Monday, November 19, 2018



I've returned from a weekend trip to the Philly area and now I'm thinking about “flow”. There was a river behind my hotel which I would have liked to explore for birds, but time flowed too fast to allow such a river-flow digression.

However, a digression: I'm a member of a book-study group that lives on digressions and I recently mentioned the books on flow written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (last name pronounced, I kid you not, “Chick sent me high” - if I made that up no one would believe me). I'm not going to talk about that type of “flow” which involves focusing attention, though the concept is worthwhile. But, I digress …

Just as water is made of H2O molecules, which flow around each other, so traffic is made of vehicles which flow around each other. Except when I drive to Philadelphia. Word travels ahead of me and incantations are invoked to stem that flow, so I spend large amounts of time studying the interior of my car and unsuccessfully trying to peer around that stupid SUV in front. Traffic flow gets my attention for its absence.

Once I reach the convention, narrow hallways between the rooms constrict the human flow. Your first thought would be that you could meet a lot of interesting people in that closeup environment, but the truth is that everyone is late and pushing through. So we remain strangers.

The in-hotel restaurant handles flow well, except for those breakfast and dinner times when we all demand to be served. Then I look around and make poor jokes about getting out of line and simply having a candy bar for dinner, getting weak laughs from people within earshot. After ten minutes, however, I get out of line, buy a candy bar and continue on to a panel discussion that started ten minutes earlier.

Oh, “what about gardening?” you say. Well, I'm getting there, with a confession. After reincarnation, I plan on coming back as a ditch digger. You see, I really dig digging in the ditches which border my property. My neighbors don't really keep up with them and they fill with debris (the ditches, not the neighbors.) Flooding rains force me to dig, releasing enough water so that the azaleas and hosta aren't killed. Nature wants to put water lilies in those spots. Over the years, some beds have sunk and, by not raising them, I've allowed plants to die. This winter the Satsuki bed will have to be raised about four inches or so.
Wapama Falls, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Yosemite, CA May 20, 2008 I did NOT dig the dirt releasing that water.

I get a surprisingly strong satisfaction from sinking my shovel into the final load of muck, releasing stagnant water, forming a healthy stream. I really like that. Did I say that before? I don't remember.

I came back from my trip today in early afternoon. By late afternoon I was digging in the southeast ditch. After talking with my neighbor, I had the ditch on his side of the fence to myself as he did wheelies on his riding mower, denuding the lawn of leaves. Luckily he agreed to throw the leaves over the fence onto my leaf pile. In five years it will be compost for top dressing the azaleas. But I hardly noticed. After two hours of lifting muck, roots and leaves, and watching the water move slowly toward the drain by the road, it began to get dark and was time to quit. How could two hours pass so quickly? Completely the opposite of the traffic jam, I was so focused that time didn't exist. I simply enjoyed the experience. Just as Csikszentmihalyi said. But, I just said that I wasn't going to talk about his book …