Wednesday, December 23, 2015

WHO ARE WE ANYWAY?

We drove down to Maine Mall yesterday - three days before Christmas. Yes - it sounds crazy to me as well. It was raining to boot, and the temperature was at that nutty place where you had either too much or not quite enough clothing on so we were constantly removing something or putting something on to adjust the personal thermostat.

We got some things done. Had a Starbucks coffee at a high table and watched people passing by. It’s amazing. You ever feel like some people left the house a little quickly? I am reminded of the diversity that seems to define who we are and wonder at all the outcry about Syrians and others who are coming into our country to find refuge from tyranny. Since when was that a problem for us? I always see middle eastern or African men and their women in their distinctive dress when I go to the mall but yesterday I saw none. It probably means nothing. Yet it made me wonder: have we in our xenophobic pandering to the ignorant and bigoted come to the place that we deny who we are?

I’ve always wondered if the economic factor were removed from Christmas, what effect would it have on the celebration itself. I’m sure “annual” Christians would celebrate but what about others for whom religion is not the driving factor in their lives? And really folks, that’s quite a few of us. Or, dare I say it, what about persons of other traditions - you know, non western traditions?

Here it is for me: the retail industry makes Christmas happen. And, perhaps you have noticed, any religious meaning is carefully avoided in marketing. The way Christmas is practiced in this country is mostly from a Pagan tradition anyway, not Biblical.

I enjoy it, nevertheless. CA and I exchange small gifts. The family from afar send boxes filled with gifts. It’s fun. But it’s not religious. We celebrate each other and reaffirm that our love is real. We remember those who are no longer with us. Christmases past.

We had a late lunch at Panera - a half cob salad and baguette. It was fun, even in the late December rain and record breaking warm temperatures. Then I thought: where I hail from, South Louisiana, this was normal Christmas weather. Strangely, that thought doesn’t comfort me. I live in Maine. Let it snow. Hmm, just as I thought: nobody’s listening.

Friday, December 18, 2015

DO YOU MIND TURNING THE TV OFF?

I can’t even imagine attending a sporting event of any kind. I stopped going to concerts years ago. I can hardly handle a quiet restaurant with Muzak in the background and one loud mouth table (there always seems to be at least one). So I (we - my partner in life and I) pretty much avoid noisy places. Unfortunately, more and more this means even friendly groups of six or so, even if they understand my disability. This is not self pity at all. It’s an accommodation to limited ability.

Some of my friends think that because I have these obscenely expensive hearing aids that I now have “normal” hearing. I tell them differently but it’s to no avail. In a room filled with gregarious friends, loudness is the norm. I get that. And I know that I shall never have normal hearing. Normal hearing can handle noisy places by the processes that go on in the brain to filter and select the “noise” we really want to hear and understand. Anyone with a disability has an additional burden to take care of her or his particular needs in any situation.

Blind people are blind. A white cane or a dog signals the condition. Paralyzed or crippled people are obvious and need little identification. Accommodation, perhaps but the condition is usually clear. You just can’t see hearing loss.

About all we who have hearing loss can do is make sure the issue isn’t swept under the carpet of negligence and fatigue. Hang in there my hard of hearing friends. Speak up for yourself. Claim the best seat for listening at the table. Insist that the TV or music be turned down of off. Insist that someone face you when talking to you. It’s your right and it is necessary for your general well being.

And - be nice. A little goes a long way.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

THE SIGN SAID "HEARING ASSISTENCE" AVAILABLE

I recently had occasion to have business in a small claims court. I realized long beforehand that I might have some difficulty understanding in such a municipal space.

As we walked into the hallway outside the court room I noticed a sign on the door - you know the one - the big stylized ear promising hearing assistance beyond these doors. I was hopeful that the room was actually looped. That would have meant that as long as someone was speaking into a microphone I would have that voice broadcast directly into my hearing aids.

Alas, such was not the case. When we notified the bailiff of my problem, he said they had earphones available. After a few minutes he came over and offered me these on-ear units that every time they touched my hearing aids they pushed one of the configuration buttons on the units and therefore proved to be totally useless. The behind the ear hearing aids are my ears - not my actual ears. Headsets that simply rest upon the ears (hearing aids) do not work. I thanked him and prepared to suffer through the proceedings virtually deaf.

The judge, whose efficiency was outstanding was nevertheless completely lost to me as he spoke rapidly and often with head bowed to his paperwork. When he did face us and speak directly I could pick up most of what he said. The entire experience was lost on me. CA handled the whole thing without my planned assistance, and she performed perfectly.

I plan to write this judge and suggest to him that over the ear headphones would be a vast improvement, while looping the room would be the best solution. Without such accommodation to the hearing impaired we are effectively excluded from public services to which we have the right of participation.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

SELF ADVOCATING

I’ve heard it more than a few times, “I didn’t know you were hard of hearing”.

My hearing loss actually began back in the 80s when I noticed some mild loss and actually had my hearing tested at Eastern Maine Medical in Bangor. The result was that I did have some loss but still had hearing that fell in the “green” zone. I didn’t need hearing aids according to the audiologist. So that was it. I forgot it and carried on discounting the audiologist’s advise: to have my hearing tested regularly because the condition is usually progressive. And as I have come to find out, it is also “sneaky”. It’s a real problem before you are aware of it. And anyway, who wants to wear hearing aids?

If it’s a problem for me to be aware of my own disability, how must it be for others to know of my limitations? Hearing loss is an invisible disability. There is no white cane or crutch to signify a disabling condition. There are some signals but we, as a culture, are not prepared to tune in to them. That person in a group who is not participating in the conversation may not be timid, she may be hard of hearing. The man who keeps asking that something be repeated may not be inattentive, he may be suffering from hearing loss.

When I picked up my first hearing aids back in the summer of 1997, the audiologist told me that my hearing loss way back then was documentable as disabling. I laughed. Disabled? Really? I can walk and chew gum at the same time. What’s disabled?

I have since learned my lesson. First, having severe hearing loss is disabling. Even with hearing aids, what you get is not “normal” hearing. Second, if I do not speak up for myself no one else will. This is the hardest part for a social person.

It is not uncommon to find myself in a situation where I want to be a part of a conversation and simply can not understand most of what is being said. i can simile and nod and go away frustrated and perhaps angry or I can speak up and say what I need to be a part of the conversation. This is a work in progress. I don’t want to be treated specially. Yet, society is a long way from integrating the hard of hearing into the main stream. There is a beginning. the conversation has begun. Meanwhile, I may ask you to face me when we speak to each other. I may ask for a repetition now and then. I may ask that the TV or music be muted. I may simply take a break from the stress of trying to understand and go for a walk. It’s hard work and not much fun. And yet, I do not want to be left out. Ah, yes - there’s the rub.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

IT'S A MANAGEMENT PROBLEM

The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram are pretty good small town country news papers to which we had enjoyed a daily subscription for several years.  That is, until a passive aggressive delivery person began rolling it too tightly in its plastic tube and then double knotting it, making it necessary to tear the bag, only to find that the paper refused to lay flat in order to read the damned thing comfortably.  Even though we had a nice plastic tube provided by the paper, the daily news ended up on the ground most of the time.  So we pulled the plug on daily deliveries.  That’ll teach them.

However, to mess with the comics - well, that’s another matter.  To their credit the Sunday Telegram once printed the comics on heavy stock that folded and behaved in such a way as to make it possible to read them without having to fight the stock on which they were printed.  It reinforced one’s sense of well-being and security on Sunday mornings while enjoying a cup of hot coffee and perhaps a sweet roll.  I would often find myself thinking how nice it is to live in a market where the publisher of the local paper understood the importance of real American values.  At least where the comics were concerned.

Alas - as the flower of youth suddenly disappears from the bathroom mirror - the wonderful heavy paper stock of the comics section was replaced with the more flimsy stuff likely to be seen in, say, the sports section.  Not only that but there was a half sheet of advertising that folded over onto the front page of the comics that I flatly refused to read. I tore it off and threw it into the fire.  How utterly disrespectful.  Give me a break!  Can’t the funnies be a discrete haven of enjoyment without the dumbed down intrusiveness of advertising to mar the experience?

So last weekend as we unfolded the comics and ripped off the ugly advertising to get to the content, we noticed that there was no Doonesbury strip.  To make matters worse there were a couple of completely brain dead substitutes.  Who is making these decisions?  Don’t these people know that satire, critical humor and yes - even a smattering of cynicism are essential to the welfare of the American Way?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

HEAR HEAR - WHAT DID YOU SAY?

I recently read an excellent post on http://www.livingwithheringloss.com by Shari Eberts. “I NO LONGER FEEL SHAME ABOUT MY HEARING LOSS”. If you have any level of hearing loss, Shari’s blog is a great place to begin your self advocacy.

