Some Time in the Trees

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For a bunch of years I worked on challenge courses. I was an instructor, I managed a program and I helped to build and design courses. It was great stuff. One spring day a colleague and I were hanging from cables, adjusting an element high off the ground and she shouted over to me “Hey, we’re at work right now!” Not a bad office.

I still miss that work. I gave it up to have more time in the summer. My wife was a teacher so had summers free. I had winters free. That was tough, so I found other interesting work. Today, however, I got a taste of that outdoor world. I headed to Stowe Mountain Resort and tried out their TreeTop Adventure challenge.

I was there with my children and a friend of my daughter’s. We had experienced courses like this before so it was not totally new to them. After checking in at the lodge, and taking the short gondola ride across the road, we found the place to get an orientation. With harnesses strapped on and our primer completed, we headed to the woods.

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The course includes four smaller courses with increasing difficulty levels: yellow (small people only), green, blue and black. After each course climbers have the option to head to the ground and to be done. Smart. We did green through black. The elements were indeed increasingly challenging. It was a lot of fun.

While the kids were focused on the physical aspects of what they had to do, I paid some attention to the course itself. I was curious about how the platforms were constructed, the specifics of each element, the safety systems. I asked myself more than once “Why didn’t I think of that?” New ideas have clearly come about since my days out there.

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The other thing I enjoyed was simply being up in the trees. It was a perfect day, the sun dappling the forest floor, a light breeze. We moved about at the level of the leaves. I felt at ease up there. Years ago I spent hours on platforms like that, helping others through their own physical and mental challenges. Even today, I felt like I could stay up there all day.

After a couple of hours we all zipped down the last cable to end our adventure. We walked back to drop off our harnesses (harni?), feeling a little more tired than when we started, feeling good about challenging ourselves and succeeding. I was a tad envious of those folks in the red STAFF shirts on the ground, but only a tad. I had a good run with that work. Today I was happy to walk back to the car with three happy teens, lunch around the corner, plus a stop at the Ben and Jerry’s factory. Challenge courses have changed, and apparently I have too.

Not Out in the Snow

Yesterday it snowed most of the day. Today there was fresh snow on the ground, flurries on and off. I work in lots of different places, with no office or standard workplace to speak of. Yesterday and today I hung out in a library, meeting students.

The place is well lit, with lots of windows. I sat next to the windows, facing into the building so students could find me. But I turned around a lot. Sometimes, when I had a moment, I would stare out there. I would watch the snow fall, look at the piles of it. I would imagine being out in it.

I wasn’t in the middle of nowhere. I was next to a parking lot. But I have a good imagination. I imagined, in a few spare moments, being in the wilderness, skiing where the wind provides the only sound aside from the shush of skis. The Wind River Range in Wyoming, the mountains of Idaho, the Green Mountain Ridge. I thought of these places I had been.

Two days ago I worked in a windowless conference room. It was snowing like crazy and I didn’t know it for hours. This morning, at least, I did get out in it. I skied several laps around the meadow. It was just light enough. I had to break new tracks in places where the wind had filled them in. A Great Horned Owl hooted in the woods. A couple of crows called back and forth. Snow Buntings trilled across the road. Then I went to the library.

I will ski again tomorrow. Maybe in the mountains, maybe right here. We’ll see what happens. I might read for a while, looking out at the snow from the warm house. But I won’t do that in the library. I’ve spent enough time there this week.

Trying Something New and Snow Melting

I had to work today. I got to present a workshop, twice, on getting organized for the college admissions process. Each session had an audience of about 200 people. It was a lot. It was a little scary. That is why I did it.

If I am not doing something a little scary on a regular basis then I am not learning and growing. When I say “scary” I mean something that at least makes me uncomfortable, something that requires a risk, something that I have never done before. It always a little scary to present to a large group. If I totally miss the mark, then a large group of people will notice that, but when it works well it feels pretty good.

I don’t want to have too much routine in any area of my life. Routines are comforting and safe and it can be really nice to have that at times. If I get into too much of a routine, however, than I stop liking what I am doing. In my job, every day is different, every week is different, every year is different one to the next. That is not easy sometimes, but I certainly won’t get bored that way. If I can take risks often enough, then I will stay interested and I will keep developing as a professional and as a human being.

So I offered a workshop I had never offered before. I got some positive feedback, so at least for some participants it went well. Phew. Before I headed home I took a half hour to walk along the Winooski River, to calm my mind. The snow, 18 inches of it in Winooski, was quickly melting. The temperature got up to 45 degrees today. It wasn’t sunny but the snow slumped and melted. The river was starting to run high.

I watched ducks on the river. I saw three common goldeneye diving for mussels or whatever else they could find. One was hanging out under the Route 7 bridge in a hole in the ice. I saw a bufflehead, always cool to see. I watched a couple of mallards fly in and start dabbling on another open patch of water right below me. I saw my first cormorant of the year as well. I even got to hear a fish crow, which is hard to tell apart visually from your typical American crow but has a distinct nasal call. I watched the water flow around the ice and listened as the ice groaned–I think it is ready for spring.

