Asphalt. Sparks. Smithereens.


My first thought was, “Well, at least our prepaid bowling pass wasn’t destroyed.” Darting in and out of highway traffic, like a crow feeding on roadkill, I picked up the pieces.

Asphalt. High Speeds. Trucks on the move. Add a dash of stupidity, and you’ve got a whole lot of smithereens.

I never thought such a thing would happen to me. “Cautious” might as well be my middle name. On a recent trip to the Boundary Waters, for example, I left this smart phone at home. No phone. No camera. I loved it.

This Iphone XR has (had rather) tens of thousands of times more computing power than all the computers used by NASA to assist in putting a man on the moon. It boggles the mind that we casually walk around with miniature super computers in our pockets. Such hubris! Even the most cautious person is bound to leave it on top of the car in a moment of hurry at some point in there lives. Others drop it in the lake, or lose it to a thief. Pick your poison.

Wearing those pesky running shorts, I possessed no pockets in that careless moment. And so, after collecting my things along that lonely highway, I stuck to the plan, productively using two hours while my son participated in his mountain bike team’s practice on the extreme fringes of the opposite end of town. It helped that I wasn’t able to call my wife and moan, which also enabled her to enjoy a productive evening of painting devoid of stress.

I made a small delivery of microgreens to the Denfeld Co-op, and enjoyed an outstanding trail run on that last section of the Superior Hiking Trail through the Mission Creek area. A short five mile out-and-back, the experience greatly exceeded expectations.

My son and I are continuing our quest to hike the entire 311 miles of the trail to the Canadian border in short chunks, but I banged out this little section myself just to keep us moving. I had forgotten the treasures of this section, which greatly eased my natural trajectory toward heartbreak over the loss. A view to the south opened up, reminiscent of Appalachian foothills. An encounter with a gigantic white pine, possessing the sort of character that only centuries bestow on a being, was particularly moving. I placed my hand on the craggy bark and thanked God for allowing me to experience this moment in time with a giant that had outlasted generations. Will it still be standing five years from now? I’m thankful to have encountered it today. Perspective…..

George Washington, who was certainly pre-dated by this specimen, came to mind. He cautioned against entangling alliances with foreign nations in his farewell address to the nation in 1796. Our family’s alliance with 134-year-old AT&T (which has plenty of practice in the art of billing) certainly seems entangling. I’m normally against debt of all kinds, but the buy one get one free offer, multiple phones for a family of four, yada yada, seemed enticing. Now we’re on the hook for 30 months. What will life be like in two and a half years? It’s almost unimaginable. More than likely I’ll be ensconced in a conventional job. Our kids will be driving. That’s just two big ones that come to mind. It’s unwise to entangle a future that can’t even be imagined. Our family has subsisted on the sort of income you might imagine that an urban farmer and artist might combine to make, because we have eschewed debt over the years.

And so, this knowledge of a lapse in judgment hurts. Rather than whip out the credit card for a quick fix, I prefer to allow these sorts of opportunities to become a springboard for growth. A poignant example of this came through the death of our dog, and in the bounty in scarcity that followed. I’m one of those poor souls who is apt to place ultimate meaning in those sorts of disasters, uncovering orchestration in the fact that two grand in appliance replacements and a hot water heater also occurred this past month. There’s always something being taught, if we’ll only humble ourselves and learn. After all, it’s impossible to learn something we think we already know. 

It’s undeniable that possession of a cell phone has detracted from my writing, if not cut it out altogether. While I don’t tend to spend too much time fiddling around in social media and whatnot, I have devoted far too much brain space to podcasts. Good ones. No, great ones. These are fantastic while engaging in tedious work. (Try washing and sanitizing 80 trays and you’ll understand.) While oober beneficial in this regard, the overall effect has been a compulsive habit of working through my podcast feed on a daily basis.