I don’t think I ever felt shame about my hearing loss as much as ignorance. I simply did not know that I was not hearing well. I had had a hearing test a few years previously at which time I was told that I had some loss but still “scored” in the normal range. For late deafened hearing loss, hearing loss that manifests itself in adults, the condition is usually progressive. Dependence on a hearing examination that happened years ago is false security. I now know that if I had an annual hearing test along with annual physicals I would have been made aware of my deteriorating condition much sooner. This is another example of this invisible disability that was invisible even to me.

If hearing exams were made a standard part of one’s medical history, then the issue would be addressed much sooner and more successfully for thousands of people. For this to happen, however, hearing loss would need to be recognized as a medical issue, not a cosmetic or life-style problem as it is now seen by Medicare and other insurers.

As with any medical need, money should never stand in the way of receiving treatment or assistance. It is my understanding that a bill is now in Congress to remove the Medicare rule that prevents coverage for hearing aids. We can only hope that something good comes from this effort.

Your primary care physician is a good place to begin. Whatever network you belong to will have within it an otolaryngologist - an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist as well as the services of an audiologist. If you have the least suspicion that you have some hearing loss, do yourself a favor and find out for sure. You might not even know what you’re missing.

Monday, October 26, 2015

THE INVISIBLE DISABILITY

I have just finished reading SHOUTING WON’T HELP by Katherine Bouton. An excellent autobiographical journey wonderfully written by an accomplished writer and courageous campaigner. I am continually stunned by the discoveries I am making on nearly a daily basis about the pervasiveness of hearing loss and what is being done about it. Following Ms. Bouton on her journey is Hearing Loss 101. It is packed to the brim with information and personalized with one woman’s experience as she looses her hearing and spends a major part of her life seeking help. In the three page epilogue Ms. Bouton nails my emotional journey so well that as I read the last sentence I was surprised to find tears in my eyes.

Her words about missing the music experience stopped me in my tracks. I have noticed that when it comes up that I no longer “hear” music people just don’t seem to grasp the idea. It’s a strange irony that I find some comfort in the discovery of another person with a similar experience.

In the United States there are about 48 million, and counting, people with some degree of hearing loss, many of whom I pass shoulder to shoulder every day. In my age group 2 out of 3 people suffer from hearing loss. There is no outward sign that someone is living with a disability that can seriously affect their lives. Most of the time you can’t “see” that someone lives with hearing loss. If you have enough hair, even a cochlear implant can be hidden. Deafness is an invisible condition. The blind have a white cane. The crippled have a crutch or wheel chair. The amputee has a prosthesis. If you are interested in some interesting numbers check this out: (http://chchearing.org/facts-about-hearing-loss/).

People with hearing loss can be identified in some subtile ways. Being without significant hair on my head, my behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are quite noticeable. For years I was able to use CIC (completely in the ear canal) instruments. Hardly no one knew I had hearing loss. I smugly thought, “I have serious hearing loss and nobody knows”. Alas, things got worse and I was forced to “come out” so to speak with large BTE instruments. If someone seems out of sync with the conversation it’s probably because they are just not hearing what they need to hear to keep up.  Perhaps they are always saying, "what?".

It seems that vanity plays a large role in the use of hearing aids as well as the acknowledgement of a disability. This is a personal matter but it can and does get in the way of seeking and implementing help. I can tell you that when the problem gets bad enough vanity will go out the door to make room for results.

If you think you have any degree of hearing loss - get it checked out. See and audiologist or an otolaryngologist - ear, nose and throat doctor - Your quality of life is at stake. Don’t wait.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

ISLAND REVERIE



Recently, CA and I were fortunate to spend an entire week on Monhegan Island. We've been doing this for a long time - about 18 years, with only a year or two skipped for one reason or another.

Over that time, I have occasionally considered the possibility of not coming out here again. I've said things like, "Well, I have walked all these trails many times and have discovered all the secrets of he island so why keep coming?". And you know what - I keep being surprised, inspired and challenged.` So, I kept coming. There will come a time when I won't go to the island. Too old, too sick or too crippled  - or just unable to walk the trails I have always claimed were the primary reason I came to the island. Something like that happens to us all, sooner or later.

This was an unusual week as we were able to have our evening cocktail on the high deck that overlooked the village and on toward the mainland every evening. We have never had a week with such mild and inviting weather. There's always some rain and a chilly breeze that ends up chasing us inside or beneath layers of protective outerwear. Over the years, I have spent entire days hiking beneath a poncho or bone dry in a rain suit.  Not this week. It was incredible.

The photo above of the Island Inn at sunset was taken from our deck. When I see this, and other pictures from the week, I am, of course, arrested by the unique beauty and power of the island.  But there is another quality that has become extremely valuable to me: the natural silence of the place. I may be selectively observing or perhaps there is some force - real or imagined that enabled me to hear better. I am always needing a repetition of something CA or someone else has said. I'll take it - whatever it is, and relish it while it lasts. It could be that when we are hiking, we don't talk much. there's too much to see and "feel". Often we encounter people who seem to keep up a constant chatter as they walk along. I don't get it. 

On our first hike after unpacking we walked the trail out to Gull Cove on the ocean side of the island. Usually we can hear the sea well before we get there.  But it was low tide and the sound of the cove, usually domineering,  was absent.  When we got to the overlook, waves were making a little noise but it was a timid low tide demonstration. Later perhaps.

We walked down to the Island Inn Wednesday evening for dinner in their excellent dining room. The food and the view as the sun retreated behind Manana were memorable. 

We brought flashlights for the walk home. The ascent of Horn hill, where we were staying, seemed measurably steeper - due to the wine I am sure. It was still warm enough to sit for a while on the deck and make the photograph of the Inn. We  talked about the day. I remember hearing and understanding. It was so quiet. Then we silently absorbed the closing of the day.


Monday, October 12, 2015

AIN'T IT THE FALL

Dear Friend, I couldn’t help resonating with your comment about fall being a difficult time of year. The fall and early winter seasons always bring me face to face with my aging, since I have a fall birthday. It also brings up my long past, which I keep in the background most of the time. Yet, when as it is such a formidable presence, it becomes difficult to ignore. And I do know, dear friend, that the work of real life is now, not then.

Sometimes It seems that I have lived several lifetimes and when I try to make some sense of it all, the effort fails miserably. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s just life and it’s meant to be accepted and lived as well as it is possible to do so. There is no standard that fits us all. Each of us lives by our own unique constitution and Bill of Rights.

Your comment reminds me that our vulnerability is our most shared experience. The Superhuman that is portrayed in magazines and Sunday supplements is a construct made to order, usually to sell something or solicit your vote. It would be a horrible mistake to think we are supposed to be like that. We’re not supper human - just human, which is quite enough.

True, there are those who are true heroes of modern life and whose example comes near to shaming some of us who are less driven toward achievement, or who are just tired of the effort. At times I think those people are the loneliest of all, but that is little more than a juicy rationalization.

I have always considered fall the “family” season. However, If you live long enough, family becomes scarce and very likely scattered. Friends can be an effective substitution, but friends are all dealing with the very same things you and I are dealing with.

Our Thanksgiving gathering is history since the death of Ruth, CA’s mother. I do so miss her and the nexus she provided for us all for quite a few years. There is talk of a gathering, but it’s only talk. We live so far apart and holiday travel is such a testy chore. We’ll have a turkey. We’ll dine on it for days.

CA and I have forsworn the traditional Christmas Tree around which we gathered with all the ornaments, each with its unique story, which was repeated in epochal solemnity. We have a “boxed” tree now that serves to acknowledge the indelibility of the event in our lives but takes less room in the room, if you know what I mean.

We’ll swap gifts, open packages sent from afar and perhaps walk on the beach and then indulge ourselves with Chinese food. We’ve done that for years on most Christmas days. It seems to work. The Chinese, for the most part, do not do Christmas. It must save them a lot of money.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

THIS IS HARD

AS A RULE, I DO NOT LIKE TEAR JERKERS. However, now and then, there comes along one that is funny, expertly casted and tearjerkingly wonderful.

No, I’m not going to tell you what it was. That would spoil the whole thing. It’s not about the piece or movie or story - it’s about the value of tear jerkers.

Value? A value in tearjerking? You got to be kidding. Most of the time I am into stuff like THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE, THE DIRTY DOUZEN, HEARTBREAK HILL - stuff like that. I am usually not into the emotional stuff, just live action for me. Give me HIGH NOON or THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY and I am happy.

But now and then I find myself deeply involved with a story that touches something deep within my heart - why does this bother me? - and I find the odd tear trundling down my face. The truth is GUNS OF NAVARONE is not reality. Something like that may have happened once but it’s not life that can be expected in the real world. A scenario that was dreamed up and actors playing parts that were never real is not something that tugs at one’s heart strings.

What plucks the strings is human intimacy. The warmth of loving another. The uninhibited hope in a youthful face. PLAY IT FOWARD, comes o mind. Perhaps, AS GOOD AS IT GETS. Maybe even AND SO IT GOES, for a more recent example. I still have a tissue to cover that one.

I don’t think I’ll get to sleep unless I can find some reruns of AMERICAN PICKER, or, perhaps some old TWILIGHT ZONE stuff to soothe my mind. Tears don’t work this late in the evening.

