Steven Simpson’s Blog

Please check every Monday for my most recent blog posting.  Most entries will be about nature or other environmental topics, but occasionally I will write about writing, family, travel, or the Driftless Region.

Inauguration and Henry Aaron

Last Wednesday I watched the inauguration on television. Afterwards I went fishing. In other words, I waited four years for a change in presidents, and then when Biden was finally sworn in, I went about my day as if not much had happened. During the drive to my fishing spot on the backwaters of the Mississippi River, I pondered my casual attitude. I thought back and tried to remember how many other inaugurations I actually watched in real time. Biden’s was the first one since I retired, so maybe I’d always been at work before. I did recall watching Obama’s first inauguration, but I was living in Asia in 2009. Work would not have been a problem, as 11am in Washington was midnight in Taiwan.

In trying to understand why I took Biden’s inauguration so much in stride, I mostly came up with platitudes like “the peaceful transition of power” and “the democratic process prevailed.” Had the inauguration not gone smoothly, I would have gone crazy and spent the day figuring out what to do next. Because everything happened as peaceably as I hoped it would, I was able to watch the ceremony and the odd collection of politicians on the steps of the Capitol – and then go outside to play until dark. While Biden was signing executive orders, I hovered over a hole in the ice and twitched a tiny waxworm for bluegills and perch. The weather did not warm up as predicted, and I did not catch a single fish big enough to keep, but still it was a very good fishing day, in one way the best I’ve ever had.

I wrote this blog on the Friday after the inauguration. When I finished writing the first draft, I took a break, refilled my coffee cup, and checked CNN online. There I saw that Henry Aaron had died. My hands shook, and it was a little hard to type after that. As a kid in Green Bay, I had two sports heroes. Scratch the word “sports.” As a kid, I had two heroes. They were Bart Starr and Henry Aaron. When Bart Starr died, I knew he’d been sick for a while, and I was ready for it. Henry Aaron’s death came as a surprise, and I was crushed. 

A Winter’s Day

I don’t sing much, at least according to my Asian wife who’s grown up on karaoke. This morning, however, as I took Jack for a walk and was only a block down Hackberry Lane, I realized I was singing I am a Rock. Wow! A better writer might stop right there and let the reader draw his or her own conclusions. I am not that better writer, and besides, I need to do a little reflection for myself. 

First of all, I am (regardless of the depressing nature of the song’s lyrics) doing fine. It reminds me of a time many years ago when a friend of mine went to a record store and bought albums by Phil Ochs, Gram Parsons, and Janis Joplin. The guy behind the counter asked, in all seriousness, whether she was okay. 

I am content right now. Considering the current state of the world and the current state of my personal affairs, I might be happier than I have right to be. 

    • It is mid-January in Wisconsin (i.e., the dead of winter)
    • Politics and the American electorate are a disaster (although I am hopeful)
    • COVID worsens (although I am hopeful)
    • I have not seen my wife in four months, and I have another two months to go
    • My daughter is home, but only because her college isn’t allowing her to return to school during the pandemic
    • No one wants to publish the book I have been working on for the past four years
    • My prostate is the size of a pear (this may be the only item on the list that is irreparable)
    • My eyeglass prescription is off just enough to give me headaches when I read, but because of social distancing, I haven’t gone to an optometrist 
    • Now that I recall Phil Ochs and Gram Parsons, I worry about the quirky people who used to work in record shops and used bookstores. 

Of all the complaints in this whiny collection of concerns, the one that bothers me the most is January in Wisconsin. Usually cold weather and short days don’t affect me much, but this year has been different. Maybe it’s the social distancing, maybe it’s a wife half a world way, but for the first time in a long time, I’ve let winter get to me a bit. Manyu and I have long talked about moving back to Asia, but our conversations lately have been more frequent and more specific. I have one more adventure left in me. I haven’t felt this unsure about my future since I was twenty-five years old, but unlike COVID and American politics, the uncertainty feels good. 

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