Saturday, June 24, 2017

Of Music, Men, and Chipmunks

It was and still is a rainy day. All day. "So what kind of tasks should I take on?" I asked myself. I started a book that I downloaded to my Kindle a few weeks ago and got well into it by the time the ladies were up and functional. I haven't been reading much lately and it felt good to see a new plot unfold.

Then I went out to the garage and to the stall I take over for the summer as my seasonal "man cave" and wondered what I should do there besides just grab a guitar, sit down, and start playing. Then I looked at the overstuffed, orange folder with many copies of music and lyrics to an amazingly eclectic bunch of song. Everything from Clapton to Hoagy Carmichael to Ry Cooder, The Band, Cyndi Lauper, The Rankins, etc. I borrowed a paper punch from the Cooker and a three ring binder I had salvaged from work and went to organizing. There were pages upside down, single songs in several places as I had dropped the folder previously and just stuck everything back in it.

I got it all punched and just about alphabetized when I got distracted by one of my guitars. It is very difficult to have some nearby and not want to play something. I picked up my little Martin and after playing it I remembered that I wanted to put a strap button on it to make it more comfortable to play while standing.

I also remembered that I didn't have a strap button and that I would probably have to order one. They are only a few bucks, but I was looking at a few days and would probably put it off again. Then I remembered my friend Dave the Luthier (also co-owner of Hungry Jack Outfitters) and since it was after 9 a.m. I decided to call him. I like a man who answers his own phone and I asked him if he had any strap buttons. He said maybe a hundred or so. I imagined he had these and a lot more.
The question was did I want to drive up the Gunflint Trail for about 30 miles for a three dollar part? Dave said he was coming to town in a few days and could drop it off where I work. I said okay to that, but this still put me in procrastination mode. I went back to putzing around the garage and house for a bit and a little while later the phone rang. It was Dave and he said that he had to make a run to town for a plumbing fixture and could stop by with a strap button.

While I waited i did an online search to see if there were any installation tips I could find. Here were some options.
I chose position 5 as I have my 12 string set up that way. Dave showed up with the button and one of his commissioned guitars for me to check out. I asked for his thoughts on installation and felt at ease with my decisions.

BUT the guitar he brought was gorgeous and 99% finished. It had a contoured body with the soundhole(s) on the upper side where the player would hear it as much as any audience.
This isn't Dave's as I wasn't smart enough to get a photo, but it is somewhat similar. I was too busy enjoying the feel and sound of it to go get a camera. The finish was exquisite and Dave checked to make sure my fingernails weren't too long. Had they been I would have immediately cut them to the quick if need be. His creation was unique, comfortable, and sounded wonderful. I may have to start a separate savings account.

Alas, all fun things end too soon, but as we stood in the driveway in a very light rain we were entertained by a couple of chipmunks who were scurrying past us slightly overloaded with sunflower seeds. We wondered how the excess weight in their cheeks didn't cause them to fall forward.
They seemed to defy the laws of physics. How they can run with their center of gravity that far forward defies logic.

Hopefully, I'll finish today's projects tomorrow. Except for the strap button. I got that done.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lofty Goals

I've never been one to set a lot of specific goals to get things done. Usually, I keep a list of things in my head until the list gets long and then I have to write things down, but rarely have I prioritized tasks. Nowadays people of the older generation, of which I am becoming one of depending on your perspective, make "bucket lists". These are things to do before they kick the bucket, or as we call it more directly, die.

When I turned sixty a lot of shit started to happen to remind me of my mortality (i.e. I really can be killed!). I got prostate cancer, had my knees replaced, and I got skin cancer, all within five years time. Until age sixty I had not spent the night in a hospital since I was six years old.

I have done a lot of fun things in my life, but some things call me back and I want to get a chance to do them while I have a break in my varied infirmities.

My brother and I are planning a trip back to Norway around next May and I have decided after looking at it for years that I would like to take the hike up to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock).

It sits about 2000 feet (604 meters) above Lysefjord. It is a ferry and bus trip from Stavanger to the trail base which is already at about 250 meters (820 feet) so it isn't too bad of a climb and is a well-used trail in fact. Base jumpers like it because of the shear drop off. It is less than 4 miles round trip and takes about 4 hours, so they say. I can hope for a sunny day for the photo ops.