Friday, October 2, 2015

OLD PHOTOGRAPHS

You take all those pictures. You file them away, and maybe even put them in album books, but most likely in boxes and drawers. They lie there for decades. Now and then you fumble through them and say things like, “I need to organize these some day”. You haven’t said this? OK, I’ll blink first - I’ve said it numerous times, the last of which was just today.

I can see in my mind’s eye the ones I’ll most want to preserve, print, or duplicate. For sure I should digitize them. That’ll do it. Then I can share them with the entire family, who, of course, have been lined up since four in the morning to get their download, or their hard copy of these family treasures.

Of course, they are treasures to me. Does that make them treasures to my children, who would be the only people on earth I can think of with any vested interest in such matters?

It’s a lot of work. CA says it would make a great winter project. I think making a bi-weekly bowl of chili would do for a winter’s work. Of course, I can do both. I know the chili will happen and probably not too far off either with these cool evenings driving us inside from the porch for cocktails.

In a weak moment not long ago I threatened to just pile them up and light them up. I mean, in a hundred years who will even care? Or, is that even the question?

Don’t worry. I’m not going to burn them. Excuse me - I didn’t mean to infer that you care about my old photos. I’m just ruminating and hoping that I might get past this issue sooner than later.

I can see my favorite picture in my mind. It’s the one a street photographer made of Billie, my first wife, and me on Canal Street in New Orleans in September of 1949. We were on our wedding overnight. To say it was a Honeymoon would be a serious stretch of the imagination. Neither one of us knew a thing about anything, but we looked good. I In my shark skin double breasted suit in light blue and she in a shiny, I think taffeta thing - it made noise - with several petticoats holding it out at an angle. We looked like the teenage runaways that we actually were. It had to be obvious to the entire city. The photographer spied us half a long block away and we paid him a couple of dollars for the print which we didn’t believe would come - but it did. We didn’t have a clue about what lay ahead.

But that’s the thing about old photographs. They are slices of life that reveal more, sometimes, than originally intended.

I’ve been meaning to organize these photographs for decades. I think this is the year. Well, more exactly - the winter. I thinkI can work it in between bowls of chile.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

HEAR HEAR - MARGINALIZATION

I AM NOT AWARE OF A TIME IN LIFE WHEN BEING INVOLUNTARILY OPTED OUT IS FUN.

MARGINALIZATION seems to be systemically tied to growing older. First you are retired from whatever you do for work. In general you are no longer part of the production process. This is not altogether a bad thing. Physically and mentally there comes a time for slowing down and shifting gears. Try as we might, we can not stop ourselves from wearing out.

Taking this process (the aging process) one step farther, we begin to bring into the discussion subtile disabilities that crop up along the way. There are the degenerative conditions that affect many aging people but do not prevent participation in the stream of life going on all around them. Such conditions affect people in different ways and to different degrees. Some people sneak through the latter years with little or none of those degenerative encumbrances. These people are fortunate and few.

It is when the sensory systems - mostly sight and sound - are affected that real marginalization occurs. Thankfully, blindness has been recognized as a medical problem since the beginning. The treatment for cataracts, macular degeneration and other vision disabling conditions are central to healthcare contracts.

Hearing loss seems to have been ignored in this age of one breakthrough after another. If you suffer from growing hearing loss as an adult it becomes quite completely your problem to deal with. Why is that? It takes quite a stretch of the imagination to call treating deafness a cosmetic procedure, but there it is. A more fatuous denial rationale can not be found.

Then there is the money angle. The instruments are quite expensive specially the digital type which enable the wearer to navigate complex situations. Nobody wants to pay for them. The VA does pay for hearing aids after a lengthly screening process for some of its members. I understand that is normal for most VA based services.

The obvious truth that there is money in the government to pay for taking care of the needs of older people into the ages is completely ignored. Except for fancy book keeping and emotionally charged wording in the public discourse, it is a testament to the feckless selfishness of the ruling class, the industrial military partnership and their political henchmen that this hasn’t been handled long before now. Need a new killing machine? OK. Spend all you need. When I consider that new stretch destroyer in the ways up at Bath Iron Works and the fancy new all service fighter jet, which is billions into your money and is not even thought to be viable at this point, I get a sick feeling of being willfully bamboozled and marginalized.

It really isn’t a mystery why this is the only advanced nation in the world who does not sponsor universal health, and support for the aging population. Qui Bono, indeed. Who benefits?

Hear Hear!

Monday, June 29, 2015

HEAR HEAR

From time to time I am going to be talking about hearing loss in this space. I considered doing a blog entirely devoted to the subject but decided to approach the issue from the side, so to speak. My thoughts and comments about hearing loss may be collected instead in a separate page on this blog. For now, it will be HEAR HEAR #1 and #2 and so on. That cumbersome notation may also change.

I will make a special effort to avoid self-pity. Sometimes it descends on me like a hangover. I do not enjoy it. It’s non-productive and even destructive. Yet it’s no fun walking around with obscenely expensive hearing aids in my ears that often do not perform up to their advertised standards and without which I am virtually deaf. It leaves me feeling profoundly vulnerable.

WHY TALK ABOUT IT AT ALL? It helps me. If I can put words on my experience it helps me to see ways I might be able to optimize my hearing ability. Also it helps to dissipate my frustration and sadness at being unable to participate fully in life as I have always done. I find myself using my hearing loss as an excuse to avoid encounters where it is assumed that I can hear well. I don’t, for instance, attend live performances anymore. I’d love to attend author readings at the library but there is music that comes across as so much unpleasant noise and writers, in my experience, are some of the most inept public speakers. I simply can not win, so I take the path that’s easiest for me and avoid such things. Being a natural loner, I seem to be able to make the most of this condition, but I don’t like it.

I suspect that many of you experience, from time to time, difficulty hearing in certain environments. It may be that you sense the onset of some hearing loss yourself. Your comments would be welcomed and would appear at the end of each post. How do you deal with such conditions? Have you ever had a hearing test? Do you often find yourself asking, “What did you say?” or something like that? Have you ever pretended to understand, and did not? It is the insidious nature of any disability that it’s always there. In the end, your life is moulded around it like a form fitting coat. It doesn’t necessarily define you, but it becomes a consideration in just about everything you do.

Jerry Henderson      Until next time…

Thursday, June 25, 2015

WHAT'S TO TALK ABOUT?

I was leaving Maine Mall the other day and a woman with an infant in her arms was walking toward me and talking on the phone which was held between her shoulder and ear. Hands free - so to speak. She seemed to be doing all of the talking. The child was asleep.

One crowded day on Bradbury Mountain, two young women were were hiking together and both were talking nearly simultaneously, oblivious to the mystic beauty of the surrounding forest. Just to be fair, I did see, on another occasion in very nearly the same place a man talking on a cell phone as he hiked the Boundary Trail. At least he was breathing clean mountain air.

The times I have noticed someone talking on a phone while driving are too many to count. Sometimes I blow my horn at them. But I drift afield. This is not about the telephone. It’s about the constant need to talk. The phone is simply an instrument that extends the possibilities.

I have seen groups of men jogging and talking all at once. I don’t get it. Jogging for me, when I could do it, was a cherished solitary time of meditation - and sweating. Out on Monhegan Island, where trail walking is as near nirvana as you can get in this life, I have seen groups chattering up a storm about some off-island subject that would have been more at home in Maine Mall. Maybe that’s where they would have preferred to be. I found myself wishing they were there.

It could be said that you can constantly talk and appreciate the beauty and mystery all around. You could say that, but for me that’s a bit of a stretch. For me it’s in quietness that you hear wind song in the forest. It’s in quietness that you hear your heart and perhaps find yourself. It’s in quietness that the wonder of life in any situation reveals itself.

I have often said it: I love conversation. It is the gift of humanity - that social engine  whereby we know each other. Yet, a time comes when to talk is like a barrier behind which we hide ourselves from discovery and revelation. Besides, what’s to talk about when all around the creation is seeking your attention with her arms filled with treasures?

Friday, June 19, 2015

WHERE DO WE BEGIN?

One would think, that after hundreds of years of lessons taught and wars fought and children of ours and others as well dying, that the people of the world would see the futility of hate, the laughable arrogance of bigotry and the palpable sense of brother and sisterhood that we all - every last person on this planet - share.

This monster in Charleston is not a sicko who needs understanding. We all understand him. He is a raw criminal who has brought to a keen focus the truth that there are those among us who would slaughter a huge segment of our population simply on the basis of skin color. This is a learned response to the human condition. We are not born to hate. It’s a doctrine pounded into us by mother and father, church, synagogue and mosque. Those centers of culture that we depend upon for our direction, have failed and become complicit in the propagation of the culture of hate.

And we are all complicit in the way we stand by and fail to be a voice for what we know is right. There is no lack of targets for our indignation, but until we see how each of us individually is part of the problem not much will be accomplished. If we wait for politicians to fix this thing we will be sorely disappointed. Religious forces are not going to do it either. In many ways religion is one of the root causes of our present condition.

