A Ragbag of Hobbies
Early on in my life I noticed that everyone I knew, young and old, had a hobby. People knitted, embroidered, painted, sewed, etc. Having a hobby was not on my radar. In my younger days, I was too busy playing with the neighborhood kids. We played sports, made up games. We were rarely bored. Who had time for hobbies with so much fun stuff to do? My parents roped me into taking piano lessons for 6 years. When participation is under duress, the activity can never be called a hobby.
For some unknown reason, I got it in my head that I was supposed to have a hobby. Every allegedly normal person seemed to have one. I wondered if there might be something wrong with me for not joining the society of hobbyers. Maybe I was simply born without the hobby gene. In any case, the issue has plagued me to this very day.
Over the years, I attempted a variety of hobbyish activities. My first endeavor was rug hooking. I designed and made several scatter rugs. It wasn’t very pleasurable. My tendency was to go at it until a rug was finished. I skipped over ‘enjoy the process’ part as I was compelled to see the end result. That turned out to be my M.O. with every subsequent undertaking. I did dabble in several craftsy projects. It was always the same story. My compulsion for completion overrode enjoying the ride. The only exception was my baking phase, which was always about the delicious finished product. I finally smartened up and let the whole hobby thing go. So I thought.
Fast forward to the present, the horrid hobby issue resurfaced. There was a significant period of time between a couple of courses I teach. I felt the need for some creative outlet. My friends had an abundance of brilliant ideas of what I should do. You probably know what that’s like. And there was that ‘should’ again. Nothing really appealed to me. Then I remembered many years ago, I was fascinated with the dulcimer. A possibility, perhaps.
Serendipitously a friend had one and was willing to lend it to me. I could determine the seriousness of my intent without having to purchase one. Attending the Dulcimer Academy of You Tube, I got the hang of it pretty quickly. Even strummed a few songs. However, after a couple of weeks, ennui set in. The dulcimer experiment was over.
Suddenly, a scarey blast from the past hit me. What if I resussitated my piano skills? Hmmm. IfI got a small keyboard, I could play at my leisure, or not; whatever my mood fancied. Off to the store I went and purchased a just right keyboard that fit into my apartment very unobtrusively. This lack of obtrusiveness made it easy to ignore the just right keyboard. I managed to play a few tunes before outfitting it with a lovely dust cover. Every once in awhile the just right keyboard calls out to me. We make some music together and go our separate ways til the next time. The next time has yet to roll around.
There are two morals to this story:
One: If you don’t love and enjoy what you are doing, stop doing it. Something will call your name. When you hear that call, listen.
Two: What matters most is how we live our lives and treat others. Everything else is an accoutrement.
Comments are welcomed.
Make Way For Geese
This year is the 75th anniversary of Robert McCloskey’s children’s book, Make Way For Ducklings. It’s a charming story about a family of Mallards making their home in the Boston Public Gardens. A statue of Mrs. Mallard and her 8 ducklings can be found in the Gardens. This book has been named the official children’s book of Massachusetts.
The other day a friend and I were driving home from a lunch out. Traffic was suddenly held up, but not by a stop light. On our right was a widespread green space. About 20 Canada geese were picnicking on the grass. What held up the traffic were a couple of lollygagger geese sashaying across the highway to join their flock.
We decided to pull over and watch them for abit. As we observed the geese I was sure I heard them talking amongst themselves. They were a disgruntled lot. I gleaned from their chattery honking that they were a gaggle gone rogue.
Their beaks had gotten out of joint over the aforementioned 75th anniversary. They were spewing negativity about all the fuss over ducks. This group of malcontents obviously lost sight of how much press geese have gotten for centuries. And, it wasn’t only about their livers.
I was compelled to talk to the feisty flock and try to offer up a more positive perspective. Knowing geese can be aggressive and being seriously outnumbered, I needed a plan. My friend and I cautiously approached the birds. We offered to share the treats we were bringing home for ourselves if they would give us an audience. Curiosity won out over a proclivity towards nastiness and they agreed.
