Reflection · Retirement

Get a hobby!

Helpful hints for the hobby hunter.

When you read advice for retirees who need a new hobby the old saying, “Follow your passion” frequently surfaces.  First, I would like to complain about the use of the word passion here.  If you actually do possess a passion there’s very little doubt that you are not following it on some level.  Passion is too ‘in your face’ to ignore, no one needs to be told to follow it.  If you’re not following it, there probably is a good and legitimate reason for your choice, like it would leave you bankrupt, divorced, or an amputee, or you simply can’t justify investing your time in it right now.  You folks with passions that you either are or aren’t following, you can skip the rest of this piece.

This is for the rest of us without passions.  This is for all of us who, instead of passions, have sparks of interest.  Most of us are more likely to have some interest or spark towards an activity than a passion, and we can be very comfortable ignoring such things for years, even decades.  I have found that by paying attention to how I reacts to what I read, what I hear, what I see,  followed with listening to that tiny voice that says, “I could do that” or “I wish I could do that.”   You read a book or a blog and you come away wanting to do some writing.  You go into a coffee shop and hear a folk singer and you want to go home and get your guitar out.  Someone tells you about the hiking they did, and all you can think about is how much you miss being in the woods, take note. Keep a list of the times you feel drawn to try something.  What I have found is that a lot of us are really bad at paying attention to ourselves, noticing our own reactions.  When we are fully employed and spread thin with assorted commitments we become very good and letting these tiny nudges go undetected.

Our manager brain overrides the sparks we feel when something interests us.  We may briefly notice that it sounds appealing and promptly file it for later (much later).  Or we undermine the prompt with reality checks, like the equipment for that sport doesn’t fit my budget now and without investigating any practical options, like purchasing used equipment or renting, we’ve effectively squelched the interest.

Sometimes a lack of confidence shuts down the interest, we focus on our lack of talent or ability rather than taking the opportunity to increase our skills.  This negative thinking happens so quickly, so stealthily, that before our interest has registered it’s already dead in the water.  Does any of this sound familiar?  When exploring hobbies I have started focusing on the spark that I feel when I’m exposed to something I like or when I hear about someone’s experience that peaks my interest.  I have begun paying closer attention to these things.  Yes, practical considerations will surface, but don’t let them dampen the initial connection you feel to an activity.

The words of the 70’s ring true still, ‘get in touch with yourself.’  It can be a bit embarrassing to admit, but for many of us we don’t know ourselves too well.  We don’t know what we would enjoy, partly because a well-managed practical life hasn’t allowed us to consider the question too often.  I have seen all sorts of inventories for helping a person identify interests, values, talents, and they have their place in clarifying one’s sense of self.  But nothing beats careful listening.  Listen to your heart, when do you feel a spark, or a pull towards an activity?  When you hear about other people’s activities do you wish you could do that as well? Even if there’s a good reason why you won’t have that particular experience, make a note of the way it clicked for you.  The connection could indicate that a change of scenery and travel makes you feel alive and engaged, or perhaps that you like a physical challenge or the satisfaction of physical activities, or it may be that nature’s beauty brings you contentment and happiness.  Pay attention to what grabs your attention and pulls you in and you will find the interests that are well suited for you.


A sense of place, a blog renamed

So take this ring, make it sparkle and glow
it’s much greater than we may ever know

Back on the stamping ground
to where it all began
Back on the stamping ground
We come again             from “The Stomping Ground ” by Runrig

I renamed my blog tonight.  I was going through my image files, looking at photos of my hometown’s beach this fall.  On one particular visit we took pictures of at least three large logs that I want to believe have been there since the 4th of July storm of 1968.  In junior high and high school I could walk to City Beach in about 10 minutes.  And I did whenever I had free time. which back then was pretty often.  I sometimes took a pad to sketch, but more often I took a notebook to write.  Or I’d bring a volume of Rod McKuen’s poetry or whatever I happened to be reading.  I knew that I was fantastically lucky to be able to walk 5 blocks, cross Perry Street and walk the beach.  Then when I was ready I’d find one of the large logs that had become a fixture in the area behind the marshes and ponds, separated by tall cattail, rangy willows, and weeds to my back and the lake in front, and sit and write.  I would write songs, poems, stories.  I would doodle and dream, listening to the gentle rhythm of the water washing back and forth on the sand.  I knew I was lucky.

