Well, here it is September, and I’m still waiting for three consecutive days without rain so I can put the cushions on my lawn chairs. Geronimo, the cat, is still waiting for his first dose of flea repellent. That pretty much sums up the story of how we spent the summer — waiting. Period.
Still, I have found plenty of interesting things to do. Most of my work involves history writing, and that keeps me enough removed from the present that I don’t get deeply entrenched in the here and now. I could easily get depressed over the fact that history repeats itself so often and so few notice, but I don’t. I try to forget, for instance, how many times we have lived through a presidential election like this one simply because it does no good. I find that people prefer to make their own mistakes and let the rest of us suffer for them.
I started working this summer on a newsletter about antiques and collectibles; it has been well-received, and I enjoy it tremendously. I’m fascinated by the things people collect and the number of items they tend to amass. There is always something new in the field of collectibles, and this venture allows me to spend a lot of time in antique stores and flea markets and at garage sales. My associate and I call it our one-day-a-week shopping trip, and we do have a lot of fun. People snap up the newsletter as if it contains gold. I’ve been convinced for years that some of the nicest people in the world are junk dealers, and it’s uplifting to work with them.
The other project that has kept me out of trouble this summer is a history I am working on with two other people on the diamond anniversary of a regional hospital. This has entailed a lot of research, and I have spent countless hours in front of a microfilm viewer at the local library going through old newspapers. And, as I’ve mentioned before, it is impossible for me to ignore all the wonderful bits and pieces of history that pass before my eyes totally unrelated to what I’m researching. Each microfilm session presents me with pile after pile of information for future stories I hope to live long enough to write.
I think it is unfortunate that for so many people, new ideas, areas of operation and acquaintances seem to be rare. In that regard, I’m always grateful for the time I spent working for Ma Bell. Anyone who has ever worked there will tell you that change is constant and you have to be open to it every day. After a while, it not only becomes incredibly easy to accept, you come to look forward to it.
The world seems to be filled with people who claim to be bored and pursue destructive behaviors such as sex or alcohol and drug use in an attempt to add excitement to their lives. I often believe this is because their life experiences have kept them confined to static environments where change is frowned upon or resisted. I know other people who seem to thrive on what most would consider dull, routine lifestyles. The ones I know would find it extremely difficult to do anything else. Most of them think of change as disruptive and intrusive. Because I grew up with a mother who refused to do her washing on Monday mornings because all the neighbors did theirs then, I inherited the need to constantly be in search of that which is different.
For example, while most people avoid eccentric people, I court them. I’m fascinated by people who are considered crazy because they move to a different drumbeat. I had an uncle who once told me that the only freedom he ever experienced was after he had been declared a “certified nut.” Actually, the man was quite brilliant in his own way. For a living, he carved and sold duck decoys. He taught me how to make designs with string, which I found quite marvelous, and also how to speak in pig Latin, which I thought was pretty silly.
One of the joys of my life is creating ways to distribute information. At the moment, I’m determined to find a way to make civics more appealing to young people. I consider neglecting this field of study probably the most egregious error in education today. I remember how excited I used to get writing essays for civics class. It was one of the ways I sharpened my writing skills. Expecting young people to be passionate about democracy when this is the only form of government they have ever known is like expecting them to be thrilled about indoor plumbing when they have never lived without it.
So, I guess it would take me at least another 150 years to complete my to-do list. Folks who complain about having too much time on their hands astound me. Some of my projects, like trying to make the world’s most delicious vegetable soup, are ones I have been working at for about 20 years.
Before fall settles in, I’m still hoping to see a full week of sunshine. In the meantime, I’m waiting.
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