Friday, November 21, 2014

November Memories

Tall Pines in November Along Raymond's Gut

Memories are funny things.  Some get stronger with age and some seem to fade away.   November is a good month for memories because of Thanksgiving.  Our family happens to fall into the category of families having mostly good memories about holidays especially Thanksgiving.

There are no pressures to give gifts and even most of us males can manage to be helpful during Thanksgiving by peeling potatoes or washing dishes.  Generally the weather is not so bad that a nice long walk is out of the question.  With traffic getting more and more challenging, the actual time during Thanksgiving that people are together seems to be getting shorter and shorter.  Thanksgiving is an easy holiday to enjoy.

Thanksgiving is also a holiday that often brings transitions.  It often is the first big holiday that you spend away from home.  I still remember the oyster stuffing that I had at a friends home when I spent my first Thanksgiving away from home in 1967.  I can well remember that first Thanksgiving four years later in 1971 when several of my college friends came to visit my old farmhouse in Saint Croix Cove, Nova Scotia.  It was the first Thanksgiving dinner that any of our crew of friends had ever attempted without a mother being cook in charge.  We pulled it off and it is still a special Thanksgiving to me. For me it became the celebration dinner for the first chapter of my sixteen years in Canada.  Those years are a big part of our book, A Taste For The Wild, Canada's Maritimes.

Certainly Thanksgiving is the holiday that most people want to be home. Because of that, there are sometimes subtle changes in our lives that first show themselves at Thanksgiving.  For years we traveled to Mount Airy, North Carolina, to have our Thanksgiving in our home place at 347 West Pine St. which for a while was a bed and breakfast.  Our family enjoyed Thanksgiving at that same Pine Street spot for nearly 100 years.

My mother, Blanche Sobotta, held sway there on Pine Street for many years.  Her story is certainly a big part of my own story and for several years I can remember my wife, Glenda, driving down from Roanoke, Virginia, a day or two early to Mount Airy, to help with the Thanksgiving preparations.  It was always a great feast held in the formal dining room.  Mother was an expert at preparing large meals and as she got into her eighties often started the preparation a week ahead of time.  I can still remember the hot rolls and other wonderful dishes.

Then there came the time when it just seemed right for my wife and I to host Thanksgiving at our home on the mountain.  I do not exactly remember when it started happening but it was likely sometime in the mid to late nineties.  We have been hosting Thanksgiving since then and only one year did we venture out to have it with one of our children. Eventually we were bringing my mother to our Roanoke home from a nearby assisted living place in Salem, Virginia. Then we moved from Roanoke and Thanksgiving came with us to live out a dream on the North Carolina coast. This year it looks like we will be in transition once again.

With traffic so bad in the DC area and a new grandson too young to travel on the other end of North Carolina, our three grown children will be own their own with their turkeys this year.  They are a lot older than I was when I attempted to do my own turkey in 1972.  No one told me about the extra parts on the inside of the turkey. One of them has already done several turkeys on her own. One does not like turkey and the other would prefer someone else put the white meat on the platter for her.

Even so our children will likely remember this year because it is a little different since they will not here on the Crystal Coast with us. They might not have the energy to cook up everything that is on our traditional menu that accompanies the turkey and which our son prefers to the turkey.  I know that we will be paring the menu down a lot if only the two of us will be eating it.  Still it will be another Thanksgiving to remember and perhaps a memory that will stand as tall as a big pine instead of vanishing.

November is also the time when we moved to our much loved farm in Tay Creek, New Brunswick, where we lived for ten years.  The snow was on the ground that first year when we moved in and it did not leave until the first week in May.  We got twenty-three feet of snow that year and at times we did have six feet of snow on the ground. It was to the eaves on the barn.

I went on my first business trip for Apple in November of 1984.  I still remember how cold it was walking around Montreal in a suit and dress shoes with snow on the ground.  Then there was the November of 1989.  We had just moved to Roanoke, Virginia, and it started snowing early that month and stayed on the ground until after Christmas.  The road got so icy that neighbors got together and chipped a path one half mile down the hill.

Of course November was often the time for Apple sales conferences.  I remember the wonderful one in 2001 when I won the award as national business sales manager of the year. The next year in Toronto our federal team was treated as heroes because we had done the impossible.  We had become a very successful enterprise sales team right in the heart of the very consumer-oriented Apple.

It was only one year later in 2003 when we were treated as outcasts because the company had been unable to ship the product that we sold.  That was the year and the November that I vowed that I would never return to Cupertino. I was gone from Apple eight months later and you can read the story in my book, The Pomme Company.

Beyond business, turkeys and snow, I first started kayaking on the White Oak River in November of 2006.  I have also enjoyed some of my most memorable fishing during November including this cooler full of fish.  There have been some wonderful Novembers here along our piece of coastal paradise where sometimes the weather is so nice that you have to worry about someone pinching you and waking you up from a dream.

