I was in Maine this week, in Freeport, for an appointment to see an old friend. We’d set up the meeting a couple of weeks ago. She was someone who I had worked with years ago, in the late 90s at LL Bean, and today is the Chief Human Resources Officer at the company. She is someone wise with a quick wit, ready to laugh or share a world of experience. I see her as a friend even though we hadn’t seen each other in over 15 years. No Facebook connections, no instagram feed.
In this time of everything-always-now, of streaming content and the new next, it can be remarkably centering to step into a sugar house in March where there is fire, sap, and patience - an antidote for the age of hurry. The sugar maples and the weather conspire to pick the timing of the season, and however much you want that first thimble of syrup to come out of the evaporator, there’s no hurrying the process. You are not in control. There’s no overnight shipping. No Prime. You move in the rhythm of the season or do without.
Gun violence. I would rather not write about this topic. I would rather write about listening to the singers who performed in the chapel last Sunday, or Corby talking about his art, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (performed tonight and tomorrow night). I’d rather write about ski jumping or basketball, women’s hockey or Nordic races. I’d rather update on the construction in the Field House or the latest heroics on Maintenance. I’d rather sing the praises of the artists who dominated the art show up at the Ava Gallery in Lebanon. But my weekly Notes can’t always be whipped cream and bonbons.
It’s the mountain that clanked and rattled and almost shut down. The t-bar gears clattered so much you could hear them across the valley. The cement slabs across the Hameshop Brook, the “bridge”, was slowly settling to become a beaver dam accessory. The “groomer,” better suited to smoothing snowmobile trails, labored up and down the hill, coaxed along by Garry George. The snow making was first generation, vintage at best, and when the lights flickered on at dusk, dusky corners held their ground. A dozen years ago this was the question on everybody’s mind: Why keep the little big mountain going?
As someone who is relatively - maybe completely - incapable of carrying a tune (I’ve been told I couldn’t carry one in a bucket), who dodged requisite instrument lessons as a youth with artfulness and guile, and who only much later (this year) started tinkering with chords on a piano, you’d think appreciation for the individual and collaborative journey of musicians might have eluded me. Not so much. It’s more a sense that I didn’t carry that “gift”, that innate wizardry the musical seem to possess enabling them to hear and see the intricacies of beats and rhythms and to speak in that language, but that doesn’t translate into a lack of appreciation.
There are the upsides. We couldn’t do half of what we do today without technology. It’s made us smarter, more collaborative, and the benefits are clear even if it’s just writing an essay on Google docs or incorporating video into a bio lab report, or skittering through an Excel spreadsheet. But it’s also arriving with unprecedented force, delivered at ever higher pressurized streams. It’s like fracking, that practice of drilling into shale deposits and injecting super compressed fluids - “slick water” with “proppants” - to drive out oil or natural gas trapped in the rock. With technology fracking, the aps, news, entertainment, and social media injected into the bedrock of communities is consequential. It raises the question: what’s being damaged?
One of the best parts of the Hays Speaking Contest comes right after the last speech has been given. Sitting in the back of the auditorium it unfolds like a fan around the seven participants who stand in the front of the room. Family, friends, and teachers make their way down to congratulate the students who have spoken their truth, and from the back the fan seems to open up slowly, pushing its way across the stage, and the truth of the night’s words rise up and swirl.
Forecasting the weather has always been a tricky endeavor. The early calls for Thursday’s storm were for wind, a little snow and cold weather backing in after the event, but nothing epic. Nothing like a winter hurricane. Nothing like Grayson’s bombogenesis of 24 hours. And there is something delicious in the unpredictability, something cleansing in the wildness of a storm.