In the celebrating wins category, a colleague recently paid me a huge compliment. I won’t go into the specifics, but it was something I devoted a lot of time and effort to making sure met with success.
Ideas are cheap, execution is everything.
This was a big system problem with a lot of detail and a lot of things that could have gone sideways. Something that impacted a lot of people. From concept to design to execution to communication, I worried the details.
He said that he felt like he was arriving into a city on a flight and I was the pilot, explaining that the plane was x miles out; relaying the temperature and forecast. Tray tables up, seat belts fastened, seats upright. Attendants take your seats. Smooth landing. Thanks for flying with Chris Airlines.
Yes! Sometimes things go right.
Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck, some nights I call it a draw. Some nights I wish that my lips could build a castle, some nights I wish they’d just fall off.
The thing about Chekhov is that the insight or turn of phrase always catches one off guard. I was reading A Boring Story and it paces along nicely – not so much in classic prose style… but excellent pacing. The details of place names or character references aren’t so important to the story, but it’s the succinct capturing of human nature. It’s timeless. It’s easy to map the traits of his characters to people you’ve met.
The Hunstman is another good one. Checkhov frames out the characters and sketches just enough of their relationship to let the reader complete the story. Maybe that’s a quality of good fiction – it’s not so much of a complete, high fidelity account of every detail, but just enough to let the reader close the loop. It’s the blank space, what isn’t written that captures the reader’s imagination.
I’ve been reading Checkhov’s short stories in between pop science business books and nonfiction. It’s been nice to return to a well written short story.
Alec gave him the nickname when we were hiking out of Chicago Basin in the Needles range, Colorado. His real name is Wonka. He and Granite Chief aka Chiefy, hiked with us from Purgatory Ski Resort just outside of Durango back into the range. We were headed back up to climb Mount Eolus and Sunlight Peak, one 14’er we climbed a couple of years earlier, one we hadn’t.
To understand how Wonka earned the nickname, it’s important to learn his personality. We adopted Wonka from Watermelon Mountain Ranch in Albuquerque. First he was a res dog. In New Mexico there are a lot of Native American reservations and on those reservations, there are dogs neither spayed nor neutered. The litters are large. Many of them are killed on the highways, some make it out to the shelters. Wonka was lucky. He was adopted by a family living in an apartment, where he then proceeded to bite one of the children and went back out for adoption. Then he joined our pack.
He’s deaf. It’s common in Australian Cattle Dogs. He has a gunsight notch at the tip of his right ear that Chief gave to him when they were competing for daddy lap time. His tail was cropped as a puppy, too short. He’s sensitive where his tail is cropped and would prefer not to have anyone pet or scratch that area. Wonka will always choose a hard floor to a dog bed, he eats every meal as if it will be his last, he takes pleasure in the simple things.
Living with a deaf dog, you grow to understand their needs – staying in visual proximity, waving them over – making sure they know you’re nearby by stomping the floor to send a vibration they can feel. As a deaf herding dog, Wonka has adapted the ways he keeps track of us. He’ll lay across all entries/exits in order to ensure we have to move through him to leave a room. He’ll then get up and reposition himself to achieve the best vantage point.
Wonka is my wing man. We spend a lot of time together, in the evenings. I read with one hand and scratch his head with the other. He’s always got eyes on me. And I’ve always got his back.
Low-4. Hiking out through the blowdowns and across scree slopes Wonka had one speed. On that trip he didn’t stop, 19 miles we powered on. Toward the end of the hike I relieved he and Chief of the packs holding their dog food and treats they were carrying. At my heels Wonka will follow me anywhere.
Some of my favorites from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations (Gregory Hays translation).
At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work—as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for—the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?” —But it’s nicer here.… So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?
Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human—however imperfectly—and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked
To watch the courses of the stars as if you revolved with them. To keep constantly in mind how the elements alter into one another. Thoughts like this wash off the mud of life below.
Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. If it’s unendurable … then stop complaining. Your destruction will mean its end as well. Just remember: you can endure anything your mind can make endurable, by treating it as in your interest to do so. In your interest, or in your nature.
The Pythagoreans tell us to look at the stars at daybreak. To remind ourselves how they complete the tasks assigned them—always the same tasks, the same way. And their order, purity, nakedness. Stars wear no concealment.
It’s quite possible to be a good man without anyone realizing it. Remember that.
I’ve been burning through my book list trying to bring it home toward the end of the year. I’ll post the big(er) list in early 2019. So far at the top of my list for fiction is Kakfa On The Shore by Murakami. His writing speaks to me in a deep way.
Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.