It’s rough to be…
Many years ago a friend of mine was fond of a poem that started with those words. In her case the next word was, I think, ‘little’ so the rest of the poem explored the theme of being, um, ‘vertically challenged’ (“I have to stand when others sit/I have to run when others walk”).
Since I’m approaching my second birthday (perhaps a medivnyk — I think I have enough currants in the pantry) in lockdown I’ve thought about that poem a few times but in my version it’s not about being ‘little’, it’s about being ‘old’ (although, apropos to nothing, the shelves in the kitchen are a little bit higher than they used to be).
Poem or no, I recognize that it’s good for old men to keep moving. Most winters that means hockey (two times a week) and curling (approximately two point three times a week). Summers around here are warm enough to melt ice so there’s no curling and only one hockey per week. I add ‘sitting-on-my-ample-fundament-trying-not-to-get-murdered’ and ‘walking-back-and-forth-over-and-over-again-until-it-gets-hot-enough-for-everything-to-turn-brown’ and most of the time that’s been good enough.
Last summer was different. There was no hockey whatsoever (not only because of the international disease-fest but that was certainly part of it) so for a while it looked like it might be a lazy-ish summer if I could just avoid violent exsanguination in the back yard.
Cool. All the more time to sit in the Green Chair of Thinkitude, eat chips and play video games.
Of course, not everyone agreed that this was an optimal sort of plan. In particular, Ms. Rose was of the opinion that some additional activities were called for. She suggested walks. I suggested blasting photonic ne’er-do-wells. A neurologist I spoke to agreed with Ms. Rose — walks are good for decrepit old men, although she (the neurologist) was diplomatic enough not to use the word ‘decrepit’. At least not when in earshot.
So walks it was. I may have grumbled a bit (“I’m not supposed to pat the dogs? There are bugs? And no chips? What fresh hell is this?“) but as noted I do (grudgingly, always grudgingly) recognize the value of moderate activity for gentlemen of the decrepit persuasion. So we came up with four localish routes of varying lengths with the odd trip farther afield, usually to a section of one of the regional hiking trails. And there were… unexpected… benefits.
For example: on the longest of the ‘local’ routes it turns out that there was ice cream — pretty good ice cream in fact. And flowers. It turns out that ice cream enhances one’s appreciation of flowers. Who knew?
But the real surprise was on one of the shorter routes. Besides the scarecrow (actually an owl that looks exactly like one of the old men I curl with on Mondays) there was Education — compelling evidence that certain knitted goods actually grow on trees.
Now, I used to be a physicist. (The CAP says once a physicist, always a physicist so maybe I still am. Dunno.) I grow the occasional rose bush but really, I know next to nothing about botany. I last took biology in 1977 and Mr. H- said nothing (or at least nothing that I remember) about mittens being an arboricultural product. And I remember my mother saying “Mittens don’t grow on trees, you know” on more than one occasion. On the other hand, she was known to use hyperbole from time to time so maybe that was it. But this did seem improbable…
Hmm. Why does everything have to be so complicated?
But as a famous muppet once said…
I’ve said that there were other, um, ‘venues’. One is in the north end, not that far from where the T-shirt place used to be. One day we were there and there was another mitten tree. Another one? They’re EVERYWHERE? Maybe my physicist’s total conviction that I knew how the world worked was… mistaken. (Inconceivable!) Maybe my mother was wrong. Maybe…
A few hundred paces from the mitten tree was a tree with a pine cone.
That’s not unusual, right? Lots of trees have pine cones. But it didn’t look like the kind of tree that has pine cones. Certainly not at that time of year. But, like I said, I know next to nothing about botany.
“The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”John Burdon Sanderson Haldane