Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter of Sorrow Anew

I feel passionate about a local school issue so I went to the school board meeting tonight.

Afterward, I talked with two of my high school classmates. We discussed the educational issue, but the underlying story is our bad economy.

'Timmy, I drive around New Ipswich all day and you wouldn't believe all of the foreclosure signs. The declining number of students say the same thing.'

Reflecting on our conversation makes me want to cry.

Last winter was a winter of sorrow for so many in our community and we're leading into another. So few have money enough to feed their families and keep their houses warm.

I remember my eldest aunt's life lesson, 'Always believe what the secretaries and the janitors tell you.'

The classmates that I spoke with tonight run our town's garbage collection service.

Our second winter of sorrow started on the shortest day of the year under gently falling snow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Remembering the Ice Storm

Last weekend was difficult and now a few days past, I maybe understand why.

Two years and four days ago, I went to sleep during a lightning storm, losing power and cellphone service.

I wake to the sounds of shot guns blasting one after the other. Boom...echo. Boom! echo.

Confused, I stumble into my hallway and look outside to see a tree top explode and fall through crystalline ice branches and it ~thuds~! on the ground.

Boom! echo

Boom! echo

I put my hunting boots on over and tuck in the legs of my pajama bottoms. I slip on my blaze orange hunting jacket. I walk outside on my icy deck and crunchy ice-covered blades of grass.

Boom! echo

Boom! echo

'Huh.' I think, 'God gives us firewood.'

In the ensuing hours, I learn that all of my cars are damaged. I run the rescue shelter for the morning, because I am a warm body while all of the emergency management professionals are out helping the community.

My dad, uncle, and I spend over two hours with chain saws as we carve a single-lane path down my dirt road to the state highway.

Boom! echo

Boom! echo

I drive out of town, and dreadfully violate some of the most indelible guidelines from my childhood as my tires pass over one downed power line after the other.

Boom! echo

Boom! echo

Two years later, my body reminds me of the stress during the ice storm. Sleeping through the night in 30-degree temperatures in my house.

Moving to my parents for the winter.

Incredulously I am still amazed at how people from outside of my region downplayed the devastation.

Boom! echo

Boom! echo

My property remains littered with trees and branches that continue to fall from the treetops whenever a strong wind passes through New Hampshire.

Boom! echo

Boom! echo

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Runt Died

I sprinkle layer pellets in the runs near each coop, pour the 50 pounds of feed into the feed barrel, and open the egg door on the big coop.

I see Runt, dead, in the bedding.

'Huh, Runt died.' I say quietly to myself.

When she was 4 days old, the other chicks pecked her ear and made her bleed. I separated her so that she could heal. The other chicks didn't let her eat. She was at the bottom of the pecking order.

Months later I put her in with the flock, they all grew and produced eggs.

One severe winter, a mink taunted the flock from outside the fencing. The stronger chickens took the challenge and died. Runt and Whipped Cream, well, they had the courage of a chicken so they avoided the fracas.

They survived.

Runt slowly stopped laying eggs and occasionally produced a mini-egg the size of the tip of my thumb.

The farmer in me knew that she had to go, but my heart pushed the dreaded task to the bottom of my to do list.

Today, I look at her as she lay silently in the dirty bedding on the floor.

I walk down the hill to take my hoe from the fenced in garden. I walk back and use it to gently pull her into a shovel.

Her feet are nestled under her body, claws turned.

In the best way that God's creatures can, Runt died peacefully while roosting in her sleep.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grey Beard

I forced myself to take the entire Thanksgiving holiday weekend off. My ambition is to be so lazy that I stop shaving, too, and my beard slowly fills out over the weekend.

Today I walk into the bathroom, ready to shower, looking in the mirror.

Something is missing.

I grin, 'Grey.'

I lean closer to the mirror.

'Yup. There they are.' I say softly to the mirror, chin jutting out for inspection, and I see a small patch of grey whiskers.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hockey Babe

We see an attractive blonde woman at the top of the stairwell leading up to the first tier of the hockey stadium.

She smiles at us.

We smile back.

She asks, 'Would you like to buy some tickets? One for a dollar or seven for five.'

'What's the prize?'

She pinches the shoulder of her hockey jersey and shakes it gently, 'You win a hockey jersey like this one.'

'Do you come with the jersey?' My 73-year old uncle asks, smiling.

'Unfortunately not, but I'd sell more tickets if I did!'

I start laughing, impressed.

We walk away and I turn to my uncle, 'You don't care what you say anymore, do you?'

He beams up at me smiling, 'Not really.'

Uncle's got game.

'That was smooth!'

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Business and Football

Chris didn't talk.

I met him in the first grade, but everyone said he didn't talk. Teachers occasionally huddled over him, voices gentle and high pitched, encouraging him to speak.

He didn't.

So in the third or fourth grade, I sat next to him a few times, waiting. Finally, we talked a little. 'Smart guy.' I thought. 'Fast runner. Understands stuff.'

I store the information away.

My dad's soft hand, palm to the sky, is the scroll for the next football play. 'Ok, you do a 8-step button hook. Tim, you fake short and go long bomb. Hike on three, ok?'

I run with the button hook kid, pause, and go long. The ball is soon in mid air. My eyes glue to the wobbly spiraling nerf football, running over uneven terrain in our front yard. I watch the ball until it touches my fingertips. Out of mid air, it's mine. Score!

We all yell and holler, celebrating!

That fall in school, silent Chris joins us to play football in the playground. The popular kid is the captain and soon his buddies line up against Chris, myself, and other misfits.

I yell, 'Gwen, wanna play for our team?' My little cousin is fast, we could use her.