It’s going to require a revolution of ONE. The ONE of you and the ONE of me. In the end, we might come together, but it can’t depend on that. Even if there is only ONE, then it must begin there.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

COULD YOU REPEAT THAT?

It’s distressing, distracting and depressing trying to understand what is being said in groups of more than two at a gathering of more than two that includes food, alcohol and good humor and loud music. The complaint has more to do with my disability than what other people think or do about it. Others can do nothing except make room for it while I experience acute exclusion from the main stream. Entire events happen and I know nothing of what was the core subject of conversation. This results in an attitude of frustration and rejection of normal social activity. Not a healthy condition at all.

I have been doing some research into the problem and have found that much is being done to define the issue of hearing loss, but little done to actually address the issue. Things like cochlear implants, high priced hearing aids and tele-coil installations are beneficial but seem not to migrate into the lives of the every day consumer who needs such interventions, even if they can afford them.

These efforts are huge but comparatively small when put up beside the amounts being spent on other technologies that have little to do with the quality of life for millions of people. Little will happen, perhaps, until the “Boomer” generation wakes up one sunny day to realize that they can no longer hear birdsong. That day isn’t far off.
What is so attractive about noise?

This can be traced directly to the modern phenomenons of earbuds piping loud music directly onto the ear drum, the idea that loud is the same as fun and quiet no longer is associated with a nice place to have a drink or a gentle meal. I won’t even bring TV or the local MultiPlex into the mix as it is too obvious to mention.

Not enough is being done to treat the condition and less is being done to deal with the environmental source of the problem. Until noise is seen as a pathological condition, the issue will persist. Quiet is good, and should be valued above noise of any kind.

I tried to find a cute line to end this with but came up with only this: Hearing is not necessarily understanding and silence is really golden.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

NEW $20 HEAD SHOT?

We don’t seem to be able to leave things alone.

The latest national correction has to do with replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. I am loathe to change much, being old and set in my ways, but there are some out there who want this guy replaced. To tell the truth, he probably wouldn’t make it to the 2¢ stamp today. Changing times are not kind to yesterday’s heroes.

Frankly, I am not sure why we need to change anything, but bureaucrats, lobbyists and revisionists, being what they are, need something to keep them busy so why not redecorate the “20”? There is also a huge sense that too many unsung heroes need to be honored. There aren’t enough currency denominations available to honor even a faction of them. Anyway, who cares? As long as the paper works at the cash register, what does it matter?

Here’s what. It’s like the flag. It is next in line as the national symbol. When you think of he American Greenback Dollar you think George Washington, the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. You really don’t want to mess with that. On the face of it it doesn’t mean a thing, but just a step behind the face of it is everything American. I’m speaking symbolically, of course. Being American, of course, is more about a way of life than all those national symbols.

We don’ really need Andrew Jackson. Why not replace him? Just one reason will do. The Indian Removal Act of 1830. The so-called Five Civilized Tribes were moved out of their ancestral lands in the fertile southeastern states which white people wanted, to be “resettled” in land unwanted by whites in the arid southwest. That tragic removal, known as the Trail of Tears, is one of the blackest marks on our muddled history with non-whites. Good riddance Mr. Jackson.

My nomination for the “20” would be Kermit the Frog. He is lovable, very human, never hurt anyone and would blend in with the general color scheme. I mean what else do you need? Besides he is a national figure with a huge following. Find me one person who does not love him and I’ll shovel your snow. No, wait - I’ll find someone else to shovel your snow.

Harriet Tubman is a leading contender for the slot. Her nomination would be a satisfying statement ratifying the “under history” of our nation rather than enthroning another national front page politician for the honor. It really doesn’t make any difference in the long run. It’s just money, and I never have many 20s in my pocket anyway. But somehow I find it sweet justice to know that every time some billionaire white guy gave a $20 bill to a cabbie he had to know the person on the face of the bill was an Engineer on the Underground Railroad. There’s that.

Monday, May 18, 2015

SALT

Nothing is more basic than salt. Sea water covers most of the earth and is salty. Fossilized salt is found high in the foothills of the Himalayas. Salt is harvested from the sea, found in giant deposits in the earth. Salt is everywhere. You even sweat salt.

We just spent a high energy weekend with friends and at one lull in the conversation the subject of cooking came up along with the use of salt, at which point I made the comment that I am tired of recipes calling for Kosher salt when just salt would do the job. Well, I might have well have thrown gasoline on a campfire. Our host - I’ll call her Sue - brought out samples of half dozen salts from around the world as a preamble to setting me straight on this savory culinary subject.

Meanwhile, as I am spouting off about all salt being sea salt, which is close to the truth, and adding that therefore it is all the same, which, as I was about to discover is false, Sue lays out her samples and commands me to test them and see just how uninformed I am.

Well, even with my ancient, mostly numb taste buds, I could detect some variances in flavor and strength between the Hawaiian Black Lava, the Himalayan Crystal Pink, the Persian Blue Diamond, Kosher, Morton’s, and Celtic. After such a demonstration, I felt that my usual mantra that “All salt is sea salt” and is just sodium chloride and therefore is just salt, was a bit thin for this sophisticated company. It’s the size of the crystals and the minerals, of course which differ from place to place and which do impart flavor which is unique.

As to the Kosher question, chefs seem to prefer it because of its milder taste and coarser granule. It has nothing to do with the Rabbinical salting of meats.

So I am duly chastened and set on a path toward more subtile seasoning of everything from my sunny side ups to my regionally famous shrimp etouffeé.

This discussion reminded me of that little packet of Celtic salt I had purchased months ago and forgotten. So when I got home from the weekend I found it and put it into a new salt grinder. My first grinding was into my palm for the “test”. Yep - it was salty!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

BOWLING ALONE

I READ THIS MOST INTERESTING PIECE THIS MORNING IN THE POST. It was about doing things alone, as in, without someone with you. I’m talking about going for a walk, or to a movie, or out to eat - alone.

There have been two periods in my life when I was actually alone. While reading this article, I recognized myself as the piece unfolded. I did all the stuff it talked about. There I was without a partner in life and uncertain about how to act in public without one. It’s embarrassing to be so damned transparent, even to people you don’t know.  Aside from that, it was an interesting read. It talked about eating out alone, bowling alone ( I’m serious ), going to the movies or museums alone, and so on.

I can remember once in my latter “alone” period when I was living in a most desirable little woodland apartment in Newburgh, Maine, that I was overcome with he idea that I needed to get out of my little Shangri-La and do something - alone. I decided to drive down to Belfast, about 15 miles, and have something to eat and do a little light shopping. I was a Sunday. Perfect timing, I thought.

About half way to my destination, driving through Brooks, Maine, I began to have a rather high level of decider’s remorse (What am I doing out here alone. It just makes me feel more alone) and pulled off the road in front of the hardware store, made a U-turn and headed home. To say I was conflicted would be he understatement of the century. As I drove back toward home, an unseen hand hauled me over to the side of he road and made me stop. Suddenly, I realized that if I didn’t get to Belfast, the whole world would know what a looser I was. I had to laugh: the world didn’t know I existed. Why can’t I do what I want to do, even though it’s what I want to do? I looked both ways, did a U-turn and made a bee-line for Belfast.

I really wasn't hungry but nevertheless, I had a bite to eat.  It was a face saving activity.  Then I did a little shopping and bought some kitchen trinket and a book of chili recipes ( I have never needed a chili recipe ) and drove home smug in the realization that I had completed a solo flight without incident with only a single brief episode of disorientation. There was a smile on my face.

It bears mentioning that the author’s sources for the article I had read were marketing people whose purpose in life is to get people like me to go out and purchase some stuff. I’m not sure they gave a flying jingle bell whether I had a good day or not as long as some money changed hands in the market place. Well, I did get out and have a good time. I did feel better. I didn’t spend enough money to put a blip on anybody’s chart.

Everybody came out winners: the author of the article I had read, the merchants in Belfast and best of all - I got out - alone! To tell the truth, I think as long as I didn’t see anyone I knew, I’d even enjoy a line or two of bowling alone. Do they let just one person take up a whole lane?

Friday, May 1, 2015

EXTRA EXTRA! READ ALLL ABOUT IT!

My grandfather Shug, used to say, believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you read in the paper. I think he was quoting Will Rogers, but I don’t know for sure. Yet, I love reading a news paper. There were some years that I didn’t get a regular paper but then I realized that I missed it. I enjoy reading a real paper more than I thought I would. Then there are, of course, the comics.

Sadly, we stopped the paper. The guy who delivers it started wadding it up in a tight roll, rather than just folding it, and slipping it into a plastic bag knotting the open end with two or three tight knots requiring me to have tear the bag to get to the paper which will not lay flat due to the tight roll. Even though we had a receptacle for the paper, it would end up on the ground most of the time. I called and emailed and got the person in charge of circulation and he said our route man was the best. He said, I’ll fix it, and so on. He didn’t fix anything. The route guy seemed to get more diligent in his effort to roll the paper more tightly. Passive aggressive son of a bitch. We quit.

