Thursday, August 23, 2012


I learned my concept of time from my 10 year old self.  She could not understand how grownups could forget what it was like to be a child.  She worried about that when she turned 10.  Ten was so old, you used all your fingers to show your age.. you were too old to use your fingers to show your age.  The first graders were small.  Life was passing quickly, it was nearly over.  I was really worried about how getting older would change me.  It seemed to me that adults didn’t do anything that was fun.  They didn’t skate, they didn’t ride bikes, and they didn’t dam the creek and trap tadpoles and crawdads.  Now my mother was saying I was too old to do things, like jump on the bed, or hide my dirty clothes under it.

The day I turned 10 I hid in the cool space between the cherry laurels and the house.  I was as depressed as a 10 year old can be about aging.  I thought forward to who I would be in another 10 years.  It took my breath away.  I’d be so old, then I thought about 30, 40, and hit the impossible, 50.  The 50 year old me would be nearly dead, and not doing anything fun.  She would never climb a tree. She would certainly not remember me.  I wondered.. could I make her remember me?  Would it matter?  Would she be any different? 
So she had an idea, she would save the day.  She looked around at the shadows of the trees on the brick of the house.  She felt the coolness of the dirt and looked up at the clouds above her.  She “saved the day”.  That’s what she called it.  She  did it once in a while.  She even had a chant:  “Now is now and then is then”.  The days she saved were not big events, just ordinary times.  Sitting in class on a hot day with a sticky crinoline with a bulletin board of agricultural products and the smell of the school sweeping compound in the air.  Tracing a shadow on butcher paper.  Running down the road at dusk with a group of  kids.  The joy of climbing a tree. 
When I was 50 I climbed a tree, just for her.  I owed her.

I so like that little girl.  She raised me.  She thought about things and made choices that were mostly good.  She created in me a concept of myself as a continuum. I think of her as a separate person who exists forever at points in time.  I like her.  I wish I could go back sometimes and help her.  Help her understand, give her a hug, ease her worries.
She did a good job.  I do remember.  I have the brilliant captured moments of the boredom of a classroom, the joy of running at dusk after a hot summer day.  I have a perception of myself that feels grounded yet separate.  And I am still looking out for that older me.  The one who will be 80, that separate person who will be me.  I worry about her and want to take care of her.  To help her the way that 10 year old helped me. 
I like to travel, but I’m going to save some trips for her.  They won’t be hard, not Machu Picchu or rafting the Colorado, but they will be full of wonder.  I will save her something beautiful to see for the first time.  She can thank our little friend for that.  After all she started it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The angle of repose

the angle of repose – from 0° to 90°, the maximum angle to the horizontal at which rocks, soil and other objects will remain without sliding, or the maximum angle at  which an object can rest  on a slope without sliding down.
I read Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose a number of years ago, when I was working around a large number of engineers.  It was the first time I had heard of the concept and I was taken by the beauty and imagery of the term. The angle of repose, what a poetic engineer.   Why repose?  The word is such a rich one.  The Free Dictionary gives several definitions in the noun form of the word: resting; freedom from worry, peace of mind; calmness, tranquility.  The verb form takes the word a little further:  to lay down; to rest or relax; to lie dead.

As  the object  of this repose, I find retirement has taken me further from the slipping point than I had  been in a while.  There have been times when the angle was quite steep yet I felt solid, and others when only a slight elevation would have made  me slip.  We are not engineered objects.  It  is more  than friction and gravity that keeps us clinging to our spot.  This  blog will follow my travels  as I navigate  the angles that I seek, and those that find me.