Cottageday 1 Ambitiously realistic

Day one of my cottage vacation has me delving into the books from first light in the bedroom window, with James Alan McPherson “Elbow Room”.  This is a Pullitzer prize-winning short story book from a black American author who died earlier this week.  Ted deems it “prize-deserving and thoroughly enjoyable”.  Its city settings totally out of context with life in Muskoka.

After swim, breakfast, run, breakfast, swim, I reclined in zero gravity (??) next to a maple sapling and checked out the maples in Donald Culross Peattie “A Natural History of North American Trees”.  This writer, who died in 1964, has the perfect educational background for me:  French Poetry at University of Chicago and botany at Harvard before working for the Department of Agriculture”.  [See inside jacket photo]

Culross Peattie bio
Culross Peattie bio

The language usage is outstanding.  Noted: rachitic, elegiac, dietetic, mayfly, wraithlike, sesquipedalian.  Searching for the Latin expression used by Peattie, “Horribile dictu” I came across the Merriam-Webster Unabridged dictionary, available for a 14 day trial – SOLD!  Will be looking to expand my knowledge of words over this vacation.

Here’s a two paragraph quotation from Peattie which I cite, not particularly for the language, but for the subtle yet precise way that the author expresses an opinion on the landscaping uses of the Silver Maple Tree:

“A tree with so many charms has naturally been planted far beyond its natural range, and everywhere within it.  In the South, where it is rare as a native tree, it is common as a street tree. In the West, even in southern California where deciduous trees usually find little favor, it is a favorite, for it cannot grow without lending grace to any spot; it makes a railroad station look like a home, and adds a century to the appearance of a village street. It is the fastest growing of all our Maples, one of the fastest among all trees suitable to our climate, be they native or exotic.  It is as charming in its childhood as in age, and in its youth goes through no awkward stage.

Yet landscape architects have little good to say of it.  They complain of the insect pests that attack it, and of its comparatively short life, as well as the breakage of its brittle and too-long boughs under wind and ice damage.  They urge that it be planted, if at all, in the full knowledge that it’s quickly achieved effects will not last long, and that more permanent if slower plantings be started at the same time.  It may be that we should always listen to cautious and sensible people and not allow ourselves to think too highly of a tree that will perhaps only live three times as long as we do.”

Natural history and language brought together, like Annie Dillard also capably accomplishes in “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”.  A treat to consider Culross Peattie’s writing and learn natural history, American history and language, all together.

book cover photo Donald Culross Peattie: A Natural History of North American Trees
Excellent language use forces a first day cottage blog
Image

_____End of roll selfie

Mirror-produced selfie – end of camera roll ~1983

I do not own a selfie stick…yet…but my long arms and the way that extending them gives me something to do to take my mind off the heavy responsibility of auto-portraiture means I’ve be known to have a picture of two…that I like…of me!  Back in the days of film cameras I might have had a 36 exposure film in my 35 mm camera and the earliest picture might have dated from several months earlier.  By the time you filled the film… So we used to do various things to fill the roll…and the selfie was invented.  This is the way I looked, to me, in 1983 or 1984.  By late July 1984 I bought my first SLR camera – a Canon AE-1.  This is the camera previous to the AE-1 which had a viewfinder and I’m using a mono-pod (I was serious about photography) to hold it steady as I take a picture into the mirror in my bedroom.  I could usually get 26 pictures out of a 24 exposure film but the last one was partly obscured by a number (50089 – I cropped this).  That explains what this was – a picture of me in my coolest shirt (LCF rugby-style) sporting a moustache (which stayed with me until 1996).

Most unfavourite things

“Hi, this is Ted Dettweiler calling from Dettweiler’s Sausage.  We’re going to be delivering in your area in the afternoon on Saturday, August 23.  Would you like some sausage at this time?”

That’s my opening line on the telephone to my 87 phone order customers in various parts of the Niagara region.  It’s not very refined – I think they say in sales to never ask a question that can be answered with a “No”.  But this blog post is not about improving my sales technique, it’s to tell you the very interesting things that happen when I FINALLY get around to making these phone calls.