Then there is that memorable for me day, November 23, 2004, just one day shy of ten years ago when I published my first blog post, My Welcome To Windows.  I have written thousands of posts since then. Many are scattered all over the Internet but there are links to a smattering of them on my homepage.  Just a little over one hundred of them are located here at my Ocracoke Waves site. There are lots more at my Crystal Coast Life site and almost fifteen hundred at my View from the Mountain blog with hundreds more at  my Saltwater On My Feet blog and my Applepeels site. The four hundred plus posts which were once at Applepeels were the basis for our first book, The Pomme Company.  I have written a few other books along the way and I just started my first truly fiction book. It comes as no surprise that I started it this November.  That might become another good November memory for me.

I am going to look forward to the memories that I make this November.  There will be yet another turkey to carve, mashed potatoes to make, and this year I am in charge of rolls.  There is also still time to catch some November fish and finish a few November chapters of that new book.

I hope that each reader makes good memories of their own this November 2014.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Appreciating the shallows

When you look back, much of your life has revolved around the big things like graduating from high school or college, getting married, having kids, and getting that great job.   Those big events remind me of deep waters where you cannot see to the bottom.

You face a lot of deep, dark waters during your life.  When you join a corporation, it is unlikely you have any idea how long you will be there, what you will accomplish, or how your career will end.  Certainly I had no idea my time at Apple would end so abruptly right at the very moment when my team was achieving such amazing success.

When you commit yourself to spending your life with another person, there is no way to read those waters and what will happen over the years.  You just have to prepare yourself for the ride and hope you can keep your love and friendship alive.

Children are much the same.  There is no way to predict what kind of person that wonderful toddler will be in twenty years.  You do the best to guide them, provide some advice, and try to be a good example.  I know my parents were very surprised when I graduated from college and headed off to Canada to build a cattle operation in the hardwood hills of New Brunswick.

As you get beyond some of those milestones in life, the water get a little shallower and it is a little easier to see to the bottom or you could face next. Life always holds plenty of mysteries, but you often have a little better idea of what will happen if you do a certain thing. You have done a lot of things over and over and some of your actions reliably produce a consistent result. There is some comfort in that. If I go to church every Sunday, pay attention in the pew, and try to live better, I end up feeling better about myself and those around me.

I know that if I go out and walk five or six miles during the day, I will be really tired at night and likely sleep really well.  If I also do a lot of yard trimming and gardening on the same, there is a good chance that I will be so tired that I will have trouble sleeping. I seem to feel the best when I walk three or four miles in a day.

We know if we call our older daughter at 9 PM on Sunday night, it will be a short call.  That is when she is watching one of the few television shows that she enjoys. My neighbor enjoys washing his cars early on Sunday morning. Sometimes he washes them when even he admits they are pretty clean.

We understand that when beach season arrives that shopping in the grocery stores is a lot more challenging.  We try to shop for our groceries between Monday and Thursday and typically we avoid buying groceries on  the island from early June until late August.  It is part of the rhythm of life here on the coast.

While you can never predict what the future holds, experience teaches us much over the years and as the water gets shallower or our time horizon gets closer,  you do get better at navigating the waters. Know even a handful of things that you can comfortably count on to happen removes a little stress.  If life was always as mysterious as that first day on a new job or as stressful as a move to a new city, we might be perpetually stressed out.

There is some comfort in shallow waters whether you are fishing in them or living them.  Almost eight years ago when I moved to the Crystal Coast I had no idea that I would be so at home among the oyster rocks that once appeared so threatening.  Now I would rather go out on our river to fish when the tide is falling and the water shallow.  It is easier to sit alongside an oyster rock and fish.  When the tide is in, I cannot see the oyster rocks, I have no place to rest my kayak, and I am also unlikely to catch any fish.

When I get up in the morning, I no longer have to worry about the implications of every email that I write or each decision during the day.  I am no longer in the high pressure corporate world that defined my life for twenty years.  Now I try to please my wife, keep the commitments that I have made to myself, my family, my community, my church, and also to my boss who is not rich like Tim Cook at Apple but happens to be a whole lot better leader.

We have been here on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina long enough to appreciate how spring can start cool but easily rush into summer and quickly deliver us to beach season.  There is comfort in worrying about when the tomatoes will get ripe instead of when global warming will reach the tipping point or whether Apple will be able to deliver promised products before the end of the year.

Perhaps the choice of living here in Carteret County is a choice of shallower water than Reston, Virginia, where I worked for so many years.  By moving here we escaped from the city and found a less complicated life where you are more likely to be something more than just another face in the crowd.

I have written in our Emerald Isle Travel Guide that Carteret County is a lot of water spread mighty thin.  Maybe life here on the Crystal Coast is easier to take just because of that.