Top of Piedmont: To Watch, Listen and Ponder — Then Write!

June 2012Monthly Archives


The air heavy, refusing to give way even for a second. It presses down damp, sodden like a wet pair of jeans.  The window fans accelerate its sticky fluid motion.  The illusion of relief, but still it clings.    

Attending to the tasks of daily living becomes an effort met with clammy resolve.  Dinners must be fixed, dishes cleaned, and laundry done, but a sweaty price is paid.  A ride to the grocery store, usually met with annoyance, now brings joy at the thought that the icy air in the car can give some relief.

The picture perfect queen of the weather airwaves on channel 40 prophesies a cold front moving through in the next twenty- four hours. We are tired of being in back of the last front.

The three window fans are churning away downstairs at night. Sounds like a 747 is making a visit to the living room.  Sleep comes in fits and starts, interrupted by waking to dry off a soaked body.

At one of these risings, a faint flash is seen in the darkened sky.  Is someone throwing a party at this late hour?  It repeats again a few seconds later and this time a deep-throated rumble follows.

The wind begins to blow, genuine relief for a second or two as it passes soothingly by.  The whine of the fans in the window change their pitch, as the breeze reverses their efforts for an instant, seeking to sneak in as the blades push out.

The booming increases and becomes louder.  Drum rolls give way to sharp cracking reports.  The lightning flashes and crashing detonations happen simultaneously.   The window fans have served their purpose and are no longer needed. 

The wind advances and retreats.  At times it seeks entrance into every window before settling down to an expedient pathway. Then it gets serious.  An unsecured door slams, waking the heaviest sleeper.  An intruder has come.               

The wind hurls a fine mist through the screens.  This gives way to large drops as the velocity of the squall increases.  With regret, windows are closed allowing only a hint of a breeze through narrow cracks. If not held at bay the oncoming deluge will overwhelm the room.

The house shakes from the concussion of lightning, thunder and wind.  By lightning flash, the trees are seen bending, resisting being pushed around.  Some of them give way, bending and snapping.  Others give up their hold on the earth and end up sprawled on the lawn or are held by their neighbors in helpless suspension halfway off the ground.

The rain comes, deafening, rushing off the roof, diving into the rain barrel, escaping over the side to the gutter in the street.  The heralds of light and thunder recede in the distance leaving only the steady onslaught of water. The flood stops. It has cooled.

Windows now come open, a light breeze blows from the northwest, and sleep comes, only this time under the comforter.


Have you ever been lost?  I went for a bike ride this weekend with my son out at a local cross-country ski trail area called the “Movil Maze.”  I’ve skied out there on many occasions, and got confused for only a short time.  Today was different.

Bike riding with a younger person is never a sedate experience.  We did a fairly rapid tour of the hills – changing gears on the mountain bikes frequently.  The leaves were a brilliant green; what I could see of them. 

When it came time to leave, we couldn’t find our way out.  Posted maps were torn down and becoming oriented on a gray, misty day was impossible without a compass.  There were very cues to set a course. 

I didn’t really think we were lost – only “disoriented.”  For awhile I thought knowledge acquired during my Boy Scout days about moss on the north side of a tree would help.  Good luck with that after a soggy spring.  There’s moss everywhere.

Looking for the sun wasn’t going to work.  It was daylight but that’s about all we could tell.  What finally developed as we struggled to get our bearings was searching for a cue, or point of reference.  We found ours in the traffic noise from Highway 71.  With that in mind, we began working our self in a line away from the road noise, as we knew the trails away would take us to the parking lot.  Finally, after some trial and error, we found the parking lot and a couple of granola bars to take the edge off hunger fed by prolonged effort. 

Finding your way when you’re lost is not always as easy as this was.  Frequently we don’t have the cues we need. I’ve been lost before – even with good maps – on Lake of the Woods, in fog – and it was with some difficulty, taking many deep breaths and trying various routes, that a course  was set.

If you have the cue – a way of making sense out of chaotic information is possible.  In nature, it can be the sun, wind direction or water depth on a lake or the lay of the land when you’re hiking.

With a cue or point of reference a kind of logic develops as you search for a way home.  There are an unlimited number of possibilities at the outset.  The cue then enables you to narrow the choices.  The direction you set may not be right, but casting about aimlessly is eliminated.

When we are lost in our own quests, we frequently rely on cues for setting course.  Tradition, religion, and a sense of our own selves formed early on enable us to sort through all the facts we must deal with on a daily basis or in a crisis.  With a point of reference we make progress – not always in a straight line, but at least in a direction that gets us back to ourselves.

Models and Paradigms

Look out for the next best thing.  Chances are it’s the same horse we’ve ridden before with a new saddle. It might look different, but the horse still puts out the same byproduct.

In education, psychology and what is reported about how government functions, it seems the horse we ride in on gets a new outfit every few years or so.  In business, finance or the sciences, I suspect it’s not a whole lot different.

Recently I talked with a professional who worked with students in an internship setting. One of the students she worked with was tech savvy, had good technical ability when it came to moving information, but lacked social skills. While youth are entitled to the occasional misstep, engaging in social interactions with many different players, with various agendas is complex. We teach everything else, but rarely how to get along with others.

As one example, teacher training over the years has emphasized competence in subject matter. This has become especially important as high stakes testing raises the bar. But competence in subject matter does not necessarily translate to interpersonal proficiency. Rarely have I seen courses in developmental psychology, the psychology of individual differences or any other social skills training required. We ARE working with people after all.

So, we change how we do things and come up with a “new model.”  The problem is in this culture, we don’t give one model enough time to work. Vast amounts of money are spent to implement “new strategies”. Everyone is entitled to their “epiphany”, but frequently what is “new” is not really so much.

This issue of interpersonal proficiency is not just confined to the world of psychology and education. How many times have you talked with a family member, friend or colleague who has struggled with a boss, co-worker or subordinate in a work environment? While there can be differences of opinion on how to accomplish goals, the process of negotiation may be just as important to actual goal attainment as the objective itself. Countless are the times where the person looks good on paper, but can’t figure out how to move people from point A to point B.  

So when the white knight comes in on that freshly groomed mount, look closely at its teeth. Bet that nags been here before.

Scroll Up