Here you have a fine news paper with a delivery system that is broken. And I told them so. Yeah, Baby! I’m surprised they didn’t close up shop after that salvo.

Real hard copy news papers seem to be a thing of the past. We are witnessing their funeral days now. The only thing sustaining them now are car ads, intrusive folds, stick on ads that cover real information and the list goes on. Too bad. I’d still be subscribing to the whole thing if they could get it to me without being mangled. Pity.

On most weekends I drive down to the corner and purchase a paper that is lying flat and can be read without fighting the thing itself. Either that or I’ll go over to Pineland where they also have the paper lying flat and where they have world class sweet rolls as well. You know - bad news goes down better with a sweet roll and a pot of darkroast.

Friday, April 10, 2015

THE SHIFTING SANDS OF TIME

GOOD MORNING. I FEEL MUCH BETTER THANK YOU. TWO EXTRA STRENGTH TYLENOL CAPS AND A COMPLETE NIGHT’S SLEEP ARE TANTAMOUNT TO MODERN MIRACLES.

If you are paying attention, and I do understand that there are times when not to pay attention is more comforting, you do not have to grow old to realize that things begin to change as time goes on. Things like the erosion of eyesight, which for most of us begins in childhood, the odd toothache, or other physical defects such as chronic sinuses and allergies.

I remember sitting in my dentist’s chair for a regular cleaning visit and mentioning how now and then there are small “areas of discomfort” that just go away on their own. He said it was like the shifting sands of time about which nothing can be done, except to adjust to the changing oral topography and to call if those shifting sands uncover an unexploded land mine.

That was many years ago but those words - that mental stance - have stayed with me as I have applied that principle to the entire matter of being an old human being. (See the various categories of shifting sands listed above and add a few of your own).

I rolled out of bed a couple of weeks ago and kept going in a more or less counterclockwise direction as the room seemed to be moving in the opposite direction. I didn’t worry too much until a similar episode happened while completing my stretching session a day later. My tendency is to interpret these issues as simple speed bumps in my personal octogenarian highway. But this felt differently.

I called my primary who sent me for an MRI (I know I have been over all this before) to check on the brain neighborhood. Nothing there (so to speak) but the sinuses were in bad shape. Did you know that there is a whole field in Physical Therapy that deals with balance issues and that can impact the middle ear’s contribution to things like stumbling out of bed? I didn’t.

I have been given a series of stretches and exercised that will, A - correct my posture, and B- increase my range of movement in the spinal area, all of which is said to be related to my initial complaint. After two days of this regimen, I am a basket case of aches and stiffness. Hey, I yelled. This is supposed to be getting better! Which brings me back to the two Tylenol supper caps at bed time last night.

What’s a modern miracle is being here in the first place. The shifting sands of time seem to be acting more and more like the quicksands of time. Anyway, all is well and I can get out of bed and remain upright long enough to get to the bathroom.

Be well and stay tuned. The adventure continues.

I’m Jerry Henderson

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

GARDENING AGAINST ALL ODDS

Maybe if I think about gardening a little more and less about this lingering season of cold, wet, snowy semi spring, I'll feel better about things. Problem is - I haven't been too successful at the gardening thing for the past few seasons either. Seems like another just right place to use my favorite bail out expression: Hapless Hope.

I GREW UP IN A VEGETABLE GARDEN. I am old enough to remember when there was no TV, no telephone and no food in our house in tin cans. There was food in tin cans but we ate from home canned jars and right out of the gardens that my maternal grandfather maintained the year round. Disclaimer: OK, so this was in southern Louisiana. We had three seasons: Summer, still summer and a week in January that we called winter. We cut the grass in January, just so you know.

In his younger days My grandfather, Shug, sold much of what he produced. He was what was called a truck farmer. After moving to Baton Rouge and going to work at Standard Oil, he became mostly what is called a market farmer, selling much of his produce to local grocery stores directly. Of course, my mother and aunt next door put up great amounts of food and after the deep freeze came into our house many things were frozen.

Shug made an effort at making a farmer out of me. It didn't take too well. This was the day of the big wheeled push plow, an instrument hardly seen anymore except in antique shops and displays of torture devices such as the rack, thumb screw and whip. I never got the hang of plowing a straight line, and he never let me forget it. Years later, I realized that I got more from him than he ever knew. He talked about what he was doing and I suppose I soaked up some of that gardening wisdom without knowing it.

I have had excellent gardens. Such a garden has not happened recently. As a matter of fact, it has been a rough several years for gardening for food here on Elmwood Road. There are reasons for some of that. First we have been too busy doing other things and being away. A good garden demands some attention. Second, last year we forgot to "sweeten" our acidic soil and things just did not work well. This year we did not forget and we made some wonderful garlic at least. I figure if you make garlic, you can claim a certain amount of success. Who has not experienced that rush that comes from pealing a thumb sized clove of garlic, fresh from the soil, and popping it into your mouth? It's what summer in Maine is all about. You can just feel the healing deep inside. Don't mind the tears - and tears will come - it's all good.

I used to "start" seedlings in the throes of winter to get a head start on things. That worked just like it was supposed to but - well, I don't know, I am not sure that the effort brings forth the result that is anticipated. For me, anyway. We go down to THE GARDEN SPOT in North Pownal and load up on sets that only need to be put into the prepared beds. Call me lazy. Call me a sluggard. Call me a shortcut artist. Call me Jerry however when it's supper time.

What I do miss about gardening at these latitudes is speckled butter beans, crowder peas (purple hull), okra and figs. Yes figs. How I loved to put up jars of figs. My cousin by marriage, Edna, sent me four pints of fig preserves from her back yard last summer. I have one pint left. I'm thinking of some nice things to say to her that might encourage her to repeat such a generous gift. Not much equals a hot biscuit covered with preserved figs.

We will do the garden again. We will exercise our hope glands and dig, fertilize and water with all the assurance of true believers. What happens is what we get. I actually like the process. All except the digging and hauling of dirt. Thing is - time spent in the dirt is never wasted time. I read that somewhere. Could it be true?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

GO TO THE CHICKADEE

There are dozens of these chickadees that hang out at our house all winter. Of course we feed them the highest quality black oil sunflower seeds. And Just as "of course" they eat them voraciously. They know a good thing. It seems that they are specially hungry this spring. When I consider the possibility that one day they won't be here at all I become afraid for humanity itself. You who doubt - look to the bees. They are declining in record numbers and we don't know why. Or do we? Some say we are loosing over 10,000 species a year at a minimum. Maybe as much as ten times that.

There have always been birds. As a boy I slaughtered dozens of them if they got near the family fig tree. My BB gun was a ready implement of home defense. There was nothing sweeter and more anticipated than mother's preserved figs on hot biscuits and I was doing my part. Anyway, that's what I believed at the time.

A case could be made, and often is, for forgiveness of that age of un-enlightenment during the late 1930's and early 1940's. I mean, whacking a few tiny birds that were threatening the household fig supply was no big deal - at the time. No, I'm not proud of it, but I am also not into denial. There could have been another way to chase the birds away.

Yesterday as we drove away from the bird survival store with $40 worth of bird food in the trunk, I wondered what would happen to all those delightful Carolina Chickadees if we didn't feed them. Good question. One view goes like this: they got along without us before they knew us, they could get along with out us now. Besides, neighbor Dean will feed them avian sirloin as long as he can walk.

Consider this: Those little birds eat all day, one seed at a time. They go to the feeder and grab one seed in their tiny beaks and the race off to a safe bush or tree to break the seed open and eat the kernel. That scenario is repeated over and over all day. I sometimes wonder what they do for fun. Then I realize it is a matter of life or death. They are not messing around. They are trying to stay alive. They eat all the time. Of course, that's all I ever see them do.

Secretly I envy them. I wish I could eat all the time. Imagine: eating and flying all day long. But if I ate all the time like those little birds, I'd be as big as a horse. Forget my Levi 501s. I'd be left with designer blankets for my public appearances. However, if I covered the ground that they do in their gastronomical flights, I could maintain my svelte figure as easily as they do. They are not as big as crows because they spend all day flying dozens of miles eating 25 pound bags of premium black oil sunflower seeds

You can catch me from time to time just watching them. Flitting from feeder to bush or tree and holding the seed between their feet and a branch. Pecking and munching out. Now and then stopping off at the water bowl. What a life!

Monday, March 30, 2015

I HAD AN MRI TODAY



I had an MRI today. They found a brain, which was good, and they also found boxes of old photographs, stacks of notes filed away and lost, an entire section completely packed with regrets, and one small area about the size of an English pea labeled, "Hapless Hope". I wasn't too surprised.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

THE PHOTOGRAPHS SAY IT ALL

FOR MOST OF MY LIFE, TAKING PICTURES AND THEN DEVELOPING THEM IN A DARKROOM WAS A WAY OF LIFE FOR ME. I actually hung out a shingle and pretended to be in the business of taking pictures. It involved film that had a silver based coating that was sensitive to light. When "exposed" in a camera, a chemical reaction happened that had to be "developed" in a solution of more chemicals and the immersed in another solution that stopped the development and then sloshed around in another bath that fixed the image permanently. The result was a "negative" image. Light areas appeared dark and dark areal appeared light. Everything was reversed.

