All week, I’ve felt pressure from being behind the eight ball of work and deadlines. How was I going to juggle each of the balls I had in the air and not drop at least one of them?
Thursday happened to be my day for visiting two communities in rural Franklin County. They are where I’m engaged in a part-time grant project focused on Maine’s aging population.
Every other week, I leave my house just prior to 8:00 AM and usually don’t return until 6:30 or 7:00. I have two community teams I’m working with. I also end up logging more than 200 miles of windshield time. I am enjoying getting back to grassroots organizing and connecting dots.
This week, I was flush with magical thinking about how I’d find time on my way home to gather information for an article I am on deadline to write. Freelance writing is another part of my 21st century existence (along with umpiring).
I rationalized that I’d be “passing by” the town I was writing a short “On the Road” piece about for our local daily. I figured that at the very least, I could shoot a few pictures late in the day and maybe even talk to a few people on the street. I worried that I might have to ask for an extension, which would piss off my editor. It was possible that I could swing by on Monday, as I’d once again be passing within a few miles of the place with a little more time to spend in town. The worst case scenario involved having to make a 100-mile round trip, which would negate any financial benefit from freelancing the piece.
And then the stars aligned.
After leaving a few messages on Wednesday with people that I thought knew a bit of local history, my phone rang just as I was walking into my 9:30 meeting Thursday morning. There was an open house planned that night. Even more amazing, it was scheduled from 5:00 to 7:00, just as I would be driving down Route 4. All I had to do was hang a right, shoot some pictures, and I’d have a group of interviewees gathered for that night’s Chamber of Commerce business after hours at the town’s historical museum. You can’t script this kind of stuff.
I’ve spent the past 10 years gathering history. First it was about local baseball in Maine, and for parts of the past five years, I’ve been updating the Moxie canon, bringing the distinctly different soft drink from the 19th century, into the 21st.
Knowing the history of the place where you live has benefits. I believe that looking back is often one of the elements required in moving forward. I think many of our so-called leaders lack this perspective about Maine. As a result, decisions are made that push our state in the wrong direction, or worse, we keep making the same old mistakes.
All of us accumulate “stuff” in our lives. We have physical clutter, and now, years after being plied with the promise that technology would “set us free” and deliver a “paperless society,” we have digital files gumming up our various gadgets.
Sometimes I come across something from my past. Often it’s not worth a second look, or worthy of keeping. However, when I found one of my old newsletters from nearly 10 years ago, back when I was cutting my teeth as a brand new freelancer, I took a few minutes to read through A Matter of Words, my quarterly newsletter. It was Volume 2, Issue 5, from the summer of 2005. I read the following words I’d written:
Since I’m a writer, and writing is what I do, it might be worthwhile to mention that I just sent my first book to the printer. When Towns Had Teams is a book about town team and semi-pro baseball in Maine. The book is unique, in that nobody has ever captured the vibrancy of local baseball and what it meant to the communities where the game was played across the state. From just after the Second World War, until the mid-to-late 1970’s, nearly every small town and village had a town baseball team.
Around that time, our communities began to change. Clearly, life in Maine had crossed some type of Rubicon. With the loss of local baseball (as well as the grange halls, movie houses on Main Street, small town diners, or local hardware stores) occupying a central focus of life in most of the smaller communities, there was a connectedness amongst people that no longer exists. Today instead, box stores litter the local landscape of our state, killing off our local economies.
The book captures the stories and anecdotes (many colorful, poignant and even humorous) of the men who played the game across the state. With nearly 40 interviews conducted, I think I’ve captured an authenticity that a lesser treatment would have missed.
My guess would be that this was from July of 2005, and I had just finished up my manuscript for my first book, the quintessential book about town team and semi-pro baseball in Maine. I was also pitching my services as a professional writer.
From a position of hindsight and experience, this particular newsletter offered solid advice to the small business owners and nonprofit organizations that were on my email list at the time.
Nearly a decade later, I’m now a much better writer. I’ve added a host of new skills and abilities to my toolkit of services offered. I’m also amazed that my fourth book is 4-6 weeks away from being ready to go to the printer.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be amazed, however. I’ve leveraged my belief in myself as a writer, continuing to hone my craft. I haven’t depended on anyone else for lucky breaks, instead being resilient and diligent, offering value to anyone I’ve done work for.
History still captivates me. I pay attention and I continue connecting dots that others miss, believing that the past has relevance in pointing us in the right direction for the future.