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Keep the Change

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Keep the Change

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. Not my usual habit as I’m generally doing a lot of carpentry or chores punctuated by eating and sleeping. The only meaningful reading being that of blueprints, shop drawings or instruction manuals of tools and, of course, the River Journal. But almost two years ago, a ladder let me down in an unfriendly way and quite a few body parts are still trying to “reconnect” with their former constituents.

The good news is I haven’t been compelled to do some of the crazy, work- related stunts I’ve often done over the years. The bad news is I can no longer do those crazy stunts! Not unlike being accustomed to changing light bulbs on a ceiling fixture without resorting to a step ladder or some other ‘get-upon’, and then realizing you’re no longer 6’-2” but a somewhat compressed and depressing version of it. 

It is often lipfarted that “a change will do ya good” or “life can change on a dime” but all I can think of is a dime’s worth of screws and a short 2x4 would have prevented this change in my life from ever happening at all. Anyone venturing up a ladder, no matter how benign and helpful it may appear to the naked eye, with one foot on that first rung, pause and ask yourself if you’re ready (physically, financially and mentally) for it to be your last ascent.

When I no longer whimper while doing a few jumping jacks, I’ll know I’m getting close to mended. I’m close to being close (still moderate whimpering accompanied by the sounds Rice Krispies make when they go swimming). But being unable to do much of anything constructive has produced reading time in a whole new realm for me. And, so far, it’s the only cool thing encountered on this long road to recovery. Without a doubt, if I had been solely relegated to only the TV remote to keep my head straight, I would have gone off to “clean my gun” for relief.

Good thing, too, as my post-surgery reading list began with Ivan Doig’s “The Bartender’s Tale.” With that hook firmly buried in my gills, I followed it up with everything else Ivan has put in book form (thank you East Bonner County Library!). I then rinsed my mind out with a few Pat McManus hilarities, Neil Young’s “Waging Heavy Peace,” a few of my old friend B.J. Daniels’ Montana-style murder mysteries, then two from Sherman Alexie that led me on to William Least Heat-Moon’s “Blue Highways” and “PrairyErth.” At the moment, I’m just rounding the bend on “The River We Carry With Us” by The Clark Fork Coalition about our own upstream back yard and its beautiful but troubled waters which fill our lake.

All of these books earned a big thumbs-up, with the exception of McManus, who got two every time, mainly for the “best medicine” they treated my rib cage and air bags to. If I could write like any of these authors I’d be glad for all this free time I’ve been given, but I’m a carpenter/woodworker/welder by trade and virtue and can’t quite conceive this change as being very positive.

Realizing this has led me to ask myself some very fundamental questions over these many months of rehab, both prescribed and self-inflicted; (1) What am I gonna do with all of these tools, ideas and know-how I still have under my hat? (2) Will I ever make money again? and (3) What is the meaning of Facebook?

While pondering these thoughts, I stumbled over some stunningly insightful passages, references and quotes in my readings. I took a few haphazard notes.

Out of “Blue Highways,” I scribbled down this early on: “…a man becomes his attentions. His observations and curiosities make and remake him.” I like that, simple and clean. Like me right after a shower. 

This one helps you understand where other people are coming from so you can offer some new curiosities for them to observe. Think George Carlin here.

Having spent untold hours lately reminiscing my life (as it was), not to mention a certain flightless moment almost two Augusts ago, my eyes ran over this line from the same book: “Memory is a kind of accomplishment” – William Carlos Williams.

In a nutshell! If my memory would have over-ridden my ego and insisted in a little safety meeting between my left and right brains, THAT would have been an obvious accomplishment.

And yet another, this time from “The Good Book” itself, “For I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.” - Philippians, four: eleven.

This tells me either to smile and move on or just drink more; maybe both!

Two more notes of quotes: Black Elk: “Men get lost in the darkness of their own eyes.” And, Whitman: “Hell under the skull bones.”

Self-loathing only produces sore knees from kicking your own ass for being so careless. If you want to kick something, kick your memory.

What Confucius would have said about this, I haven’t a clue. Probably something funny yet confusing, knowing him (or at least his jokes). But I did jot this gem down from somewhere in “Prairyerth”, but forgot who to lay the accolade onto. “Don’t let the perplexity of things disrupt the joy in their mystery. To insist that diligent thought might bring an understanding of change would be to limit life to the comprehensible.”

My first guess is it’s an Edith Bunker remark, but was probably thought up by someone less famous. I need to memorize it at any rate.

While subconsciously working over some ideas to further my ‘work history’ along, I stumbled over this, again in “Prairyerth”, and, once again forgot to note who thunk it up: “The biggest hindrance to learning is fear of showing one’s self a fool.” 

Doesn’t matter who can lay claim to its eloquence, it’s written on most peoples’ foreheads and probably has been since we collectively dropped out of the trees and tried to run upright.

When this eventually makes it onto the web, share some of your thoughts on that last nugget. Should be interesting and the purpose this serves will be twins: getting me to interact and, more importantly, to drive my editor even nutsier than normal because she has to approve all comments first, to weed out the Kling-ons. And they are plentiful. 

Perhaps now’s the time to chart some different waters and save what’s left of my shoulders for fishin’. 

What, me worry (about looking like a fool)?

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Scott Clawson Scott Clawson No, he's not the electrician, he's the OTHER Scott Clawson, who's a quality builder when he's not busy busting a gut while writing his humor column for the first issue of each month, or drawing his Acres n' Pains cartoons.

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