I grew up in Port Clinton, a small Ohio town on Lake Erie.  Now, many decades later, I still feel very connected to my hometown. Port Clinton was that type of place.  And I’m not alone in thinking this. I can tell it in the comments that my friends from Port Clinton make in social media.  We, Port Clintonites, feel like we were the lucky ones. Regardless of our family’s income or status we shared this claim to City Beach, East Harbor, Catawba Island, and all the landmarks, shops, personalities, and pastimes.   We were water savvy, even the few of us, and that would include me, who weren’t great swimmers.  It was a special place.  The type of place that reaches into one’s souls and leave a brand.  It will always be there, no matter how many years we stay away.

During the junior high and high school years my trips to the beach were the fuel for my writer’s soul.  It was where I started journaling and my first attempts at creative writing.  And just as importantly it is where I would read the books that inspired me to write.  So this evening I chose one of the log pictures to go in my blog header and renamed the blog in honor of my personal stomping ground, north of Perry Street.IMG_4946




Blogging · Reflection · Writing

It’s been a while…

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What the’s most common phrase used to start a post on a blog that’s been idle for several months?

I would vote for this, “It’s been a while.”  Yes, it certainly.

I have been writing in my journal and messing around with a story idea, but I’ve been gone for other reasons too.  Shear business is certainly one reason.  The last time I posted was just before family was arriving in town in May.  Along with that was a big push of activity regarding my mother-in-law’s home.  Then came summer traveling, followed by a daughter who typically lives abroad coming home for 6 weeks between destinations.  She left in the fall and just as I was getting back to reengaging writing, journaling, and trying to figure out ‘what next?’ one of our best friends died unexpectedly.  It’s now early January and the blur of November and December lies behind us.  Why am I including all this detail?  Am I offering up reasons for my absence? I could just as easily resume the blog and not explain the half a year gap.  In fact that litany is not wholly why I haven’t been blogging.  While I have had a lot going on the last eight months I was also having a lot of doubts about writing.  I find that when I reach a certain level of busyness (actual or mental) I ask myself what am I doing and why. I was asking myself whether I wanted to keep writing seriously. I was asking myself what role maintaining a blog played.  I was asking myself if I did want to write, what would it be?  This post is not going to be the place where I answer those questions.  The reason for the outline of my recent months is because I think I’m describing a place that other writers will identify with.

Heavens, it’s one of the classic struggles most of us face constantly.  Are we really committed?  Even when we are busy?  Even when we are empty?  In this post I am simply doing two things; acknowledging that in a season that has been busy, followed by a season that has been sad, in a time in life where sober issues take on new proportions and fears surface that ten years ago seemed improbable, in such seasons you ask yourself- what you are doing?  You ask yourself-what matters?  And with regard to a person spending their time writing the question that dogs them may be, quite frankly, who cares?

However there are few principals I keep circling:

  • Nothing, but nothing, is more importantly than living intentionally and being present for the people in your life.
  • As crazy as it seems, I have a hard time accepting that a person can’t do it ALL.  You have to pick and choose what you do. What will it be?
  • Creativity is a blessing.  It might even be THE blessing.  It’s how we express wonder, ideas, emotions, support.  It shapes how we educate, how we work, and pretty much every facet of our lives.
  • While we have the opportunity to engage in life creatively, let’s not waste it.  Let’s not miss the chance to express ourselves–whatever that looks like.

I hope to continue writing for the long haul.  Now I just need to figure out what that looks like.  But that’s a January project, and this is January! There’s a certain energy I feel in January at the launching of the new year, things seem possible and all any of need to get going is a decent plan of action.   So without further adieu, let’s start planning!



That’s poetry to me

Earlier this week I read some poetry and I didn’t particularly care for it.   The poet’s work is respected, but I couldn’t appreciate it.  I had to admit, I wondered if I lacked the academic background to “get it.”  Possibly.  I’m sure there are layers of sophistication which completely escaped me.  But the exercise caused me to ask myself what I do like in poetry.

I like poems which have a voice.

Of course, I think we gravitate to voices that resonate with us.  They feel like they could even BE us.  The words and phrasing flow so naturally, so freely.  And if not our own voice, then that of a friend, either one who exists or one we wish existed.  There is comfort in the voice, and perhaps familiarity.

Or, this happens too, the voice isn’t familiar, but it’s authentic.  These poems jag us about sometimes, they push into unfamiliar waters.  The strange voice opens us to new thoughts, maybe confrontations, certainly things we would not have intentionally sought, but having encountered them we are now affected by them.