My palm faces up, my eyes peering into everyone's eyes on our team. 'Ok, those guys think that Jim is the best, ok? They're going to follow you. So Chris, sort of stall at the line and go long. Gwen, if someone follows Chris, get open, ok? Hike on two.'



The popular boys eyes glue to Jim. They follow. I don't look, but I am sure that silent Chris is smiling as he runs long, forgotten and alone.

I see Jim smothered by defense. I play the fake and yell, 'Gwen, you gotta get open!' The defense shifts and starts attacking me.

Arm back, I heave a wobbly arcing ball to the end zone where Chris is heading.

Everyone watches, slowing, many are curious where the ball is going.

Chris runs.

His hands extend, clutching the ball from mid-air and he scores!

I smile slyly, satisfied, and willing to run the play again and again until we crush the popular boys team.

Fast forward until now when I am determined to build my IT business and I feel a nostalgic sense of football coursing inside.

Palm up.

Eyes locked in to the eyes of my co-workers and business partners.

'Ok, if we do this, it's going to work, because the market is focused in a different direction.

'Seven AM tomorrow, ok?

'We're going to make a positive impression. I'm sure of it.'

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Drifting into Winter

Suddenly, it's cold.

Before I knew it, an early November rain gently swept most of the foliage off the trees.

My roommate rearranged the living room so the couch is perpendicular to the picture window. Now as I relax lengthwise on the couch, my television image is the natural setting outside.

I see a gentle breeze flutter dogged oak leaves. Steely blue clouds drift by that demonstrate the onset of cold. My toes feel cold, too. We are drifting into winter.

In my silent house, I hear the refrigerator motor and the oil furnace cycle as heat wafts up from the radiators. Occasionally I hear sounds from the road below.

The crisp air motivates natural reflection as daylight wanes and we all turn inside our homes to prepare for winter.

Six months ago, the oppressive and stifling heat was starting that would persist through the summer. Daily I drank necessary gallons of water while I sat and typed and launched my new business.

A year ago full of idealistic notions and underlying fear of being unemployed, I drove myself fiercely to carve out a living as an entrepreneur.

A year and a half ago, I worked for a company with a deep private resolve to gracefully break free on my terms.

Two years ago, I was engaged and my cats lumbered daily around my home.

Time passes.

New Hampshire will soon be blanketed in snow and many of us will huddle beneath quilts with hot cups of tea in our hands.

And some, like myself I am sure, will launch ourselves into freshly fallen snow and brave the immediate chill that leads to slowing breath and the sound of ones heartbeat and the security of winter's frosty embrace.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Finn Thing

Every so often I hear, 'Hey, it's Big Chief Many Turkey!' to which I close my eyes and grimace slightly admitting, 'Yup, that's me.'

My half-Finnish friend and I are hunting turkeys one year at his house. The turkeys approach close, closer, closer. I dry fire. Load a shell. Closer, closer, closer.


Four die. My face flushes white, devastated, mumbling, 'I can only shoot one. Oh no. Oh no. What do I do?'

Moments after, my friend races off to a doctor's appointment. We agree that turning myself in is the best thing to do. 'Honesty is the best policy.'

I sigh and load the birds into my car before I drive to turn myself in.

Still devastated, the Fish and Game Officer logs my wrongful acts and asks, 'Are you Finn?'

I look to the ground. 'Yes.'

'Me, too. Are you in Rindge?'

'No, New Ipswich next town east.'

'Ah, the officer in that area always tells us that whenever something happens, we get the story. There's never a doubt that whatever it is, we'll hear the truth.'

I sigh. 'Yup.'

So there's a Finn thing about us where we are married to or genetically pre-disposed to honesty. I hated turning myself in to earn my Big Chief Many Turkey name, but the reality of worrying endlessly about the situation ~without~ turning myself in was worse.

I chose the former, clean pain over the latter. Most of us Finns do.

However, think for a moment. I am a 4th-generation 100% American-Finn. Why American-Finn? Because I was born in Ohio. I'm an American.

Last winter, my distant cousin Jason is over for coffee and says, 'I am American. It's wrong to say we are Finn.'

I narrow my eyes a little in disagreement, thinking.

'You're right. I am American, too.'

But it doesn't feel right to say. Somewhere fused into my body is a nationalistic ideal that I am a Finn.

Jason is right, absolutely. The truth is that we are Americans.

But somewhere inside that I have no words to describe, my sense of honesty, truth, and always telling the story passionately denies the truth that I am an American.

My identity insists, 'I'm a Finn.'

I cannot explain it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Falling Chips

Someone read my blog recently and noted, 'You haven't posted recently. Any plans to?'

The well-crafted question lingered in my thoughts for several weeks and I'll take a few minutes out of my recent entrepreneurial routine to share today.

Before bed last night, I reached down to an open bag of white corn tortilla chips.


The Internet enraptured me.


I continued reading.


'That's probably enough.' I thought, so I tossed the open bag from arm's reach. The heavy chips weighted the bag and it remained upright and open.

Finally, sleep.

Before sunrise, I woke and sat on my couch to conduct some business correspondence. My weight shifted as I sat on the couch. In the periphery of my senses, I noticed a tortilla chip settling into the bag.

I typed.

The chip settled again and my senses heightened.

I grinned knowingly.

I turned to look and I saw a mouse jumping inside the bag of chips, trying to escape.


I turned back to my e-mail.

My roommate stumbled out of his room, grunting as he tried to kick start his 40-year old body into wakefulness.

'Look in the chip bag.' I grinned.


'Serious, look in the bag.'

He peers inside and looks at me, 'A mouse!'

Next morning I ask my roommate, 'What happened to the mouse?'

'I couldn't kill it, so I took a long walk and set it free.'

I nod.

'But when I returned I left the chips outside for the birds so that none of us would accidentally eat them.'