Friday, August 13, 2010


I awoke at 3:30 this morning, dreaming my backyard was filled with deer. In my dream, I stepped out onto the deck to find a couple of fawns playing, then looked to my right and discovered a few does and three or four more fawns. I could hear a buck snorting as I watched another doe squeeze her way through a small hole in the privacy fence. Just as I thought to go back inside to fetch my camera, the deer lined up for a march through another hole in the fence and they all disappeared.

But deer slipping down the rabbit hole wasn't what woke me. I wanted to catch the Perseid meteor shower, something that had eluded me during normal waking hours.

When I stepped out into this summer night, it wasn't deer that greeted me but a symphony led by a large and boisterous cricket section with a much smaller but very resonant group of frogs croaking the rhythm. Car tires on a highway in the distance tried to solo, but only managed to lend a meager humanized voice to melodic chirping.

I am no stranger to stargazing and have learned that it works best to claim a section of sky and scan it continually by moving my eyes only, not my head and neck. It isn't much different from fishing in that regard. If a spot in the pool of stars is unproductive, try a different spot. You know they're out there, just be patient.

As I waited, I was astounded at how many commercial aircraft were in the air even at this hour. So many red-eye flights. Flashing lights that crept quietly until they passed overhead and the hiss of jet engines caught up with them.

Satellites appear with stealth and cunning. A surprise movement in a sea of stillness, they creep along, unannounced and sudden, like a deer that makes a mysterious entrance in the woods. I have often had dreams of staring into night skies, looking for something, only to find all the stars rearrange themselves right before my eyes.

Not the peak time for Perseids, this hour, but I saw a quick flash in my peripheral vision. Then another. A third was nearly transparent, a ghostly apparition in the pre-dawn hours of, Friday the thirteenth. Not that I see that as a bad thing. I turned thirteen on a Friday the thirteenth. And that was, well, a bit more than thirteen years ago.

When my kids were young, they liked for me to wake them on peak meteor nights so they could join me on the deck, or on the trampoline at the time, where we would gaze in different directions until we pinpointed where all the meteors were most likely to be spotted and we shared our finds. We talked about astronomy, Einstein, forever, vastness, time and space. Topics difficult to grasp in daylight hours and especially tasty to discuss in clandestine hours when children should be fast asleep.

A bright meteor parted the sky, leaving a contrail behind. A wispy line of vapor to mark it's brief presence in the world. Then it was gone. It seemed so close, close enough that I should have heard some sound as it passed, but only the orchestral interpretations of my nighttime friends played on.

Another long streak, this one glowing bright in a final gasp as it dissolved into the atmosphere. A few more, some quick bursts, several long shimmering tails, but no others leaving behind visible vapor maps.

Four thirty. I had seen about sixty dust particles burn in brilliance as the band played on. An hour nothing shy of amazing for me. I am a stargazer and always have been. I always will be. Flashes of fleeting light, grasped for a moment by my eyes to play in my mind forever.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Winds of Change

At the pinnacle of my career success, I knew beyond any doubt that everything I had ever done toward my chosen field had prepared me for the precise moment I was living. My education, the people I had worked with, failures, successes, all the experiences I had collected were part of this knowledge storehouse I could tap into at will and find something that applied.

I was given the keys to be very creative with our policies and I took full advantage of my time in the driver's seat. I was a trusted advisor to peers and superiors, the go-to guy and the face of the company throughout a long slog of a battle against a union that some of our employees were fighting hard to bring in. After that two year battle to oust the Teamsters, a battle that was in many ways similar to a political campaign, I was tapped to usher in a new direction for the plant's employee involvement process. We started Kaizen teams and worked together to make rapid improvements in the manufacturing process.

And then, it all ended.

Rumors and speculation were rampant as to why the company would choose to close its most productive, most efficient, lowest cost producing plant. But the reasons didn't matter as much as the fact that it had happened and I was tasked with dismantling the lives of over 500 people who had come to earn a living making plastic toys. Even in that dismal time, I could see how my past experiences had prepared me for that moment, that time, that era. I reconstructed my department - human resources - into an outplacement service for our people and I went about trying to keep spirits afloat while we tore apart all that had become familiar.

After the doors closed, I lost my way career-wise. Like an ant scuffling as it tries to find its way back to the trail, I tried to grasp something that made sense for me. I consulted in human resources for a while, tried out another company or two, but HR no longer held an interest for me. I had grown weary of it all, I suppose. I owned a small business for nearly a decade, but I don't think I was all that good at being a businessman. Too many big ideas and too little budget to stretch over them.

But, finally, the winds are shifting again. I'm starting to see how all those experiences I've collected are once again pointing me to forge a new trail and see where it leads.

My first love always was producing the written word. I abandoned that dream to do something sensible and stable, like managing human resources in manufacturing companies. It's a return to my roots, an exploration of my faith in me, and a quenching of the dream I have always adored only to shove back into the closet like a once favored childhood toy. Only this time, it isn't a toy. It's for real.

And for the first time since those days of campaign tactics, new directions, inspiring others and trying out whole new concepts, I feel that everything I have ever done toward my new chosen field has led me to this very moment I am living today.

I think we all have to face a world that looks very different than it did when our lives began. The old securities are no longer valid. The trust that one could spend an entire career with one company is now so fragile it is a rare exception if it exists at all. So the only other option is to remake ourselves. It isn't a big deal because we do it all the time. We were students, who became workers. Maybe we were college students once. We got that promotion, changed industries, changed careers, our companies were sold, broken up and resold. It is how we survive, how we learn, how we continue to collect those valuable experiences that will prepare us for the next leg of the journey. We choose, we learn, we grow, we choose again. There are no assurances that all our choices will be good ones, or that we will prosper because of them. In a recent movie, Clint Eastwood's character said, "if you want a guarantee, buy a toaster."

I think I'll eat my bread untoasted, thank you, and follow my dreams instead.