Twenty years ago I would not have had to think twice about a spur of the moment hike like that, but ten years ago would have taken a little preparation. Now it is a different set of rules. Getting in shape takes longer now. I have been walking a mile at a fast pace most evenings after work because that is when I can squeeze it in (and I am no longer winded, only sweaty). The terrain is fairly flat. It is the same walk I took with Smokey the dog. I am not supposed to run with these new knees, but walking, biking, and cross country skiing are all okay to do. The walk from the lake to just above the farm is about a 700 foot rise over about 2-1/4 miles, so that should be a good training walk to do regularly. Keeping in shape through the winter is tougher, but there are ways and I will find them.

I was as fat as I ever have been last summer at about 224 pounds, but am closing in tight on 200 now. Should be under it by next weekend. My Buddha belly is on the wane and I will be very comfortable in about 15 more pounds. I am officially at 5' 10-3/4" according to my physical last month and while I didn't regain all my previous height when I got my new knees this is an okay place to be. Like I have a choice.

Maybe I'll get a shot like this.

I remember back to doing a spur of the moment day hike about 25 0r 30 years ago on Mt Rainier in Washington. I went from the parking lot to Camp Muir on afternoon on a whim. It started at about 5000 feet and went to 10000 feet and was five miles each way. It was a nice afternoon hike, but my running shoes were pretty well shredded from the rocks when I got done. And I felt about 6 inches shorter because of the compression on my knees, but I was just fine. Glad I did it back then.

If I am able to pull this off I will have some nice pictures to show off the following month at my 45th college reunion.

In the meantime I'll enjoy my walks and watch the changes in the plants and animals. It keeps me grounded to be aware of the cycles of life and to accept the inevitable. But the beauty in all of that still makes me smile.

Here is my walk this week.

 Lupines on top, thimbleberry flowers (solstice flowers), orange hawkweed, lupine leaves. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Life After Dog Sitting

I am trying to continue the good things Smokey the dog taught me while we cohabited. I watch the world around me and go for walks, but I don't nap as much as she does. She is nearly 15 years old which is about105 in people years so I hope I don't need to nap so much yet.

Lots of birds are back and hanging around.
This ruby-throated hummingbird kept turning his back on me, but the siskins, goldfinches, and rose-breasted grosbeaks weren't as aloof.
The purple finches were more personable.

I had to make a very quick trip to the Twin Cities to pick up a guitar that had had some maintenance done and before I headed back I found a park with free admission to go hike around. It seems Smokey got me to the point of needing to walk regularly otherwise I feel like a toad or slug or some other chubby, semi-dormant animal and get easily disgusted with myself. I get over the self loathing if I walk regularly. I feel better, too.

Basically I was walking on cross country ski trails that look like fun to ski during the cooler part of the year. Being well out of the city it was also cooler than the concrete heat sink of urban world. There are, however, some trade offs between city and country living. Here is a sign that mentions one of those things.
Most of the trails are between one and four miles in length and are relatively easy walks. My time was limited and I wasn't sure how I would hold up in the heat (it was in the low 80s) as I am not used to it.

There were lots of mighty oak trees (we don't have those this far north) and they are quite prolific judging by the quantity.

There was a bit of wildlife in the park, too, although it stayed hidden for the most part. Being the keen observer that I am (I can actually see the forest for the trees!) I spotted a few interesting denizens. A lovely garter snake showed herself and didn't crawl away from me right away. I asked if she minded if I took her picture and she said, "no" in the way garter snakes convey those things.
There was a small contingent of Canada geese. If you look closely you may be able to see the little maple leaf insignia on their wings, but you have to know just where to look.
There were nice places to sit and observe the surroundings and the bugs weren't too annoying had I chose to sit, but Smokey taught me not to do it for too long. Otherwise I might stiffen up and lose my motivation to keep pushing forward.
There was also evidence of the cycle of life that is the essence of nature. Sometimes unpleasant for we humans, but a fact of life nonetheless. This is a spot where a bird of prey caught another unsuspecting bird and ate it. It is quick and efficient and there is very little suffering involved.
Smokey's wisdom about the aging process keeps me grounded and accepting of the things I can't change. Always be happy to be among friends, get used to physical discomfort and remember all the wonders you have seen and experienced. It all makes it a bit easier to go forward with this thing called life. Smokey is a very wise dog. I still see her Monday through Friday at work and we always take our moments together as something special where we block out the rest of the world. It is just us and we touch each other and smile knowingly.