Wednesday, February 15, 2006
First, I have to report that Beaven scored his all-time high for Valentines gifts. This is a picture of me on my new Vespa motor scooter. I was totally surprised when he showed up with it late yesterday afternoon. We took classes last week and I thought I would have a bunch of funny stories from the class but none came to me. We had a very average class made of standard characters: a couple of yuppie Plano wives, a few mid-life crisis men, one testosterone charged teenager and a couple of retired nerds. You can guess who the retired nerds were. I don't have any motorscooter stories to bring you today but I’m sure they will come as I have a chance to putt-putt around the countryside. Scooters are smaller and tamer than motorcycles that go aroom-varoom. At this age I am all putt-putt in a varoom-varoom world. But it was red and he did bring it with a bunch of red and white balloons. It’s been a long road to get this far. As you will see:
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I discovered a few years ago on Valentines Day that men and women sometimes think differently about the same subject. You can imagine my surprise when the Nobel Prize for Social Insight did not arrive by the next UPS delivery.
This was back when we only visited this house on a rare weekend. It was just our little cabin in the woods back then. I went ahead of Beaven on Thursday to spend time alone in quiet reflection. I was going to get back to the basics of life, to “suck the marrow” from it, as Thoreau put it. I was in the midst of my “American History” phase and was doing a lot of reading up on our founding fathers and how they lived. And, to do that, I spent the entire evening in the dark, using only candles for illumination. This I found to be supremely relaxing, albeit slightly boring, as there are limited things to do when one lives the supremely simple life. About the only thing to do by candlelight is listen to music.
I tried to cook. And, while it is possible, and I did manage to actually produce something to eat, I found it dangerous. Ever try to look around inside your kitchen cabinets for the cinnamon using a candle? It’s a good thing I have short hair or I would have set myself on fire easily.
I finally settled on writing my brother a letter. I ended up with about eight pages on the glories of my simple evening. How I felt in touch with old Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin. There was a steady rain that evening and I could savor each lightning bolt and thunder roll. I was able to note with clarity each sound of our dark house and how loud the refrigerator motor is. The senses become so much more, well…sensitive, in the dark.
I was able to understand life two hundred years ago a little better. It takes a good number of candles to function in the dark, at least four dinner candles to read or write. I was constantly in fear of catching things on fire. And, of course, there was candle wax everywhere.
I got a feel for how much differently they must have thought back then. Today we just regurgitate words on a screen knowing we have a backspace and spell check and we can always go back and tidy things up a bit in the process of making sense. Two hundred years ago they didn’t even have erasers on pencils. I’m not even sure they had pencils. When they dipped their pen in the ink bottle and wrote, their thought process had to be complete and they had to know exactly what they wanted to say. There was no chance for editing the Declaration of Independence once he started writing. Actually, I think he did do a bit of editing but only about 2 times. How many great writers today can say that? It amazed me to think how deliberate and thought out they had to be. The majority of the action took place inside their minds. Today, it’s out of our mouths or on the screen. We check how it sounds or looks and then edit ourselves. Maybe life is more fluid now.
I ended up reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin that evening and with renewed clarity for what his daily life was like. The man wasn’t just outside flying a kite because he was curious, he was hoping to find Thomas Edison and discuss the Hoover Dam project.
It was an insightful and relaxing evening. The following night was Valentines Day. When Beaven joined me after work, I recommended this change of pace to him. “You mean sit around in the dark? What for?” He had just received a new book on Pond Management, a book that he had waited weeks for. He wanted to read his book and I wanted to pretend I was living in 1776. We compromised. Yes, we sat around the house that evening without electrical lighting, but instead of reading, we watched TV because one of us claimed that he couldn’t see his hand in front of his face.
My Valentines Day gift that year was not necessarily sitting around the house by candlelight. My gift was that he put down the book on Pond Management and didn’t argue too much. We had finally learned to pick our battles wisely. He knows to give me my candles for one evening without a fuss. I know to never try it again.