Thursday, November 14, 2019

Small Things

            Lately we have found our lives consumed by small things – and this is good, because so much of the Big News (e.g., climate change, politics, racism, corporate greed) is so discouraging. A few examples:

·      We keep dispensers for hand soap and lotion on the kitchen sink. We recently emptied one and got out a new one (Kim keeps replacements for about everything, which makes me a little nervous). A simple twist, I thought, would unlock the plunger/dispenser thingy on the cap, and we’d be in business. An hour later, I was still struggling with it. I googled the problem and found a guy, and then a woman, also struggling with it, but their solutions did not work for me. Kim finally figured out to get the old plunger that we were throwing away and put it on the new bottle, and we were back in business. I felt really good about getting the problem solved, along with feeling bad about having that as a problem.

·      When we watch the evening news on ABC, which we are doing less frequently, the sound is not synced with the picture, which makes David Muir look even more like a ventriloquist dummy. The Geek Squad can’t fix this, nor can the cable company. It’s clear that this is my responsibility, and I have failed. But given the scope of problems in the world, the small size of the failure is, in a way, reason for happiness. Is this all that I’m worried about? Unless David Muir’s unsynced lips are a sign of the decline of civilization . . ..

·      We are looking for a log to place in our woods so we can hook up a hidden dribble of water to attract the birds. It has to be the right size – about the size of my body – and the ends should be natural, not sawn off. The water will dribble into a rock with a naturally occurring basin. Candidates we have found in the woods are typically too large or too heavy to get to the car, or too rotten. This is a good challenge. It gets us out in the woods.

·      We spent way too much time looking for two Christmas ornaments that we bought at Michael’s and put somewhere. Either I took them down to Kim’s studio or the storage/mechanical room, or I didn’t. We’ve had a number of geezer-freezer experiences like this, perhaps a sign of impending Oldtimer’s Disease. But also: Enjoy the glow of satisfaction when you eventually find the damn things, which we did.

·      Ever buy something on the internet? Ever experience a problem doing it? We had two recent experiences where we encountered problems, both of which were partially my fault, and the companies stepped up nicely to make things right. I ordered ladders so we could escape from the basement egress windows, but they sent the wrong ladders, and I ordered some high-tech underwear that I had sent to our home address where we don’t receive mail, preferring a PO box because the snowplows would knock down a mailbox. Years ago, I did some work with Tom Cates, a colleague of my brother who specializes in customer loyalty. One thing I learned is that the most important driver of customer loyalty is how the company handles the inevitable screw-ups. Both companies handled them beautifully, and it made me glad. This does not solve the problems of climate change or gerrymandering, but still, it was good.

·      Friendship is not a small thing, but it is played on a small stage, a dining room table or living room in front of a fire. Saturday our neighbor, Joe, stopped by for some of Kim’s bread pudding, and we had a delightful conversation about family, our neighborhood, Joe’s dog (shared custody with his ex-wife in Wisconsin), slippers, CBD oil, health, Joe’s book, etc. Shortly after that we drove an hour to have dinner with Bill and Kate, our new good friends. Basking in the warmth of their beautiful home and hospitality, helped by a bit of wine, the rest of the world temporarily faded. And when we did discuss the larger problems, it was in the glow of shared values. If there are people like Joe, Bill and Kate in the world, plus many others who we count in our circle of friends, both here and in our previous lives, then it’s a cause for celebration.


Fall, you may have noticed, becomes winter. This year it happened in one week.

Mourning Dove with Autumn Leaves

Dark-eyed Junco on Birch

Pileated Woodpecker Felling a Tree

And then:

Downy Woodpecker Fluffed Against the Cold

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco with Newly Found Ornament

Chickadee Catching Snowflakes



  1. I think I was talking to Kim on the phone when she was taking the picture of the woodpecker! :)

  2. I don't know why my comments show up as "unknown". Kirsti wrote the comment above about the woodpecker (or below, depending on how these comments work).