Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On Being Nicer

When all is well, the status quo is easy to maintain and even to embrace despite its not always being what should be, but rather what is.

It's often in times of trouble that various aspects of one's identity get a scrubbing down to raw nerves, and after you've encountered yourself at the cut and bloodied level you need to rethink how you're going to put the meat back on those bones laid bare beside the dendrites and synapses.

I'm often described as curmudgeonly by those who know me best because I find it almost reflexive to mouth off whenever any little thing intrudes to soil my day in any way.  Recent events make me want to change that about myself.

I was driving out to do some work in my classroom this morning when somebody approaching from the opposite direction at a traffic light made a quick left turn right in front of me.  Immediately, I heard myself calling that person a choice word.  That's when it hit me that I ought to do some work on trying to put positive spins on things that automatically tick me off.

I considered for a moment right then and there that maybe there was a reason (albeit not a very good one from my own perspective) for why that person thought it necessary to cut through the right of way rather dangerously.  Maybe she'd been warned that being late for work one more time would result in drastic action.  I argued with myself a little after that, thinking that she should have gotten up earlier and rushed through her morning ritual more expediently.  But, I counter-argued, what if one of her kids threw up just as she was about to strap him into his car seat?  What if someone had called her about something important that had her running late?  What if?  What if?  I recited a bunch of viable reasons for why she might have been running late or in such a hurry.

I realized that often I'm the term I'd found myself calling that other driver.  I vowed to be nicer.  To give others some benefit of doubt instead of letting my reactions run on auto-pilot.  To savor my own drive, or walk, or conversation, or meal, or whatnot, though it might be made a little different because of the actions of others that don't necessarily suit me.

Because it's just impossible for everybody else to be the terminus of the digestive process all of the time.  Sometimes it's me.

For the record, the English teacher in me wants to change that to "Sometimes it's I," but I'm trying to cut others a little slack here.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Country Ride

I took a moderately long ride today in what I call "the country."  It's only about 15 miles from where I sit when I'm typically typing something here, but it might as well be 100 miles away for its isolation from convenient sources of bread and milk.  Yes, that "bread and milk" thing is important to me, having always lived within walking distance of both, even now when what I consider to be a reasonable walking distance is much shorter than it was even ten years ago.

To be sure, I love the country, but in the same way that I love dogs.  I love other people's dogs.  I love other people's homes in the country.  I don't want a dog that lives in my home, and I don't want a home in the country, though the latter I might keep if one fell into my lap figuratively, while I most assuredly would not want the former to stick around for more than just a visit if a representative example leaped into my lap quite literally.

As is sometimes the case, there was no particular issue, thought, or problem running through my head as I rode along today; rather, the thoughts flowed from what I was seeing as I came around the next curve or topped the next rise.  My "captions" for the pictures here will be extensions of those thoughts that I remember having in the moments in which the pictures were snapped.

When I choose to visit the particular area in which I rode today, it's a simple left turn off a main thoroughfare that takes me quickly from tightly packed neighborhoods into places where there is sometimes little to see but nature itself for miles at a clip.  These boxcars provide a bit of visual relief from roadway and greenery.  The railroad right of way dates back to within a few years of the end of the Civil War and was built by the Lehigh Valley Railroad as a hub from which to distribute its main commodity, coal, from right here where it was mined in the Wyoming Valley and surrounding regions.

No matter where I go, the mountains are never far out of sight.  I remember riding home from my Uncle Joe's house after an occasional Sunday or holiday evening visit with my family and being amazed at how the moon seemed to follow the car all the way home.  So it seems the mountains follow us here in the valley, though it is we who are following them southwest to northeast not only through here, but all across Pennsylvania.

Today, as my favorite poet once wrote about, I took a road less traveled by, in this case the tired and worn one you see here beside an old church and graveyard.  Were I to retain some degree of sight and sentience beyond my interment, I'd not mind a view such as this which seems to kiss heaven itself in the distance.

This photo has potential to become one of my all time favorites.  I shot it through the window of the old church and it is somewhat ethereal with the reflection of me juxtaposed with the vastness of the sky, the linear regularity of the pews, and the windows that almost seem to provide glimpses into other worlds.

It would seem that the passage of time affects what is below and what is above in similar fashion.  Nothing is forever, least of all we who seek to be remembered long past our mortal existences.

Right outside the churchyard a left turn brings the living world back into a view that seems to go on for miles.
It is a fitting end to the time spent among the markers of those who have gone on before us.

I think I'd not mind visiting a museum that has nothing in it but pictures of simple, pastoral scenes such as this one.  Now and then I do find a spot that would quickly make that bread and milk thing seem not important at all.  If I could build a home right here on the spot from which I snapped this photo, I might.  Perhaps I could have a cow or two of my own for milk, and learn to bake a perfect loaf of bread.

There were no children to watch as I rode into Milwaukee, though at the outset of my ride, before I left the city, I heard a child on a porch cry out, "Motorcycle!" as I rode by which made me chuckle.  Of Algonquin origin, "Milwaukee" suggests a place of beauty, and pleasant land.  Indeed, this village is aptly named.