I began with a reminder of the matriarch of all goosedom, Mother Goose. Their honks sounded like, “Oh,yeah, her. Right.” We further reminded them of some of their amazing attributes and the lessons humans can learn from geese. For example, when flying in the V formation, the flapping of wings provides uplift to the group which allows for further range than flying solo. When the lead goose becomes tired, he backs into one of the other positions. Another goose takes over the point. If a goose drops out, flying becomes more arduous and he will return to the formation. Also, they honk to encourage each other.
It makes a difference when we find ways to work together rather than trying to do things alone. It makes a difference when there is a rotation of responsibility so one person doesn’t get burnt out. It makes a difference when we hear words of encouragement for our efforts and accomplishments.
Geese show empathy and support. If a goose is sick or hurt, two other geese will follow it down. They will stay with that goose until it is able to fly again or dies. We all have what it takes to support and care for each other through difficult times.
Reminding the geese of their strengths and fine qualities resulted in a change from the rampant pettiness to a less critical, more humble demeanor.
Recognition and acknowledgement of character strengths and virtues leads to being more resilient, more productive, more confident, more likely to achieve goals, and happier.
My friend and I thanked the geese and left the treats as promised. Now, in case you were wondering, we wisely refrained from any mention of Christmas dinner.
It was a late August day. The air was cooler and dryer. The sun was setting a little earlier. Fair season was beginning. Even though there were still many warm days ahead, there was also a sudden feeling that the first small step into autumn had been taken.
Sometimes metaphors get mixed. I found it more fun mixing Elizabeth Barrett Browning with Maria Von Trapp. Autumn, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
County fairs and fresh produce markets,
Apples and pumpkins and hot roasted chestnuts,
Cider and doughnuts and cool moonlit evenings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Leaves of bright colors at peak for the viewing,
The first sign of wood smoke through the air swirling,
Hay rides and scarecrows and fun family gatherings,
These are some more of my favorite things.
There you have it - poetic license run amuck. Since poetry is not my forte, it would have gotten even muckier had I tried to wax poetic about how much I enjoy the swooshing and crunching sounds from walking on leaf covered paths. Or if I tried to poeticize (it’s a real word) the wonderful aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice wafting from baked goods and hot mulled drinks.
I’m not into rushing the season. However, it was nice to experience a momentary reverie of some autumn delights. We all know too well, about the middle of autumn, harsh reality sets in. There skulking around some corner is winter, glowering and smirking, rubbing it’s icy hands together revving up to lunge at us with all its stormy bluster. That is unequivocally my most UNfavorite thing
Returning to the present. There is the vibe of back to school in the air. If I knew your address I would send you a beautiful bouquet of Crayola crayons.
There is a story behind Rule #6. I’m offering up a synopsis . The unabridged account contains more words than I want to type. Maybe even more words than you’d care to read.
Essentially, there were two Prime Ministers meeting. At different points throughout their conversation, a staff person of the home PM interrupted them in varying degrees of frenzy and irritation. Each time a staffer came into the room, the home PM would say “Peter, Marie or whoever, Rule #6.” Peter, Marie or whoever would leave smiling.
Finally, after seeing the immediate mood changes of the staffers, the visiting PM asked his friend what is Rule #6. The answer was Rule # 6 states, “Don’t take yourself so damn seriously.” “And what about rules 1 through 5?” inquired the visiting PM. The reply was, “Oh, there aren’t any.”
Apparantly, placards with Rule #6 printed on them have been posted in a number of corporations. The full story can be found in The Art of Possibility by Benjamin Zander and Rosamond Stone Zander.
Life can be hard at times. We are all faced throughout the years with a wide range of challenges. Maybe all it takes now and then is a simple smile to change the tone of a situation. And, as the wizard down the street will tell us, when the going gets tough, remember Rule #6.