Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Annals of Commuting (I can't believe it's not a run-on sentence #4)

Remember that time you were testing the range of your electric bicycle, newly purchased during what may or may not have been a mid-life crisis, and you pedaled 13 miles to work no problem and made it another six miles to reach an afternoon meeting at another district school the next town over and then you had to make it home 15 more miles in the fast-falling dark, cheering the unseasonably warm temperatures while cursing the gusty headwinds that sapped your battery's strength, and you reached the city limits, less than two miles from your final destination, when the dashboard notified you the motor would be taking the rest of the evening off (note to self: range is about 33 miles), kindly leaving head- and tail-lights shining thanks to a few drips of auxiliary juice and cruelly leaving you feeling all 50 sluggish pounds of the bicycle's weight as you slowly cranked the pedals towards home -- you know, that time earlier tonight when you realized you now had something you could write a slice about?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Mentionables: An Allegory, Maybe

I estimate I've been doing laundry for about a quarter century. The last decade of that stretch has involved a stacked Kenmore washer-dryer wedged into a closet. It's a fairly rote operation with minimal variation. At least, it had been until Monday night when I noticed something new:
There, in the top left, a clothes-hanger icon below a triangular plastic nose, the nose practically begging to be pulled on, so I did. And voila:
An unexpectedly sturdy metal arm now protruded at my disposal. I paused to muse, "Might my mundane chore hang [pun probably intended] on the verge of some quantum leap?" I glanced from dryer unit to laundry basket and back again. My eyes took in the limited room for folding and stacking clean clothes -- few of which actually required any hangers. Clearly, the fine engineers at Kenmore had aimed too low in labeling their space-saving innovation.

"Eureka!" I should've shouted for what was it really but a strategic sock sorting rod.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


I was thinking about W.S. Merwin's poem "For the Anniversary of my Death" this holiday weekend when I returned to the spot where almost exactly two years ago I broke my knee.

"ACL Hill," my skiing partners called it, or "the scene of the crime." It lies below this ridge in a lovely valley near Aspen:

In this case, while I know acutely the significance of the date (January 17), any particular impact blurs under layers of happier memories. I remain thankful for so much -- most recently happy times with friends, enjoying together natural beauty and relative good health.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Talk's not cheap

In our first day back from winter break, students and I dusted off our discussion skills. We created a grab bag (or Frisbee, technically) filled with paper slips on which we'd written "specific topics that people talk about at this time of year." We reviewed different ways to participate in a conversation, which I'd introduced in December -- inspired by Melissa Perlman and A.J. Juliani's discussion game. A random generator picked six students to form a spontaneous discussion group charged with talking for five minutes about one topic they picked while peers observed and later offered fishbowl feedback. Among subjects explored: football, New Year's resolutions, vacation destinations, holiday foods, climate change. Through this process, our awareness sharpened. We started to identify sweet spots where discussions stayed on topic enough while still exploring intriguing tangents, where participants permitted sufficient silence for unexpected ideas to sprout without tumbling irretrievably into dead air, where emerging mindfulness began to outstrip self-consciousness.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

What I learned today from Carol, the Forest Service retiree, and what I thought

We tack pheromone tags to certain trees in our National Forests in order to trick a type of invasive beetle into thinking that other beetles have already taken up residence in said trees, thus likely sparing them from a damaging (in fact, fatal) infestation. Hindsight also tells us that had we stewarded the climate better in the first place such bio-chemistry shenanigans may have proven less necessary.

Two simultaneous thoughts occur to me: (1) Our human capacity to create and solve problems both astounds and alarms. (2) Might there be a pheromone flavor that would inoculate middle-school students from bullies?