You can see this was a process that offered many places for personal preferences and creatively. That's what I loved about it. That negative would then be placed in a projector or enlarger and light sensitive paper would be "exposed" in much the same way that the film was in the beginning, producing a "positive" image. Then that would be developed pretty much as the film was. You probably have boxes of photographs that are the result of just such a process. All those negatives are likely in some trash bin or dump for they were about as interesting to look at as apple peelings.

It's a different world now. You pull out your cell phone and snap a picture with the camera that's built in it and come away with a photograph of higher quality than could have been achieved in the fanciest darkroom without the mess and expense. To say it's a different world is the number one champion understatement.

So I have this closet filled with darkroom stuff that I have tried to get rid of over the years that now is little more than useless baggage headed for the dump. It is of no use to me and likely to no one else. It's sad for me that after all these years, this equipment should be so useless. Specially as I had spent so many hours up to my elbows in that "wet" photography process.

Time marches on. The horse and buggy come to mind - the Amish notwithstanding. As a matter of fact the Amish themselves come to mind. Then there is the vacuum tube radio, the inner tube, the butter churn and wash board for good measure. We move on. Well - some of us do.

These days, I go out somewhere and take a few photos and when I get home they are already on my computer waiting to be manipulated or printed or shared. I have four digital devices. The pictures I take during an afternoon outing are almost instantly available on all of those devices before I get home. If that ain't magic I don't know what is.

I still recall, with a catch in my heart, the anticipation that excited us all on that sand bar on Thompson's Creek. I peered into the awkward viewfinder on that Kodak box camera saying something like: can you move a little over that way, and smile, please. We were all about sixteen and we knew it all and nothing at all. The photographs say it all.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

SUNDAY EVENING

There is not, nor has been ever been anything to recommend Sunday night. I don't know why it was ever invented. I mean, tomorrow is Monday, and no one will argue the worthlessness of any Monday. I suppose the best thing that could be said of it, is that on a cloudless morning the sun might come up like a Red Rubber Ball.

It might be a good day to haul in some wood against the winter that is yet to come - no matter what the bought and paid for prognosticators might be saying. I drove over to Pineland this morning for one of their famous cinnamon rolls and in the fifty feet or so between my car and the door I almost expired in the blistering freezing wind right off the top of Mount Washington. Fortunately, being the hearty soul that i am, I survived.

Towards the middle of the night, I woke to see light coming in the window and discovered that the simple door light was reflecting off the newly fallen snow - only an inch however, and it made any light seem more than it was. I wondered at the time if I would be able to drive over the four miles to that cinnamon roll without incident. I am happy to report that all is well and that the morning repast was just as expected. Although, I had to resupply the coffee after a while. These days, they say it's better for you than previously thought. Sip, sip.

None of this actually happened on Sunday night, you understand, but it occupies the mind on Sunday night. About all I can say that would recommend Sunday night is - if your system can tolerate it - loads of ice cream. I would offer high test gin but that is it's own problem. In moderation, however, it can ease the ragged edges of a Sunday evening until morning. And, of course, morning is, after all - Monday. I guess there's no way around that.

Good luck with that.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

WHY MAINE?

We were driving down our road today and since it is mid March we have to drive slowly to avoid breaking an axel or blowing out an over priced snow tire.  Why, you ask.  We are in that pre-mud season season I call Frost Heave Season.  Here we have a perfectly even and smooth road that can support speeds up to eighty miles per hour, which it often does, but which today would hold you to sub 40 MPH with a foot near the break peddle for good measure.  We have one road just around the corner which is virtually impassable.  We will seek alternate routs until sometimes around the first of May at the earliest when things begin to smooth out.  There's a rhythm to all this.

Yes, these things could be avoided by digging down over four feet to begin laying the foundation for the road at a cost of 17 bazillion dollars every ten feet.  That's how they do it on I-95.  And that's about what it costs.

The other remedy is to slow down and wait for warmer weather.  That's exactly what will happen.  But with reservations and hesitations which, of course will result in broken axels and busted snow tires.  It's Maine in Spring.  What did I expect?  Still there's that nagging question: Why Maine at all?

I'm not going to spend too much time on snow.  Already did that and have the sprained back to show for it.  In a civilized culture, shoveling snow off the deck, walkway or driveway should be assigned to some sub-human species at best and in the least, high dollar snow blowing equipment subsidized by the government, of course.  I mean, the alternative is to let the stuff lay there until July 4 and light a firecracker and drink a cold beer.  Nothing like being American.  It's Maine.

We are but a brief week away from the Vernal Equinox, also known as the first day of Spring, when the length of day and night are equal.  This cosmic egalitarianism actually doesn't mean a thing in practical terms.  Spring storms can be among the most emotionally damaging examples of weather.  Hope is strongest at this fragile time of year.  We really believe in the onset of good, that is to say, warm, sunny and dry weather.  To have those hopes dashed by six inches of wet icy snow or a flooding rain storm after over a week of marvelous sunny and warm weather is simply enough to call onto question the existence of a deity even remotely concerned with the welfare of mere humans.

There are places in this country where spring seems like spring.  So I ask again, Why Maine?  What is it that drew me here over thirty years ago, even in the middle of winter?   

There was a weekly news paper called THE MAINE TIMES, as well as that still going strong instrument of the Maine Organic Gardener and Farmer organization, (MOGFA).  I had done a little gardening in the South but was not at the time, and had not done any in years.  Why had I thought that moving to a place with a growing season the length of my little finger would somehow magically transform me into a Back-to-the-lander, is completely beyond me.  

Regarding the Maine Times, I felt that was one of if not the best weekly paper I had ever seen and I still think so.  A state that supported such a news outlet had to be the place to be - right?  Well, right and wrong.  Right it was a fantastic paper and wrong the state did not support it.

In short, we gleaned as much information as possible from various source.  We wrote to a couple dozen towns in Maine asking for information that might be useful to new immagrants and got replies from most of them, including one from Eustis.  Eustis is a postoffice and a few buildings way over in western Maine.  I had written asking for information on the town and area that might be of interest to people moving into the state.  I got a hand written reply saying, in summation: Thanks for the request, however, we don't have a regular town office and I am the town clerk as well as the Post Master but will try to answer your questions.  Which she did by saying that "we" are a small community in the foothills of Western Maine - just plain Yankee folks and except for the woods and hills there isn't much to do here.  I drove by there one day by and by and sure enough the Post Office was closed (it was a weekend) and not a single person was in sight.  It's a good thing we didn't try to move there, given to social stimulation, as we were.

Still the dream lingered and we moved, lock stock and barrel.  I can't say I never regretted it.  That first year was tough.  My wife at the time made multiple efforts to modify her life here and ultimately did escape.  Something held me here.  As I stare out at the mud and dirty snow piles in the yard, I wonder what that something was, or is.

If you stay somewhere over thirty years, things called "roots" begin to anchor one to a place, no matter what.  Sometimes that's not enough but it is a force to be contended with.  Some of the characteristics of those "roots" are as follows.

1   Friends: all but a few of my friends, it turns out, live in Maine.  I think about being somewhere else and leaving all these friends and I nearly get sick.  Only a few ever come see me and even fewer ever call or send an email or text but they are here.  If I should call they'd say, Oh hi, Jerry - I remember you.

2   All my  doctors are here.  This is not a small thing.  Enough said about that.

3   The ocean!  Here's the thing - there's a whopping tide here.  It can be more than ten feet here and much higher the farther Down East you go.  It can be seen in action driving to Portland or anywhere on the coast which is near here.  I've written about the ocean before [ see WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE OCEAN at <treetopviews.com>] .  I see the tides sort of like the life breath of the earth.  In and out it flows twice daily.  It can happen quickly.  Once we were on a little island that was accessible at low tide.  We forgot to check and found that the tide had come in and closed off out escape route.  We took our pants off and waded thigh deep holding on to each other to reach the shore in a swift currant.  You can't do that  in Tucson.

4   Four Seasons.  This was probably one of the main reasons for our move so long ago.  The idea of only four seasons is a standard joke in this state.  You have mud season, frost heave season, black fly season, Japanese beetle season, getting your wood stacked season, leaf raking season and snow shoveling season.  There's more, but you get my point.

5   Home:  For the time being, we live in a nice large house on three acres of woods on a paved road.  We are thirty minutes from Portland or Lewiston/Auburn and ten minutes from Freeport.  I mean, think about it. We couldn't do this anywhere else.  Some friends of ours down the road are selling their home and land and moving into a condo later this year.  I am envious.  I am tired of the work, but not that tired yet.  I'll get there, I know.  Don't yet know what the next "home" will look like but I can tell you it will be a heartbreaking day when we give this up.  It won't happen this year.

Why  Maine indeed?  Ridiculous question, eh?