FINALLY get around – OK, let’s back up – calling customers in the Niagara region is something that I do only 4 times per year as that is how many trips I make to the St. Catharines market, doing delivery to homes in certain areas, like Niagara-on-the-Lake, in the afternoon after I’ve finished my market sales.  I have more customers than the 87 that I will call today and tomorrow, but the rest have email addresses and I have rigged up my Filemaker Pro database so that I can click my mouse on “Send delivery email” or “Send market email” and when they respond I can click on “Send delivery confirm” etc.

4 times per year I procrastinate the calling.  I’ll fiddle with my database layout; I’ll do the dishes; I’ll make raspberry jam; I’ll create a blog on food and then post a story on the garden stew I was making to avoid doing these calls.  You must be thinking, what kind of customers does he have that he avoids doing a half-a-baker’s-dozen-dozen phone calls so?

My customers are the best customers in the world.  Many of the phone list customers are older and don’t do internet, email and all that modern stuff.  While many are quite business-like on their calls (my long distance records show that my average call lasts 14.5 seconds*) that suits me fine as that is exactly my phone manner – all business-at-hand, no chit-chat or politesse.  “I’ll have the same as last time” is a common order, which is why I keep records in my database, so I know exactly what, when, who and how much the last time was.  The number of these customers who order every time I call is much higher than it is for the email customers*, so I would be a fool to stop calling them simply because calling is something that I prefer not doing.

*Full disclosureI made up the two authoritative statements made in the previous paragraph.  If I took the time to do a study on my average call length or the order frequency of phone vs email customers I would only be further procrastinating my calling.

Calling is going very well, as usual. I’ve been playing a game to get through the calling.  These are the rules:  I must continue calling until one of the customers says “not this time”, at that, I mark “NTT Aug 2014” in the calling status field and put an X, which becomes an X in the YmX field.  At that point, I give myself permission to write another paragraph in this blog.  If I get an answering machine, or they are going to call me back once they check with their daughter, or the phone is busy (*66), that doesn’t count – I just document it in the database in the call status field and <ctrl>semi-colon in the call date field to put a timestamp on it and I’m on to the next phone number.  Count the paragraphs and you’ll see how many NO’s I’ve had so far.

†Not many NO’s at all as I only started the write-a-blog-paragraph-each-time-I get-a-NO game on around the 3rd paragraph (that doesn’t include the opening call-dialogue quote, but does include the footnoted paragraphs written in-line – like this one).  I’m actually wanting to procrastinate on the blog writing in favour of the calling, it’s going so well.  But first let me tell you about one interesting call that brought tears to my eyes, and from the emotion in my callers voice, I would likely say that it brought tears to my customer’s eyes as well.  Stay tuned, that’s coming up right after this calling break.

I think there were probably at least two or three very interesting calls that I could write about – I’m a writer (though not professionally) besides making the very best sausage you can find anywhere.  Sometimes when I am in the midst of the mundane task of calling customers it’s as if God sends me a sparkling jewel to remind me that there is more to life than making a living.

I’m thinking back to a call, earlier this year, to one of my very best customers  as I was preparing for my annual Leamington-and-area sausage deliveries in February and there are tears in my eyes as I write.  On that day, I could hardly continue talking on the phone, my emotions made it difficult for me, because of her and her family’s tremendous loss that was still so painfully fresh when I made the call.  I don’t want to give any more details about this experience but even this was for the good as I felt it was ordained by God that I called that customer on that day.

This morning one of my best customers spoke of her granddaughter who was on her way today to the U.S.A. where she is accepting a scholarship for university.  I’m sure she is so proud of her granddaughter’s achievements which allowed her to earn this scholarship, but the concern that she expressed was for her spiritual well-being going away to study.  I said that I’d pray for this grand-daughter whenever I thought of the school where she is going to study.  That will be fairly often as the school, or state, has produced many fine football coaches that have worked in Canada in the CFL and also in our universities.  (I’ve been a CFL and Golden Hawks fan for a long time).

I really liked when my customer told me what was on her heart on this day.  God has always provided for me quite well through this sausage business passed down from my father.  In recent years I’ve seen great things happen in around the business.  I have the faith that comes from seeing God act in my life.  I’ve come through a few very challenging experiences myself and now sometimes I feel called alongside others when they need support.  For sausage lasts for 6 or 8 months when kept properly in a freezer, but the spiritual side of us, I know, that keeps forever.

Rejoice with me, for I finished all 87 calls and this blog is thus complete!