept a low public profile while continuing his writing and a modest amount of performing.  Thus after a year or so, he has redeemed himself with me.   There are no additional reports of people coming out the woodwork with accusations.   So if find myself getting my daily fix of reading The Writer's Almanac and a weekly  his story telling.   Just a few minutes ago I read his muse on living in a Minnesota winter.   Along with the chuckles I can delight in his preference for a "winter snowscape' over a Key West sun.  Too bad he isn't a skier!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Beauty of Snow

     I know many of my friends and acquaintances groan when the hear about or encounter snow.   What a tragedy!   I can't think of many times I have dreaded a snow storm or any other kind of snowfall event.  However, I'll admit that there have been a few times when I have needed to travel, that the bad roads were not welcomed. 
      I have always enjoyed that snow can appear in all kinds of configurations.  This morning while I was pedaling my recumbent stationary bike for exercise,  the view from my sun room was enhanced by the gentle and silent snowfall of giant flakes.   I was completely struck by how beautiful and peaceful this early snowfall appeared.  It made my day!  Other snowfalls can be as beautiful and sometimes breathtaking.   A blizzard with high winds and blowing snow makes my heart beat faster in awe of the power of nature.   Snow is also an art form from nature.  Following a storm one can revel in the beauty of sculptured drifts and swirls around trees and other objects.   I delight in the diamond like sparkling of the new fallen snow when making first tracks on a crisp and sunny winter morning on the slopes. 
      Many of my contemporaries now take off for the tropical climes in winter.  Good riddance folks!  I will continue to enjoy the infinite configurations of snow both at home and on the slopes.  And I am still happy to run the snow blower and shovel a little bit to be kind to my wife who is still learning to layer her clothes for winter.  Thank God she tolerates my snow mania.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Memory Threads

   Memories are threads in the fabric of life!   When you pull up a memory you find it is connected to a host of other memories.   Perhaps because I just finished writing my memoirs I am especially aware of this. 
    I recently had an extended conversation with some men at the church my wife is serving part time.  They have a rural and agricultural background and they probed my background in agriculture with a few starter questions.  As I began to respond with childhood and other memories of growing up on a fruit farm I discovered one thing kept rolling into another.   Each recollection prompted another memory and so on.  I probably rambled on for 10 minutes or so.  I did pause frequently to see if their eyes were glazing over.  However, they were kind enough to keep encouraging me. 
   In my senior years, I try not to dwell too much on the past.  However, if folks are interested in a bit of oral history I am pleased to oblige.  I try not to repeat myself with my wife.   She is good about giving me gentle reminders when I stray into repetition.
    As we live our lives, what a fabric of a life we weave.  Since this blog is primarily directed to geezer skiers,  I must emphasize when I get together with my contemporary skier group,  I notice that one ski memory will also prompt past related experiences.   It must be that we are all are wired that way.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

On Being a Sport's Fan

     I find that I am drawn to being a sport's fan of the sports that I have participated in some time in my life.   At this stage in my life I no longer participate in some sports of my youth but still can get a good sense of what is going on when I am watching them.   Fortunately, I am still both able to downhill ski and enjoy  watching both competitive and recreational skiers.
     Over the years my sports watching habits have evolved.   At one time enjoyed watching football both live and on TV.   That is not longer the case.  The brutality of the sport has turned me off.   No matter what football game you watch at any level, there will be numerous visits to the field by the trainers to attend to injuries!   And now there is an accumulation of data demonstrating the long term effects of multiple concussions.   Thankfully only one of my male grandchildren played football and probably wasn't the kind of macho player looking for the big hits.  I know my attitude flies in the face of societal norms about football but I am at the point where I'll forgo watching this activity.  However, I confess I still pick up my alma mater's free tickets as a Professor Emeritus and dole them out to friends.  And occasionally I will go to a Cornell game to watch the Big Red Band perform at half-time.   Daughter Victoria and Son-in-Law Matt are alumni of the band and often go to Homecoming.
     Since I am into a negative mode for the moment I have another pet peeve.  How can a person be a fan of watching a person physically beat another person to pulp?  If what boxers and mixed martial arts athletes do to each other was done outside the ring or cage they would be charged with assault with intent to kill.   Don't we have enough violence in the world already?   Again I know I fly in the face of society norms for many people who think that such activity is honorable combat. 
     What do I consider the most satisfying sports to watch?   Obviously I prefer watching both team and individual non-contact sports.  I guess basketball is still a non-contact sport for the most part.  However to me the shot-clock has reduces team play and finesse.  To me the men's game has become run and gun.  Therefore I tend to find the women's game a better game to watch.  What they lack in physicality they make up for in team play and finesse. 
     Another team sport that I have enjoyed lately is volleyball!  The action is fast paced and I am amazed at the reaction times for setting the ball from a kill shot.  There is a great display of athleticism and team cooperation.  In the arena of individual sports, I am an avid tennis fan.  It is a thrill to watch extraordinary movement, grace, and stamina.   Probably because I have played tennis over 75 years I can really identify with the players.
     Finally, back to skiing!  Every day on the slopes I am a fan of anyone there, whether they are expert or amateur.  It is always entertaining while on the lift ride to watch my geezer companions, teenagers, toddlers, ankle biters and the like enjoying gliding with grace or not so much grace, down the slopes!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Yo Yo Time

  I hate time changes!  Going back and forth between standard time and daylight savings time is ridiculous.   It disrupts my routine and my biological rhythms.  Choose one or the other and be done with it!  Medical data demonstrates that time changes can be harmful to our health so I hope someday we will wise up and be steady as she goes.
      With the most recent time change I am reminded of my childhood experience with an aunt, uncle and cousin that refused to change their clocks to daylight savings time.   Aunt Louis, Uncle Frank and Cousin Roger Dennis operated a muck farm and insisted that they would rise with the sun and close their day with sunset with regard only to standard time that they referred to as God's time.  They are now all deceased but their attitude must have carried over to some of my thinking.   Within their cocoon of existence, whatever external standards were set had little influence on their lives.   I do remember, however, that in the days when phones were a rarity, we would visit them by dropping in.  Because we would not want to impose on them the obligation of feeding us, we had to be careful to adjust our visiting time in view of their standard.
     As a skier the  time change in November does provide a marker in anticipation of the beginning of ski season where I live.   Approximately a month from now I can visualize myself on the slopes.   The long wait from last April is about over.   However on the flip side of the yo-yo effect, come March when time changes again, one knows the current season is over.   So goes the rhythms of the years.  Fortunately with a positive attitude we can look forward to both the off ski season as well as the on ski season.  In this past off season my wife and I had a delightful summer of exploring 14 different New York State Parks out of a total of over 130 locations.   I'm hoping we have enough years left to visit the rest of them.   There are amazing gems of parks almost in our back yard!
     Time marches on regardless of how we measure it!