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

THE MOVIES

When I was a boy, going downtown to the movies (we invariably said, "The Picture Show") what we meant was we were going to the Paramount on 3rd Street, which was the main thoroughfare in the capitol city, at the time. To say it was special is, I believe, my first experience with the concept of the classic understatement.

Cinema was never used in my crowd to speak of the movies. It could be said that "cinema" was the generic term that was used by "professionals" and Europeans, who, by the way, were understood to be rather otherworldly, in much the same way that an Aardvark would seem to be were it to appear on Pontiac Street where I lived.

If someone had said to me that cinema was the generic term for movies, I would likely have blushed since generic sounded to me like something one did not speak of in mixed company. That's how off the beaten track we were in our little community.

When it came to the Paramount on 3rd Street, however, no term could be too fancy for the experience. Even people who looked to be European would "Ooo" and "Ahh" upon entering that gilded and plushly carpeted foyer after the ticket booth, which itself was majestic in its throne-like setting.

We were plain folk, and we lived among plain folk. We were dutifully awed upon visiting high end clothing stores, funeral parlors and the Paramount on 3rd Street. After painted wood or cracked linoleum floors, ankle deep wool carpeting, brass sconces and filigreed plasterwork on high arched ceilings seemed to be completely otherworldly, and of course, it was. I always felt as I ascended those broad stairs to the grand mezzanine, pretty much, as I am sure, I would have felt entering the Louvre in Paris, where Europeans live, I am told.

All of this preambling was only to introduce one to the grand salon or auditorium with its central stage that would accommodate a full scale Shakespearian production - orchestra pit and all. I always liked to sit toward one side or the other - not in the center section. That way I could look at one side of the room with its box seats and long curtains and subtle lighting that magically dimmed as the camera began to roll.

What's particularly odd, I don't have many clear images of what movies I saw there, except one. My mother wanted to see it. I believe it was called Mr Skeffington, or something like that. It stared two of the most boring personalities ever to "trod the boards" as it is said: Bette Davis and Claude Rains. Of course this might have had more to do with being a thirteen year old boy than the actual abilities of the actors - but I doubt it. My mother was so pleased. I never changed my opinion of those actors even unto this day. I am sure I saw film there that was wonderful, but I am mystified as to my unfailing inability to recall any of them. Go figure.

My most recent rationale for this strange omission is that I was more impressed by the place than I was the program - whatever it might have been.

When you looked up - and you always looked up - there were stars twinkling in the distant reaches of the sky-like ceiling. When house lights came up at the end of the program the illusion was broken, of course, and there were little lights that tried to illuminate the pathway as you made your way to the restroom and then outside into the humid South Louisiana evening.

There was always a bit of sadness when we left that well crafted emporium of unreality. As I write these words, I am poignantly reminded of that same sense of longing to extend that lushly carpeted escape from what I knew to be my real life.

The North Baton Rouge bus made its way up Scenic Highway (no one ever explained to me what the "scenic" referred to) with refinery flares illuminating the night sky for miles around, rumbling sounds that shook the earth, and smells of petroleum refining and chemical processing that occupied the next several miles between the highway and the river. When we passed Hunt's Florist, I knew my stop was coming up. I rose, pulled the cord and walked to the front of the bus. Descending to the sidewalk I always felt it was a bit ironic (though I am sure I did not understand the concept at the time) that after an evening in the elegance of the downtown Paramount Theater I was let off in front of our very own Istrouma Theater - a cinder block neighborhood movie palace only two blocks from my bedroom. No carpet except in the foyer and definitely no stars in the ceiling, but there was a Buck Rogers serial every Saturday afternoon where 25¢ got me inside with a box of Milk Duds. And as an extra added attraction on one weekend, the very car in which Bonnie and Clyde were riddled with bullets was on display on the sidewalk out front. Yes - I put my finger into many of the bullet holes in that car. Awesome!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ARE YOU LISTENING? PROBABLY NOT.

You know, there are people who are mostly quiet. They utter few words. Some of these people are just quiet and perhaps really don't know what to say. Some quiet people are extremely smart while others are extremely dumb. Unless they say something, it's hard to tell. Or maybe you can observe them doing something really smart or really dumb. Then you can know for sure. But ultimately you never really know these people. I think that's the way they want it.

You know other people who talk all the time and you find that you tend to tune them out after realizing that they are not saying anything contextual - that they might as well be somewhere else or alone for that matter. There never seems to be a need for you to say anything. They seem to need another person to have an excuse to talk, but conversation where ideas are exchanged is not the point.

There are a couple of sub-groups to this second group. One is what I call the show and tell group. It can function without any show at all. The assumption is that their reporting on recent happenings in their lives is at the center of the universe. They are in a broadcast mode and nothing will distract them until Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea have heard it all. In a survey of thousands of these people they were asked to describe the people to whom they were talking. To the person, they reported that the people to whom they were talking all seemed to have a far away look, and their eyes seemed to be glassy in appearance.

The other sub-group is the opinionators. The idea is that their opinion is the long awaited truth that will somehow change the world and make it a better place to live. They also do not need a response, other than, perhaps a nod or blink now and then. If you really want to make points with someone like this, wait until they take a breath (everyone does now and then) and say something like, "Absolutely!".

I'm not sure this next group is unique or just another sub sub part of the opinionator group. This is the person with a cause. The Evangelist. Whereas it is possible to get along with the quiet person, the compulsive talker and even the opinionator, it is almost impossible to tolerate the person who sincerely believes he or she has a lock on the truth about anything.

Give the Evangelist an official document - such as The Book of Mormon, the Koran, the Torah or The Bible - and you have not only truth but also the "evidence" of that truth. According to them, of course. And of course all these documents are all Divinely inspired by the god of choice.

I've often wished that I were the quiet man. Alas, I am not. I often speak when not to speak would have been more eloquent. I fall, I believe, in the middle of the second and third categories. I seem to have something to say about everything, which, it could be argued, is the same thing as not having anything at all to say. But I hasten to warn you: I do not intend to shut up. I will promise not to seek to evangelize you, mainly because I don't have a lock on the truth. I just like the sound of my voice.

Like you didn't know that?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

IN TIMES LIKE THESE

It's the bane of humankind, that in marginal times, everyone feels unique in their understanding of reality, the present threat or as in our current crisis - what seems to be an historical snowfall.  I want to scream ENOUGH already.  I am quite sure that if I had no need to bend to my shovel and roof rake I'd somehow manage a more poetical attitude to all this mess.  As it is, CA and I looked at each other yesterday and said almost in unison, "THIS ISN'T FUN ANYMORE".


We tend to talk things to death around here.  Processing life in bite sized amounts as it seems we do, leads us to forgo the larger more global view of things which always gives deeper meaning to our plight - whatever it may be.  Nothing is really the end of the world.  But nevertheless, we make it out to be almost that as the snow piles up beyond our ability to handle it - as ice devastates the infrastructure ( as well as the trees around the house ) - or as tornadic winds huff and puff at our windows.


Moderation in all things seems to me the best philosophy in times like these.  Including moderation in moderation.  It's possible to be too careful.  


Be careful out there.  Go slower.  Take care of yourself for the rest of us who love you.







Tuesday, January 27, 2015

MEDITATION UPON A BLIZZARD

When one considers it, there isn't much to do in a genuine blizzard. Except, of course, if one is caught out in the middle of one. Even then, the choices are few and they are dominated by the overreaching need to survive.

Other than that, feed the fires, keep the coffee hot, the soup on the back burner and hope the electric stays on. Have I ever mentioned how I love electricity?

This is a light and fluffy snow that will be easier than most to move but with the ferocious wind blowing it will just move around and return. Yet at some point it must be moved. But not just yet. I'll also prime the generator - just in case. I made a pan of cheese biscuits earlier. Handy little things to have laying around on a blizzard day. They will go with just about anything and they'll stand alone as well.

We talk of mostly two things to do outside. Shovel snow and snowshoe. The latter later in the day after another foot has fallen, when the trees are decorated profusely and that deep winter magic hangs in the air like a cloud that separates you from the real world. Child talk: but that's what it is.

Friends write or call to sat they are sunbathing, washing the car, firing up the grill or having a nice lunch with a friend. Such an easy life. One must wonder how any character can develop in such mild and unchallenging latitudes.

We must hold those poor deprived souls near to our hearts and hope they can find direction for their lives before it's too late. Meanwhile, as my son says, who lives within minutes of the tepid Gulf of Mexico, sharpen those snow shovels and bend to the task of adding notches to your soul, strength to your character and profundity to your vocabulary.

Be well out there. Stay warm and stay tuned.

Jerry Henderson

Mail to: treetopviews@mac.com
Blog: http://www.growingoldwithoutgrace.com
Podcast: http://treetopviews.com

Sunday, January 18, 2015

WHAT'S WRONG WITH ..... OLD?

I AM READING THIS ARTICLE IN THE MAINE SUNDAY TELEGRAM ABOUT BOOMERS GETTING OLD. Why is it so important to give this particular group such a large hearing? It's a large group, is what. Size matters. They can truly say "ours" is bigger than yours.

