Over the River…

Over the river and through the woods…

Both of my maternal grandparents were dead long before I was born, but my mother and I sang this poem on long car rides to family dinners (she had many siblings that got together often). I never knew where it came from until now. I imagine she did actually sing it in a sleigh going to her grandparents’ house.

The Grandparent Effect

Non-Fiction Now

So yes, I went to the Non-Fiction Now Conference. Of course, I did not have to travel far. Just across town. That’s physical travel, of course.

Psychic travel went much further. Back to the excitement of learning. Of being among people who are striving through a singular endeavor — yet with individual destinations. Young and old (like me).

Such a range of people. From experts and high-end producers to those just starting out (like me). From those with supreme confidence (cocky, shall we say) to those working through grave self-doubts. I’m somewhere in between — an explorer.

Three days of fun. I couldn’t keep up with the young ones, who ran a schedule beginning at 9 a.m. and ended when the 9 p.m. readings at coffee houses wound down. I took a break on Friday night to keep to my regular symphony commitment with my very important wife. That’s a very important change from behavior in previous professions — family first, life first. We’ll make this writing part of life, not the whole life.

What did I gain at this conference?

  • Inspiration: Brian Doyle was great; others, too.
  • Perspective: All those different people; all those different presses. (I heard no one here mention self-publishing. This is a world of academics. Publish or perish is their world.)
  • Recollection: Experts, too, should strive for perspective and sometimes they don’t. One panel with an exciting title about research was all about navel-gazing. Literally, one panelist read her research on navels, which was, indubitably, interesting. But then each panelist read his or her research. That’s it. No thread binding these interesting vignettes together. No lesson. Just an implication from the panel’s title that only academics were legitimate researchers. Hmm — not impressed.
  • More books for the shelf. At discounted prices.
  • Reminder: Closed minds are everywhere. One woman walked out of a panel. She later told me she felt her religion (“Christianity”) was being insulted and she wasn’t putting up with that “anymore.” Really?

Glad I went. Now, back to the keyboard. Typewriter

Retirement

This is the first time in forty years that I’ve not held a professional license from one state or another. It feels good.

What am I going to do? Over the next month, I’m going to enjoy a visit with friends who are coming from Chicago, go to Iowa to visit family, play in a three-day golf tournament at Flagstaff Ranch, get reacquainted with the Oakcreek Country Club (as well as play at Continental as long as the weather holds and the greens aren’t punched), hang some pictures, and watch the leaves change.  At the end of the month, I’m going to attend the Non-Fiction Now Conference. Then, we’ll see what November brings – hopefully, days of writing and golf.

What I’m NOT doing: Moving from Flagstaff, taking a big trip, going off the deep-end (I hope).

Emerson

Studying Ralph Waldo Emerson in my junior year of high school had one of the most profound impacts on my thinking.

The copy of the collection of his essays which I bought with my allowance that summer is something I hope to never lose. I consulted it often through college and often thereafter. Still, when I stumble across one of his quotations, my mind goes on alert.

Emerson

Oliver Sacks: My Periodic Table – The New York Times

OutlookGraphic_BinocularsAn essay worth saving:

Oliver Sacks: My Periodic Table – The New York Times.

I’m not a scientist, but I appreciate his attachment to physical things. Perhaps I shouldn’t feel so compelled to weed-out my “junk.”

Stall?

My book effort has been sidetracked. I don’t think it’s stalled. I think I’ve just been busy with life.

This authorship is a third career for me and I’m trying to avoid the mistakes I made in the first two careers — the primary one being that I made the career the number one priority in my life and living my life secondary. This time, I took a week off to spend full time with my family over the 4th of July; to enjoy our wonderful town of Flagstaff; and to celebrate my love’s 70th birthday. (We’re thinking of that as the new 50.)

I’m also not getting younger and I need to work on staying physically fit. Before 40, I barely thought about that. At 65, it’s a primary focus and it needs to be if I am going to accomplish anything else, including writing a book, or books. I’m in training with a golf coach and I spend at least an hour every day in vigorous exercise and more hours several days a week on skills training and enjoying the game. This also has become a significant part of my social life.

Finally, I also need to close out career #2. It’s not as easy as resigning and walking out the door. There are commitments to honor and investments to divest. That’s getting done. It takes time from the book effort. But that should stop in a few months.

I know I have the discipline to write. I proved it in college, law school, and in two prior careers. So, when life stops interfering, I’ll get back to the discipline of blocking hours at least 4 days per week to sit in my chair and write the book.

Loving life….not in stall.

On Mistakes — and one in particular

April 1865  book coverThe historian, Jay Winik, in his book April 1865 argues that the manner in which Grant and Lincoln allowed Lee to surrender “saved America” — at least from several years of guerrilla warfare.

Unfortunately, by giving the Confederate States the illusion that their cause was honorable — when it was, in fact, traitorous and immoral, the way the war ended has led to 150-plus years of murder and hate. Yes, it’s easy to look back at the leaders in history and say they shouldn’t have done what they did. That their short-term vision cost us too much.

But, let’s not just blame them. Let’s now take the hard step and call the Confederate cause what it truly was: A traitorous rebellion against the United States of America, which was fought to preserve an immoral institution. There is no honor there. That must be repeated over and over for a few decades — at least a generation. Just as Hitler’s flag and the cause of Nazism were degraded after the 2d World War, so must the Confederate cause and flag be dishonored — even at this late date.

The leaders in 1865 may have made a mistake. We don’t need to keep perpetuating it.

Read: WHAT THIS CRUEL WAR WAS OVER — THE ATLANTIC.