Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Category: Medium Length Essays (Page 1 of 5)

Car Talk

The time came to say good by to what Nancy called “a Crushed Tin Can.” She is referring to my Honda Civic. I bought it used for 9K with 35K miles and sold it for 300$ with 153K. The engine lasted. The rest, not so much. Right rear window didn’t close. Hood cable snapped; two expensive repairs ignition key and transmission pad; there were dents; and my large body and small foot room left a large warn hole on the floor rug on the driver side; CD player stuck; and the major reason I stopped driving it – air bag computer replacement $1,000. It was time for an automatic gear shift. I am sick of getting beeped when street intersection lights turn green.

I was thinking I can’t drive a car whose air bags don’t work. With Nancy in the passenger seat a head on crash is possible death. Joe Jones, our excellent mechanic, gave it to me straight. It was time to move on.

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Gardiner County Park In Winter

I knew that there would be very few visitors at Gardiner County Park. It was drizzling, with gray skies, and cold. I set out to take photos and take a walk. This park is only one of two maritime forests along the edge of the south shore of any size.

A few steps south told me how this ecological habitat got its name. The trails off the beaten straightaway to the bay have roots spread out over the surface. The trees that live here had adapted to a water table that is only one to two feet below the surface. Red Maple and Tupelo are two of the major species. Because the roots spread out from the trees, they don’t have deep roots to help them withstand strong winds. Those that succumb to winds of 50 mph are toppled. They are called blow downs. I saw many. However, one blow down went only half way. As it fell, it got caught in the fork of a tree.

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Looking For Small

I was struck by the motto of the E.L. Schumacher Society, SIMPLE IS BEAUTIFUL.  A three word sentence that in itself is simple. I subconsciously adopted this concept decades ago.  Since then, I have found ways to practice it. I try to disregard complicated things. I struggle with computer programs, even the simplest ones. Microsoft Word has hundreds of “windows” I click on a few and quickly become discouraged when I call up websites whose first page offers way too many avenues to travel.

 

I own only one time piece, my wrist watch. I only have to turn the hour hand one hour ahead or back. My cell phone does it automatically. Not having several clocks I don’t have to spend the time adjusting. This is an example of how simplifying gives me more leeway to economize and create more efficiency.

I do have a clock in my Honda Civic which my wife Nancy helps me change. My car is small and simple. It does have automatic windows. I have a stick shift transmission, air conditioning, a radio, and interior lights. Owning a car is not simple. The fees, the maintenance, the fuel, parking, dangerous drivers all complicate my life. You might ask, “How can you say you simplify when you own and drive a car?” I contradict myself as Walt Whitman said. I respond by using the car as efficiently as possible. Short trips are walking or bicycle trips.

 

Tiny is very “small.” My dictionary devotes 25 lines to the word “small” and only two for “tiny.” Tiny must be smaller because the dictionary says so. I saw a cartoon in The New Yorker Magazine in which a cat who has broken a precious Tang Dynasty vase talked of a dog and convinces it to leave the country. The artist has drawn small quotation-size marks on both sides of the dog’s tail. These four small lines confirm that indeed, “small is beautiful.” To be beautiful, a thing need not be big. Small is a lifestyle. It flies in the face of the grandiose. A clever politician knows how to make a small comment loom large. Small is reasonable. It is not a credit card dept. Small is not about humility. It is about moderation.  Box stores encourage big. Big is not beautiful. Six Flags Recreation Resort in New Jersey is for those who want large entertainment thrills. Small are about board games at home, raising vegetables in a garden, taking nature walks, or having a picnic.  It is not about physical beauty. It is about balance, sustainability, and right relationship. McMansons with oceans of square footage are not beautiful. A house that fits with its environment and doesn’t use up a lot of space fits this idea.

 

Small is Earth friendly. People who practice small produce less garbage, eat healthier, don’t waste resources, use water carefully, use public transportation,

Use less electricity at home. They strive to be in right relationship with the planet.

People who try to live “small” are not consuming so as to have leftovers they don’t want, bring to the curb, and are carted away to a landfill ( garbage dump). Small is a point of view, tiny is about physical size. If I see a famous person like Obama far off in the distance, he looks small. But I know, this man is not small by any means.