A writer, and any thinking human (i.e. everybody), needs blank space for their mind to wander. Creativity thrives when we push through boredom. This was one of the lessons in my book, describing the months spent living in a cabin up north without television or radio, and yet I haven’t lived like that in recent years.

I was proud to have avoided owning a cell phone until attaining the ripe old age of 40, three years ago. I had just scored the first interview of its kind with our newly elected mayor, Emily Larson, and my camera was broken. I put out a request to the wider world, and a neighbor traded me her old Iphone 4 in exchange for a six-pack. Initially, I used it solely as a camera, and later learned to download podcasts. It was through engaging in this activity that I learned about profitable urban farming, so this single gadget impacted our family in more ways than one.

I don’t wish to turn back time, but I have known for a couple years that this habit has drained me of the ability to write. Arguably, I need a phone for reaching chefs, taking credit card payments, etc, so I haven’t been successful at implementing necessary changes. It is not beneath the action of a loving God to painfully remove something from our lives for a season. There. I said it. I don’t think this was just any old accident. I want to listen. And learn…

It’s not like our family is short on devices. Crap, we have three of them. I can borrow one for Market. The rub comes in with this entangling alliance. I’ll have to continue to pay while waiting for an affordable Iphone,  but that is a sunk cost. Paying more now, when it might be more beneficial to wait, does not erase this sunk cost. It is fixed. Determined by actions taken in the past. Now we’re in the present…

The writer asks the reader for patience as he works through this. And, respectfully, he wouldn’t be closed to the notion of paying $200 + or minus some microgreens for something workable in your junk drawer.

Shucks, I paid nearly twice that for backpacks from Frost River as a gift to my twins, who are soon to enter high school. But these are durable. Built to last a lifetime. Also, one of them is putting a neighbor to work, as it’s being handcrafted locally, at this very moment. Literally. Right now it’s being made not far from here.  I checked. That’s money well spent.

So, one lives and learns. A thirty-month entangling alliance with a century-old company might not seem like much when weighing the experiences of a three to four century-old tree in a magical woods nearby. In midlife, however,  it’s imperative to learn from such debacles. There might not be as many 30-month periods remaining as one might think.

And so, if you need to reach me, get creative.


4 thoughts on “Asphalt. Sparks. Smithereens.

  1. So sorry about your phone, Eddy. I totally get what you mean about not spending time writing when you have other distractions. I took my first writing class (online) a couple years ago and LOVED it. I really felt like I was in my creative element during that time. I had waited till I thought I had six weeks I could totally devote to the class. The only problem was that about halfway through, I got called in to work pretty much full-time and my concentration/devotion flew out the window. The distractions were many and I felt my creativity seeping out of my being quickly. I ended up doing well with the class grade wise, but felt disappointed in myself for not giving 100%. I have not taken another class since then for fear of not being able to give it 100%. I hate to keep saying “maybe some day.” I also really enjoy listening to podcasts and know they can be time consuming, but also very informative. I usually listen to them when I am washing dishes or cooking a meal. I still really enjoy reading your posts. Keep ‘em coming.

    1. Thanks so much, Becky. I’m definitely smelling quite a cocktail of perfectionism here, friend. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but this condition is also a mortal enemy to good writing, and creativity in general. Get out there and write something crappy. Then mediocre, and on to good. You’ll find you might even get to really good, but still not be at 100%. The thrill is in the chase. Don’t wait for the perfect time. We need to hone our muscles all the time, so we’re ready to go when we’re finally in the right place. Otherwise, you’ll discover that the writing muscle has atrophied to the point of starting over. Painful process. Believe me, I know…

  2. Eddy, man, have I got some tips for you. We kicked ol’ ATT to the curb months ago. There’s good, cheap ways of doing cell phones. I had to learn the hard way too, unfortunately. I’m afraid of being too harsh here, but if you would like some unsolicited advice, solicit me. I think you can find my email address through these comments or my blog, right? Take care. Scott

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