I read a poem a bit like a child entering a candy store.

And my poetic sweet tooth craves two things in particular: imagery and word play.  I feel like there’s no chocolate in the shop if the poem doesn’t contain some nice imagery.  And you call yourself a candy store?  Huh! I want sensory satisfaction, captivating images, sounds, odors, textures to transport me into the poem’s reality.   And I want them expressed whenever possible in creative, clever, and interesting ways.

I want the words selected and arranged with care.

I believe in the magic of poetry.   A poet takes what is in his heart, his soul, or his head and shares it in a way that gets our attention.  It not only speaks to us but it speaks to us with its art.  And its art is the crafting of the poet, who has written, and maybe rewritten thirty times, her poem, listening to it’s rhythm, switching the words around, adding and omitting, removing lines and adding images until the poet sees that there exists in their work a spark that they didn’t create, but was created none the less. It is then, as if by magic, the poem has now become something larger than the efforts of the poet.  When we find this in poetry we remember it.

Easy does it.

I gravitate to poetry that is short and honest.  I like a certain purity in thought, I find elegance in simplicity.  I don’t doubt that longer more complex poems have their payout to those who are up to the challenge.  But very seldom will I invest the necessary effort in them.

So there you have my short list of what I look for in a poem.  An authentic voice that captures my attention with it’s particular mix of images, words, and construction and arrives at something special is. indeed, poetry to me.


An Ohioan’s Valentine to the month of February

Dear February,

A smile in midwinter goes a long way, and a February smile feels like Florida sunshine.  They say that cold hands mean warm hearts.  Well, in the North we ALL have cold hands about now.  And warm hearts too I think.  February, It’s no wonder that love is at your center.

Thank you for being what you are.  To me you are a haven, a quiet place, a place of focus.  i thank you that you are not frantic.  i love your calm and solitude.  i love your steadiness.  On this third day of the month you greet me in your classic white attire, a blanket of snow, sparkling and bright in the frigid morning air.

I know that not all your days will be calm, I know there will be rough weather. But I draw comfort from your brevity. You are unique and concise with your attractive 28 day pattern (3/4 of the time).  31 days would not become you. You assure us that the year is moving forward, and in the middle of winter we desperately need that assurance.

February, you hold a special place in the year.  Thanks for showing up!  But maybe in the future we could hang out somewhere not this cold.  Just a thought.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

An admirer


Are we having fun yet?

I like to listen to music.  Do I have any interest in playing music or composing it? No.  I like to watch movies and good television.  Do I want to be an actor or director?  No.  I love going to great restaurants.  Do I want to spend hours improving my skills in the kitchen.  Not really.  At least not in a serious way.  So why should I, a person who enjoys reading, feel like I need to be a writer?  Most people read and many read a good deal more than I do, and they don’t feel the need to become writers. But for some reason I do.  And I have for a pretty long time.  Maybe since junior high, but definitely before high school was over, I was writing to amuse myself.

This morning I had a difficult time settling into writing.  I had two questions for myself. First, “Should I quit writing?”  followed by its companion question, “Why do I want to write anyway?”

Beginning with the second question I write because, as I discovered way back when I was filling notebooks with poems mimicking the voices of Rod McKuen and Joan Baez, it’s fun.  The fun started with an assignment in my 8th grade English class where another student and I came up with a sketch in the flavor of the Smothers Brothers on the war in Viet Nam.  That sparked an interested that grew as I devoured all the tasty high school literature that lay before me and left me with the naive belief that I might possess a literary voice myself, or at least possess the ability to  develop one with effort and patience.

Today I know why I write.  I write for personal satisfaction, period.  So if I writing brings me satisfaction why would I quit?  The biggest obstacle in my mind is not having a sense of direction or a focus for my writing.  With any project a person needs to know where they are headed and how they plan to get there.  The day-to-day work of writing truly is work, sometimes it’s utterly soul sapping and draining, but finding yourself in the flow of creativity on other days more than compensates.  We must not let the mechanics of the journey define how we view the process as a whole.  If writing provides you with satisfaction and enjoyment, that is enough.  I find it helps me think through issues and explore meaning.  Often writing strengthens my understanding of life.  But more importantly, somewhere at the heart of the process is a window where fresh air blows through our mind and spirit and words spill out on the page.  That’s the thing that keeps writers writing.  That’s the thing that I wait for, work for, and look for in every writing effort.