 

“Stillness Against the Backdrop of Steady, Intensifying Change”

BY Verlyn Klinkenborg – More Scenes from the Rural Life

Main Street in Babylon Village is on the direct route to Good Samaritan Hospital. I live on the eastern side of the Village in a house on Willow Street. A century ago, this was a quiet place. Horse drawn carriages, no motorcycles, trucks, AND cars yet.

Things certainly have changed. While horses produce manure, today it’s exhaust in the form of carbon dioxide and engine fumes. Combustion is the name of the game and at the root of much of the “”intensifying change.” It is EMS trucks howling, sirens and high pitched horns carrying emergency patients to the emergency ward. Main Street is a conduit for noise. People in need of immediate aid from as far as ten miles west of here are carried right through  the business district with two story buildings that reflect and amplify this noise. Walking on Main Street when an EMS truck passes without ear protection is to invite  hearing damage. This is the backdrop of a modern village stuck smack dab in the path of health emergencies.

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A Tricycle Built For One

 

I volunteered to put together his tricycle. He ordered it on the internet. It came in a big, heavy cardboard box. I opened the box and removed the parts. There were no instructions. Lucky for me I know a few things about bikes. I spread all 5- parts on the patio table and began.

It looked challenging, and that’s the way it turned out. I spent five hours swearing, dropping tools, getting charley horse in my fingers holding tiny screws, having to go to my tool chest to get more tools. I figured things out by making a lot of mistakes. High on the list was installing the derailleur. The bolt was small, slippery and round. I was in an awkward position. Both my hands were in odd positions. The bolt slipped and bounced away. I had attached it backwards and had to undo the bolt – 20 minutes, and another half hour to install it again.

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Lunch – Babylon Overlook Beach

It only took about ten seconds for a herring gull to snap up a crust from my sandwich. Ten seconds later, two more gulls winged in. Things are tough for sea gulls. The alpha gull chased the other always and waited. I tossed another peace. Bingo! In less than a second, the gull grabbed and swallowed. There’s no time to wait. This is survival. The bird was ultra patient. It hung around for a half hour before it left. No more bread I’m outta here. Looking head on, gulls have huge mouths. They are swallowing machines.

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Nancats Third Sail : September 24th, 2017

I had been waiting for such a day like this. The wind was right. I prepared the boat to sail. This time I learned about kinks.

While hoisting the sail, a kink in the halyard stopped the process. I found a knot, which I am calling a “kink” that stopped the line from sliding through the block.  I removed the kink, with the line free, I can continue hauling the sail. I tie down the halyard line. Loosen bow and stern line’s and am free of the dock. The wind is light yet enough to carry us south on Sampawams Creek.

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Lewisburg – Princeton Getaway: September 8-10, 2017

ANTIQUE SUPERSTORE

We visited a huge mill operation in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. It was turned into an antique business with 350 consignment booths. As my wife went happily on her way, I stumbled from booth to booth, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material. I began out trying to be mindful of item after item.  I began gulping whole booths with occasional stops to actually look at a few items like a old pair of wood skis. I remember how I used a pair to ski down the slide in Como County Park.

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Lakeland County Park: Part 2

Honeysuckle Pond  is the main attraction of Lakeland County Park. Visitors have to follow a complex of board walks to reach it. I first caught sight of it through an opening in the forest. When I first sighted the Pond, I was surprised. It is much smaller than what I remember thirty years ago. I expected to see water like I did back in the 1980’s when it looked more like a small lake than now. I saw a large. pure grassy area where the pond used to be. I soon found out why. The pond level is three vertical feet lower. As a result, the wildlife living there has greatly reduced. I saw turtles and slender silver fish, possibly minnows. What left is kidney-shaped. The boardwalks were built decades ago to prevent visitors from slogging in mud and protecting fragile plants. Drought is the main cause over the past two years. Not enough rain water has fallen to soak into earth to keep the water table higher

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Shake Down Sail – September, 2017

After a two year break, I stepped aboard NANCAT once  again. The name comes from Nancy Catherine Keating, my wife. I have a small thirteen foot wood wood catboat. The boat is the smallest of a class of boats known as catboats. They are suited to shallow bays because they have shallow drafts. Cat boats have their masts far forward and are not noted for speed. They were the boats that plied the Great South Bay early in the 20th century. Fishermen and clammers liked them because their broad beams and stability made it easy for their work.

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