Mallards on the Winooski River

Mallards on the Winooski River

I have realized that the reason I have enjoyed birding is that it is always new. Every time I go out I am surprised. I may see birds I expect and I may not, but there is always something I don’t expect. The weather may offer something curious, I may see a new species, I may just enjoy being in a new place. I always discover something. There is no bad birding experience. I always take the chance that I will be disappointed.  I never am.

The Winooski River is still in winter mode

The Winooski River is still in winter mode, but thawed a little today

Icy Situation

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It started raining yesterday afternoon. By evening it was really coming down. The snow turned to mush. Water poured from the roof. It was winter at it ugliest. It was a bit of a mess. But we were snug inside. No problem.

It was still raining in the morning. I did the usual routine to get ready for work. I was sitting at the table, eggs for breakfast, reading something or other and my wife says, “Whoa, look at how slowly the school bus is moving.” I look out to see one car sliding toward the side of the road, then stop. Then I see the school bus emerge from behind some trees, poking along. “Must be icy.”

At the curve in our dirt road the bus starts to slide. Slowly it slips toward the snow-filled ditch. Then it stops. Like slow motion only it really was moving slowly. Now the bus is sideways to the road but can’t move. It is too icy. Tires spin. One car passes the bus (not sure what that was about) then gets stuck on the slight hill. A couple other cars turn around at the end of the road, the drivers seeing what is up. My wife calls the town garage to let them know.

That was why I was late for work. The bus eventually got going, with the help of lots of sand. One of the stuck cars got going. The other was still there, hazard light flashing, when I finally decided to give the driving a go. It was, indeed, icy. I didn’t get to work quickly.

Drama for the morning it was. It is still raining. Freezing tonight. Could be another adventurous morning.

A Bad Purchase and Tuckered

I painted a lot over the past couple of days. Trim, siding, windows. I’ve been up on a ladder swinging a paint can and wielding a brush. It takes a long time to paint a house. Technically, I am staining it at this point, although I started last summer with paint. I realized this summer, after carefully looking over the rusting cans in the basement, that the house had been stained in the past, not painted as I had thought. Staining means no priming, which saves me a coat. Still, this ain’t no quick project.

I had the idea that I would us a sprayer at one point. I went to the Home Depot and browsed and found what I thought would be the perfect tool. It was a backpack sprayer, made by Ryobi, the One+. It holds a gallon and a half, carried like a backpack, with a spray gun. It is powered by a lithium battery so no cord needs to be lugged up the ladder. It was just what I needed, so I bought it. Once I brought it home I wondered just how much the battery might last, but the manual was of little use, so I looked at reviews at Amazon and other sites. Things didn’t look good at that point.

The reviews were mixed but were either raves or pans–nothing in between. Reviewers gave the tool one star or five stars. The bad reviews talked of leaking and poor spray power and globbing and spitting. I hoped I would have better luck. Maybe these folks were setting it up wrong? Or maybe there were just some good ones and some bad ones, you know, inconsistent manufacturing. I gulped and figured I would try it. But it wouldn’t turn on. The battery, it turns out, was defective, so my wife volunteered to get me a new one while I got started with a brush. The old fashioned way gets the job done again. One day down.

Finally, with the new battery, I was ready to try this beast the next day. I had a huge scrap of cardboard on which to practice. Practice was all I got. That thing is the worst tool I have ever used. It leaked like crazy and had really poor spray consistency. I took it apart and couldn’t get it to stop leaking after I put it back together. It was awful. I could not have been more disappointed. I cleaned it and returned it the next day. Seriously, I have never made a less satisfactory purchase. Not performing well is one thing. Not getting the job done at all is ridiculous.

So I started painting again with a brush. Now, after a day of painting, up and down the ladder, in hot sun and sometimes high wind, hands pooling sweat in latex gloves, I have made some real progress. But I am, as noted, tuckered. Early to bed and early to rise gets the painting done, however. I guess I’m on that.

More Hot Painting

I didn’t get started as early as yesterday, but I did get some painting done on the house today. I got started about 8:30 because I needed new brushes, so I zipped to the hardware store before I could I could begin. I was working on the siding where there is a lot of trim, so it was slow going. I kept at it for a few hours, until 12:15 or so, then washed up and headed in for lunch. This is a big project for sure. I don’t really want to be painting when it is 88 degrees, as it was when I quit, but I need to paint while the sun shines, even if it is hot. Wicked hot.

Tomorrow I plan to paint under cover–walls under the roof of the porch, so it will be shaded, and if we do get those “slight chance of” showers I can keep working. Then I have the lattice to paint. That took pretty much forever when I primed it the other day and I assume it will take close to that or more with the regular old paint. Two more days of painting what I primed, then sanding (the part for my sander came in today) and more primer. Overwhelming, that is what you might call it.

I need to look into getting a sprayer. This house of ours is way too big to paint with brushes. We’ll see. Maybe I can rent one? We’ll see. For now I have brush work to do, and a deck to finish sanding, and some walls to sand. Oy. It will be hot again in the morning, but I will call it quits by lunch time. Then I will have the whole afternoon to sweat.

Where I Left Off

Lattice Waiting for Paint

Paint on House Siding

The Last Paint Left in the Brush