Thursday, October 04, 2012

Back to Work

More than a year of work is coming to an end this weekend.

Last January I returned to work full time to help with a major system upgrade. In the last nine months I've averaged more than forty  hours per week but the end is in sight.

Last night, Wednesday, at midnight the system was taken down and the upgrade began. Various staff members will be working around the clock for the next four days. I'm scheduled to be at work Saturday morning at 5:00 AM and will finish at 11:30 PM. Sunday morning I'll be back in my office at 6:00 AM for the final checkout. By 5:00 PM Sunday, if all goes according to schedule, the system will be back up.

I've enjoyed this project. At the start  I thought working full time would be difficult. I was mistaken. I've adjusted and it's been OK. Recently I was asked if I wanted to return to 24 hours per week but I declined.

A few weeks ago Julie, who has worked half time for the last several years, was approached about going full time. For various reasons she decided to accept the opportunity and will start January 1.

Before the end of the year I'll reach my full retirement age. According to my calculations we have enough saved to provide for ourselves but I've been rethinking retirement. A few years ago I read the book Blue Zones and one statement has been nagging me: "The Okinawans have no word for retirement". That was a reminder that "retirement" is a recent invention. It may not be a good invention.

I enjoy my job, being part of a campus, observing young people and being energized by the activities, events and an atmosphere of life.

At the moment I think I'll pitch the word "retirement" out of my vocabulary and continue to work 32 or 40 hours for a few more years.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Season Total

Recently a neighbour asked "How many rattlesnakes have you seen?" I replied none. She responded that she had seen only one or two this season and other neighbours had seen none or fewer than usual.

Summer before last I saw twelve or thirteen near the house but only three last summer. I attributed the reduction to the cats who control the mouse population which means no food supply to attract snakes. I've wondered if the cats serve as a deterrent to snakes. Maybe snakes avoid the yard due to the cat scent. This is probably a guess without basis.

I saw one non-poisonous snake in the yard this summer. I came around the end of the house and startled a gopher snake that immediately began moving backward away from me and turned as quickly as possible to seek safety under the deck.

I thought I'd finish the season without a rattlesnake sighting but....

Sunday evening, September 30, Julie and I got home about six o'clock. I stopped the car, hopped out and opened the back door to get a package when I heard a rattle. About three feet from me was the largest Hopi rattlesnake I've ever seen -- largest in length and girth. I moved away from him (her?) and he kept moving toward the car. He never coiled and stopped rattling almost instantly. I walked around the car to get a better looked and he rattled again for a couple seconds but kept moving. I took things out of the car and carried them to the house to get the camera. When I came back I found him in deep grass moving south as if he had a specific destination in mind.

I've noticed a definite pattern. Larger (i.e. older) snakes tend to be more laid back and less excitable. I've also noticed a little neurological reaction in myself. Over the years I've observed I react before I become conscious of a snake. It's like an autonomic reaction. First, they rattle; second, I start moving away;' third I become conscious of the rattle and my movement. I find this fascinating.

I'm curious why I and other neighbours saw so few this year. Did something happen to the population? It was an excellent monsoon season. Perhaps the snakes travel more in dry seasons and are more likely to be seen. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I saw one -- especially one so large.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

One Hundred

Today, October 2, is the 100th anniversary of my father's birth.

I think of him occasionally, remember some of his stories, have some of his tools stamped with his initials and frequently look in the mirror and see his eyes looking back at me.

Two of his sisters died in 1918 with influenza. One sister live to adulthood but died giving birth to her first child. Another brother was killed in a mining accident in 1949. I have one small memory of his funeral.

Over the years the others died in their sixties, seventies, eighties and one in his early nineties. Last week a brother's wife died at age 89. One other aunt by marriage is still alive at 91. When she dies his family will be gone.

This may sound like morbid memories but they are not. They are good memories of times long gone.

He lived at a good time, made it through the depression years, saw parts of the world in WWII, lived about half of his life in houses without indoor plumbing, started his work career as a coal miner before working at a variety of other jobs, made several good friends and always had a close family. He paid off the house mortgage a week before he died and left my mother debt free with a couple thousand dollars in the bank. He had a good life.

Most importantly, he was a wonderful father.