There was precisely one place of business on its Main Street, the Old Milwaukee Cafe and Bakery.  Were I a more patient sort, and not afraid of a little rain like one of my blogging heroes, Steve Williams of "Scooter in the Sticks," I'd have purchased something to eat right here in the front window and taken the time to record the treat itself for you to partake in vicariously.  I was in a little bit of a hurry at this point, though, in having remembered that the hourly forecast when I had seen it this morning showed some possible precipitation for around 1 p.m. and it was about 12:30.  I selected a thick slab of blueberry cobbler to take with me and got back on the road.

But, not before getting this shot of the quaint exterior with my trusty Piaggio posed out front.  Had I been there with the car, I might have lingered just a bit longer to soak up the sight of this place and its ambient charm.  I'll return.  It's that kind of place.

I cannot imagine, except in the same "romantic" way that I imagine the working life of a railroad engineer to be, working a farm to earn a living.  That getting up early, being one's own boss, living off the land all sounds wonderful to me on paper, but I doubt that I'd survive a single day as a working farmer.    God bless the men and women who raise our food, especially the many small farmers here in Pennsylvania who are struggling to keep their farms going for another generation.

And, God bless the internal combustion engine and all those folks who understand how such things work and keep them going for the rest of us who know little more than "turn the key, give it some gas, and go!"

A swing through McDade Park in Scranton provides this pleasant view.  The U.S. Bureau of Economic Research recently named the greater Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area among its least happy places in the country.  Happiness is what you make it, though.  As long as I can find joy in the sight of something as simple as this fountain, I don't have much to complain about in living here.

And rounding out today's trip is this final picture of the scooter posed in front of St. George's Orthodox Greek Catholic Church around the corner from Scranton in Taylor, Pa.  Though I've never been inside I find this to be one of the most beautiful churches in the area.  Its blue roof suggests that it is an extension of the sky and the Celestial Abode itself which, I suppose, is what a church of any kind should be.

My stop in front of the church was, indeed, a fitting ending to today's ride in which I was treated to so much of the visual goodness that has been put into the world for our enjoyment.  May we never lose sight of all that!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dinner for One

Sometimes I feel a little guilty when my posts here don't directly pertain to scootering in some way because this was supposed to be, and still is, a "scooter blog." In this entry I will attempt to tie together an aspect of my personality with the scootering theme that almost makes sense to me.

When I started college and chose psychology as my major I used to claim that my choice was because I wanted to understand myself.  I believe now at the ripe age of 56 that we give far too much credit to 18-year-olds embarking on college careers in that we believe they are capable of making decisions as wise as they might be if they weren't quite so green.  There was nothing in my study of psychology that even remotely explained to me why I made some of the choices I made, why I did some of the things I chose to do, and even why it took so long for me to realize that psychology was at best a pseudoscience.  I have, however, figured out a thing or two about myself through the years and can credit scootering more than studying psychology for the conclusions to which I have come.  So it is with this current entry, "Dinner for One."

I grew up in a home in which my mom, dad, sister, and I lived with my maternal grandparents and my bachelor uncle.  It was a traditional home in that all of us gathered for dinner at the appointed hour each and every day.  When I was in the fourth grade our nuclear unit moved to a home that my parents had had built and that tradition continued with one noteworthy exception.  Each year on my parents' wedding anniversary the four of us went out to dinner to a small bar and grill where, no doubt, my dad took my mom on some of their dates because my sister and I remember being told over and over again about how the lobster dinners there used to cost $.90 back in the day when three good-sized tails along with fries and coleslaw could be had for that price.

Eventually I left mom and dad's house, got married, and the tradition continued even as my girls were born and were growing up.  Each and every night we sat down to dinner together at the kitchen table with an occasional restaurant meal thrown in for good measure.

It was, a paradigm shaker, when about 10 years ago my younger daughter returned home one evening after having worked on a school project at a friend's house.  When I asked what she had had for dinner she replied," Emily made us macaroni and cheese."

"But what did their family have for dinner," I asked?

"Oh, they don't have dinner together.  They just make whatever they want when they're hungry."

It had never occurred to me, in my then 40 some years that there might be a family that did not sit down to dinner together every day or at least on a regular basis most of the time.

All of that leads up to this.  Because of my assumption that all families sat down to dinner together just about every day, all my life it broke my heart to go to a restaurant with my family and see anybody eating a meal alone.  I had always assumed the worst whenever I saw someone dining alone.  A spouse had died, perhaps.  A falling out with one's family had left one estranged from them.  Whatever.  It just never entered my thoughts that someone might be eating alone because one lives quite happily alone.  I never thought that perhaps a single person living alone didn't feel like cooking dinner that particular night and went out to enjoy a restaurant meal.

And what does this have to do with scootering?  Precisely this.  It wasn't until I began scootering that I was ever truly comfortable with myself.  My alone self.  It has been riding the scooter for these past seven years that has put me in touch with my alone self, and which has made me comfortable in appreciating and enjoying my own company when I am alone.  I would have chosen to go hungry before ever sitting down to eat by myself in a restaurant because I did not want to be perceived as that "poor person eating alone."

This evening I went to a local buffet and had a splendid meal with one of my favorite persons – myself!  It felt like a glorious scooter ride, but with food.  We no longer live in that same world in which I grew up where home was the place where they had to take you in and where you could count on a delicious dinner with the rest of the family each and every day.  I guess, I'm okay with that after all, because if you can't ride a scooter by yourself you are bound to miss out on a lot of fun, and maybe even go hungry now and then.