New Skills Born of Necessity During The Great Isolation

Joe writes . . . 

All of us have learned new skills during The Great Isolation. Out of necessity. My wife, for example, cut my hair and trimmed my Old Man Eyebrows and I look three thousand times better as a result. I bought a toilet snake and accomplished what toilet snakes are designed to accomplish without calling Doug the Plumber and we once again enjoy the full complement of residential sanitary services.

How about everyone who has learned to make a mask, or attend a Zoom meeting? And what about skills we always had but of which we were not aware? (Intelligent readers will note how I skillfully twisted the previous sentence so that it both sounds pompous and does not end in a preposition.) I’m thinking here of my innate beard-growing ability. All my life I assumed that I could not grow a beard, only to discover that in five or six weeks I have grown a fine beard. Hemingway-esque. Judge for yourself; there’s a photo of me in all my bearded glory in a recent post.

The biggest stretch for me has been changing the oil on my old lawn tractor. In the past I

joe changing oil

My wife was so surprised at me changing the oil that she took this photo and sent it to all her kids.

would often tell women I was trying to impress that “I can’t change your oil, but I can write a poem about it.” My wife thought it was funny many years ago, and we’ve now been married for 15 years. Fifteen wonderful years, I should add, as she always reads these posts. But I did change the oil in the trusty old Craftsman with its 17.5 horsepower Briggs & Stratton. Immediately after draining the dirty oil and filling the crankcase with new I was troubled by a nagging notion that I might have added too much oil . . . but what harm could result? If there’s too much oil the excess will burn off or unobtrusively leak away and contaminate the ground water; right?

So I’m cutting the grass for the first time of the year and every two or three minutes am completely enveloped in an cloud of thick bluish-white smoke, an impenetrable fog. As I continue mowing I anxiously run through various scenarios as to how I might come up with a thousand dollars to buy a new lawn tractor. With that vague notion of too much oil prodding me on, however, I did some research and discovered through YouTube that the consequence of overfilling a crankcase can be impenetrable bluish-white smoke and financial anxiety. I drained the excess oil and everything is hunky-dory. No more impenetrable fog, and if I find a thousand dollars I can spend it on grading and re-seeding the lawn.

◊   ◊   ◊

While searching for a different poem by Wm. Butler Yeats I became reacquainted with his poem The Stolen Child, first published when Yeats was a lad at university. The Stolen Child includes the following lines:

There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water-rats;

We have seen such places along the Grand, my brother and I.



We are glad you found our blog. If you like it, please tell a friend and share it on your social media. We would be delighted if you would leave a comment here, and will respond promptly. Tom has been scouting the final – but substantial – leg of our journey down the Grand and is anxious to share his plans with me. I will visit with him and learn what he has in mind and as soon as it is acceptable and safe to do so. I often end my posts by writing “Please take the river’s side; Industry and Big Ag already have plenty of friends in high places.” During The Great Isolation I will add, “. . . and wear a damn mask!” Be well.

This entry was posted in learning, Michigan, Pandemic, poetry, rivers, Uncategorized, wildlife and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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