The author, Jackie Crosby, writing for the Star Tribune goes to great length to describe the difficulty people are having trying to figure out the best term to use in referring to - well, can I say it? Old people.

What caught my attention in the article was the people she talked to. They were not old people but the people who ran agencies, businesses and various purveyors of services for old people. Of course if you were running an activity center for old people it probably would matter what you called it. I can see it now. The Sunshine Center. Seniors Galore. Old Fart's Coffee Club. Q Tips Forever. Whatever. But you can see that it would matter what you called a service or institution that catered to old people.

The article wasn't about old people at all but it was aimed at the people who stood to make billions off of old people - and the Boomers were the largest segment of the population to become old people - ever! It was all about the problems of marketing to old people. I really can't blame them for that effort, but I do blame them for the subterfuge. Of course, that's what advertising and marketing is all about, isn't it?

So, why not OLD PEOPLE? Has OLD become the "F" word for Boomers?

Here's what I think: Most of us are so damned afraid of old age that we cover it, deny it, color it, disguise it with every fiber of our beings. Oh, I'll push it away as long as I can, and I'lll do it by exercising, eating little meat, avoiding burdensome people, staying away from TV, drinking lots of water (and good gin) and minimizing stress. But at the bottom of it all I know I am an old man. The numbers do not lie. My body tells the truth.

I have memories out the wazoo. I have X-wives, X-bank accounts, X-friends and more X-addresses than I care to remember. You can't have all that and be young. Well, I guess if you are in the entertainment business it's possible. Maybe even required. But you get my point.

So, my Boomer friends - do not delude yourself. Be happily old. I wish you most of all health. Maybe a little prosperity. Lots of love and good will. Go easy. Do not fear the afternoon nap. You deserve it. Life owes it to you.

Be old and act your age. Maybe that's the same thing as - be old and be happy.


GB Henderson
Mail to: treetopviews@mac.com
Blog: http://www.growingoldwithoutgrace.com
Blog: http://treetopviews.com

Saturday, January 10, 2015

GATEWAY TO THE WORLD

About a week ago, I left to run some errands in the next town, and I thought it would be fun to listen to a book while I drove along. I have several on my iPhone and all I have to do is dial up the Blue Tooth feature on the car and play it right from where I left off. I don't even have to touch the phone.

That was when I remembered the phone was on the charger at home. AT HOME! If I was thinking I could have charged the thing in the car. I was out and about without my phone! I was not in touch with the world and what's worse, the world seemed not to care. I laughed out loud.

It hasn't been that long ago that I didn't have a mobil phone at all. I had worked until midnight one peak season at LL Bean and since it was peak, employees had to park in a remote lot and ride a shuttle to and from the store. On this particular night there were about six of us on the shuttle and as it pulled away we all went to our respective cars. I found mine, a loaner, since my truck was in the shop. I got in and turned the key and there was that sickening clicking sound, known to everyone who drives a car that signifies a dead battery. Did I mention it was very cold? It seems that there was an extra switch to turn off the parking lights that was not a feature on my old truck.

So there I am at a past midnight hour stranded in a remote parking lot at twenty something degrees. I sat there and began thinking of what to do when a young woman pulled up beside me and asked if there was a problem. I recognized her and I said that I could use a ride to some place to call AAA for a boost. She said she had a phone and we could call from right there in the warmth of her car.

Well, that did it. That very week I went to one of the local mobil companies and signed up for a cell phone contract and drove away with my gateway to the world in my pocket. It was a phone. Just a phone. Nothing but a phone. No GPS, no text messaging, no Google Maps, no location services, no internet. Like I said, it was a phone. But it was cheap. I paid for the minutes I used. Odd concept, that.

I remember taking it everywhere I went. It was like having a pistol in my pocket - I was so conscious of it. It's all I thought about. I tried to think of someone I could call. There weren't that many people who I ever called anyway, and nobody ever called me. Why would I call now just because I have a cell phone?. I thought - well, should I break down, I can call someone. I smiled as I contemplated my security.

I remember once, not long after getting this phone, stopping on the side of the road to call a bookstore to see if a book I had ordered had come in. I really didn't need to do that. They said they would call me. While there I called CA to see if there was something I could pick up while I was out. She said, you're playing with your phone, right? - - - Well, yeah.

These days I really don't expect a call from anyone. But, just in case, if I am in the car, the phone is "recognized" by the car and is "live" and hands free. Anyway I am usually listening to a book and don't want to be interrupted! If not that, I am listening to turn by turn instructions to get to some remote address I happen to be looking for. The phone GPS is better than the one in the car. In the event that I actually want to call someone while driving I push a button on the steering wheel and this nice, if somewhat petulant, woman says, what do you want? I'm doing my nails here. I say, please, if you don't mind call Carol Ann. She takes a deep breath and says, well - alright. "Calling Carol Ann". And CA's phone rings. . . . . .You just have to love that.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER . . .

I would have to say that 90% of all communications coming to me for the past few days have been peppered with, if not altogether concerning the weather. The very cold weather. My son who lives on what he likes to refer to as the third coast, even chimed in with a 25˚ reading within minutes of the Gulf of Mexico, in reply to my reporting a minus 11 for our local Maine reading.

OK, so I live in Maine - what did i expect? As I recall, it was cold and snow. I couldn't wait for it. Only, one never hopes for a two week ice storm outrage, or a month long sub zero imprisonment. This brief but brutal period of zero neighborhood cold is a not so friendly reminder that, though the earth is indeed warming, for whatever reason, the thermometer presently says 7 above at 2:30 PM. That makes a case for long underwear and a pot of afternoon tea with a dollop of honey in it for the flagging spirit.

I keep thinking about those four or five days in July when, arguably, we in Maine have the finest weather on the planet. And as an afterthought, are those few days of heavenly weather enough to make a case for year long residence in Vacation Land? OK, I know that's an oversimplification. I actually like September more anyway. And there is a special joy on that day - perhaps a few days too soon - when we reinstall the deck furniture, umbrella and all, and sit in the sun for the few minutes we can before it cools off, and dream of those days ahead when we can practically live out here with the birds and bees and butterflies.

Keep in mind also that those of us who do live here year round are demonstratively better people for doing so. So hold your head high and rejoice as you collect splinters from the wood pile, carry out the ashes, stir that pot of cabbage soup and feel deep pity for those who suffer flies, bugs and alligators in their semi tropical hell.

Oh, one more thing: have you noticed how easy it is for Happy Hour to come a little earlier during these shortened winter days?

Be well, stay warm and stay tuned.

Jerry Henderson

Sunday, January 4, 2015

THE TIME FACTOR

There are so many jokes in the standard repertoire about aging that it would be impossible to gather them all.  I'm so old I have stopped buying green bananas.  Anon.  I'm so old my insurance company sends me half a calendar. R Dangerfield.   I'm so old that the sight of flowers frighten me. G Burns.  I'm so old that when I order a 3 minute egg they want the money up front.  G Burns.  I'm so old the candles cost more than the cake.  B Hope.  This one by Steven Wright stops me cold: How young can you die of old age?

Of course, none of the above is original with me.  Not even growing old.  It just feels unique.  It's one of those things, that if you do it (grow old, I'm talking) you feel alone.  I don't care if the room is full of cheering friends, which, of course, is nice, but even such an outpouring cannot remove the footprint of time.  

These things don't occupy your mind  too much until you pass 50, or for sure  60.  That's when it gets serious.  Friends and family begin dying off much too quickly for comfort.  Children you once knew or haven't seen in a while are now voting adults if not parents as well.  Then one day you realize you are *thinking* about it all the time - well, a lot of the time.

Just a while ago I was commiserating with CA about the recent demise of my lovely main computing machine: my MacBook Air.  It was only 4 years old.  I won't bore you with the details, but it's history.  Beyond reasonable repair. Water, corrosion.  I don't have a clue as to how that happened.  It's a total mystery.  The bottom line is it is headed for the recycle bin.  

For the past fifteen years I have used a laptop as my primary writing instrument.  Every day I journal, do emails and compose two blogs on a laptop.  I am using an eight year old iMac now that is on borrowed time sort of like I am.  And it ties me to the desk.  I like to move around.  Yada yada yada.  There's no end to all this.

Now, here is how an Octogenarian processes such a situation.  OK.  Should I go ahead and replace the laptop with the present version or wait for the inevitable upgrade at some unknown time in the future?  I'd like the new model, but will it arrive in time?  That wasn't a joke.  I'm dead serious.  Whoops!

There comes a time in life when the idea of delayed gratification is  a kind of dark joke.  I mean, really!

But you see my point.  Here is how my one-liner goes: "I'm so old I can't wait for the next computer upgrade".  (Drum Roll)  Oh well. . .  I never could tell a joke.

How about this from the Song of Solomon:  "Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither".  I kind of like that.  The Rosebud Theory of big ticket purchases in old age.  It has a certain charm, don't you think?