Saturday, December 26, 2020

Sounds of Winter

     I woke up this morning to the sound of the snow plow traveling through our neighborhood.   A definitive sound of both the diesel engine and the scrape of the plow blade over the macadam.   It was too early to get up but I was a bit wakeful so my mind wandered off into thoughts of winter sounds.  Here I was in my cozy nest of covers where I began to think of my winter childhoods on the farm.

    The vivid winter sounds I especially remember from my childhood 75 or so years ago arise from sleeping in an unheated bedroom.   Our farmhouse was uninsulated with no storm windows.   The only heat was a kitchen stove and and pot-bellied stove in the living room.  Needless to say, overnight the temperatures in my bedroom mostly matched the outdoor temperature.  On those bitterly cold winter nights I would lie in bed with as many covers as possible, listening the sounds of a storm beating against the clapboards.   The wind would moan and howl!   Loose windows and clapboards would rattle.   I can feel the cold, loneliness and despair even now as I think of the challenge of surviving those discomforts.     Eventually I wold drift off into sleep shutting out the storm sounds.    Then there was the wake up call for my winter morning.   My mother didn't have to shout up the stairs for me to get up!   However, there was a signal that alerted me to rise.  It was the clank of the metal lids on the wood stove in the kitchen.  When I heard several clanks, I knew my mother had started the fire in the stove.   Soon the kitchen would be warm!  After an appropriate interval of time, I would grab my clothes and dash down the stairs to start the day.

    Beyond my childhood memories I've continued  thinking of contemporary winter noises.   There are the noises of both my and my neighbor's snowblowers.  There is the noise of the scraping shovel as another neighbor clears a sidewalk.    And now I can rest in my cozy house and still be in comfort as the wind of the latest snow storm beats on us.   (Just now as I write this blog, our plow people are making another noisy run).

    Now my thoughts turn to the sounds of the ski slopes.   For Eastern skiers, there is the annoying sound of the snowmakers for many days of the season.  Depending on the type of snow maker there are variety of raucous roars to gentle swishes.  I surely like the gentle swishes!  The din of some snowmakers can be overwhelming.  When the snowmakers are shut down there can be blissful near silence on the slopes, especially when we have had a powder snowfall.  Other times we deal with the scrape, scrape, scrape over the hard pack or ice.    Of course each lift has it's characteristic running machinery sound.  On the ride up the mountain the pulleys and cable have both squeaks and hums.     I could go on, but here is the challenge.  Try listening for uniques sounds of winter.   It entertains me!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Back Off

     A beautiful crisp winter morning!  Sun glinting off the snow with sparkles of light.  Should be a great day to go skiing!  I hadn't planned on it though.  Thinking that the weekend day of Saturday would likely be a busy day at Greek Peak I had tentatively decided to stay home and hit the exercise bike.  Skiing during the Covid-19 pandemic has become a challenge.  Too many people in any space is a danger to old guys like me.   Even rides on the quad chair with one other than a close friend can be treacherous.  Yesterday a dude asked to join me.  Once on the chair he lowers his mask!  Hey man, that's not cool.   I didn't say anything but turned my back and hoped than I wouldn't be downwind of him.   Back to today's situation.   

    After showering I took another look outdoors.  The sun was fantastic and the snow continued to beckon me to the slope.  I told my wife Nancy I had a change of heart.  I'm heading for the slopes to get in a few runs.  In fifteen minutes or so I called for an update on the conditions, geared up, and headed out.  On the way I enjoyed listening to my latest audio book and dreamed about the first run.

    Then I arrived at the slope.  Wow!   A ton of cars in the parking lot.   A mega line waiting to get tickets.   And a quick glance to the area around the two lifts showed what kind of a day it could be.  There were mega crowds dispersed in the run up to the lifts.   Ringing in my head was the thought, Back Off old man!   Rethink your day because you really don't want to go through the frustrations of navigating the crowds and the waits and the potential exposure to Covid.   I made a rolling exit from the parking lot and headed home.   I plan to live for another day such as the normal weekdays at the slopes where the early morning geezers have our own little playground.

    Surprised my wife that I had returned.   She applauded me for being circumspect.   Ah well.   Today's exercise became some snow blowing and shoveling and nearly an hour on my recumbent exercise bike.   Didn't have to back off of those activities.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Appreciation For Skilled Trades Workers

     Yesterday saw the completion of a wall board repair project in this study where I am writing this post.  After a completely botched job by a previous tradesperson, our new worker did an amazing job.  In just a few hours over two days we have a very satisfactory outcome.   All this has reminded me to appreciate skilled persons in the various trades.  Be it electricians, plumbers, masons, metalworkers, or various kinds of mechanicians.    I know from experience that I am what is called "a jack of all trades but a master of none".   I'm an engineer and although I probably have a deeper understanding of structures and machines than the trades people, I certainly cannot execute the designs as well as they can.  In summary I really appreciate the work of skilled people.   By the way our most recent experience underscored that diversity in the work force is a boon.   Traditionally big burly dudes often are the vision of people in the trades.  However in our recent project we had a slightly built woman that worked wonders!  Liberation!  I especially appreciate the removal of stereotypes since we have two daughters who are engineers.  Both were pioneers in breaking the stereotypic barriers to success as civil and electrical engineers.

    I had a long active career as an engineering professor and certainly value higher level education.   However a college education is not the path for everyone.   As a society and a country we desperately need qualified and skilled doers!   People who can fix and build things!   During this coming ski season, I surely will be calling on the ski mechanics to sharpen and tune my skis!