My neighbor spent six hours shoveling snow from his driveway. Then he left for a week. The snow kept on coming. Now his driveway is completely covered. I wondered aloud why he spent so much time on such a thankless task when he could have just made a couple of tire grooves like we did. Because he’s not lazy like us? Because he wanted stronger arms? Because he risked his life getting to the hardware store in the middle of a blizzard, snagged that last snow shovel, and by God, he was going to get his money’s worth? But now he’s gone and can’t see his ruined job. Maybe he’s off on vacation right now, imagining the scraped-clean cement, and smiling about it.
I thought about all of that and then I took my digital recorder into the woods to capture the sound of ice falling from the trees. Crouched amongst the ferns, I wondered aloud why I spend so much time…doing strange things.
There was a gathering in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of northern
I picked some red cedar leaves in the woods and boiled them. The water smells good in a bath. I cut some boiled sprigs into bits and mixed them with sugar and kosher salt, olive oil and lavender essential oil. It scrubs the dirt away like you wouldn’t believe and only costs about twenty five cents to make, compared to about $10-$16 for sugar and salt scrubs you can buy. I sat in the bath and watched the snow come down and listened to my recording while reading my new Runner’s World magazine. The microphone picked up the sounds beautifully, though I moved around too much and an airplane went overhead, overshadowing the echoey forest sounds. I had an idea once to record the sounds inside of famous restaurants so you could have a dinner party with all of the appropriate dining clatter and say to your guests, “”We’re in Paris! This is what it sounds like in Le Jules Verne!” We actually took a recorder into a British pub to try it, but the microphone picked up all the wrong noises, like our forks and our smacking and a a whiney customer bitching about her over-cooked bangers.
I was thinking about obsessions when I picked up that Runner’s World in the bathtub, freshly brewed cedar essence rising up in the steam. On the cover it says, “Do you tie your shoes wrong?"
For some reason that intrigued me more than “28 tips to lose weight.” So I flipped to the story. It’s about an Australian computer programmer and graphic designer named Ian Fieggen who is obsessed with shoe lace knots. He invented a namesake method in 1982. He has a website dedicated to teaching people how to tie a better knot. (www.fieggen.com/shoelace). He quit his job to spread the gospel of more efficient shoelace knot tying. “I gave a name to something I invented,” he said.
That story really got me thinking about obsessions and human needs, desires & passions. To scrape the pavement clean. To fix the world’s wayward laces. To capture sounds. To create. In 1961, Susan Sontag wrote in her journal, “Writing is a beautiful act. It is making something that will give pleasure to others later.”
Photo: Full Wolf Moon over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
A good corn soup will warm you up from the inside out and back again. So will this
Hold on to what is good,
even if it's a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
even if it's a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
even if it's a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
even if it's easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
even if I've gone away from you.
ps -- The Full Wolf Moon is January 10, 2009. Don’t forget to look up!