Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Resetting the Gryroscope

Today I had tickets to zigzag south through Alabama on a trio of Greyhound buses—from Athens to Birmingham to Montgomery to Mobile—where I was hoping to be collected by my brother and sister-in-law, Guy & Elaine, for a long weekend visit. The day started auspiciously enough, as I awoke to single digits and clear skies in south, central Tennessee (at Dunmire Hollow, home of long-time friend, Harvey Baker and his sweetheart, Dorie). Though it was strikingly cold, after a spot of breakfast we had no trouble getting to Athens in time for the 9:55 am, heading south.

Unfortunately, the 9:55 did not arrive at 9:55. In fact, at 1:30 I was still in Athens and it was at that point that the agent called Greyhound Central and learned the bad news: all buses through Alabama had been canceled because of brutish winter weather that paralyzed a swathe across the southeast, including Birmingham and Atlanta. With images of hippos on ice, Greyhound took the high road and shut down all routes scheduled to journey through the Yellowhammer State. Thus, I'm enjoying an unanticipated extended visit to Athens AL—a town I never knew existed until I'd bought my bus ticket.

Guy & Elaine had moved south from Chicago to Mobile Bay four years, hoping to never see snow again. Last night their luck ran out, as Mobile saw it's first white stuff in 17 years. Oddly enough, here I was in the Deep South (and trying to head deeper) and the outdoor temperatures were lower than I encountered while changing trains in the Windy City last Saturday. When it comes to weather, you just never know.

• • • 

My "official" reason for coming south had nothing to do with warmer weather (which is a good thing considering what I've encountered so far). Monday and Tuesday I was immersed in two days of meetings with FIC's Oversight Committee. This group plays a coordinating
function and serves as the kitchen cabinet between our semi-annual Board meetings—acting on behalf of the Board between the all-hands-on-deck meetings that take place spring and fall. 

As is our habit for the mid-winter Oversight interim meeting, we gathered at Harvey's in Tennessee. Ordinarily, heading south in January is considered prudent from the standpoint of avoiding bad driving conditions. This year, not so much.

For most of FIC's 27 years, Oversight has been comprised of five or six members, but we are temporarily down to three old warriors: Marty Klaif, Harvey Baker, and myself.

The last two days I was catching them up on what I'd been doing as FIC's main administrator, and we huddled about how to proceed with various challenges and opportunities. I think of it as a chance to reset the organizational gyroscope and to make mid-course corrections to my marching orders.

We accomplished all this in a familiar setting: Harvey's living room. Marty (who lives at Shannon Farm in Afton VA) slept in the newly remodeled guest room, and I slept on the couch.

Bird Feeder Television In addition to sharing an abiding dedication to FIC, Harvey, Marty, and I share a few other things in common—in addition all being older white guys. For example, none of us own a television set. 

What Harvey & Dorie have instead is a bird feeder right outside the large south-facing windows of their dining nook, where we enjoyed the chickadees, nuthatches, goldfinches, titmice, and the occasional red-bellied woodpecker and cardinal as they munched their way through a cylindrical column of sunflower seeds.

Kinda like having a TV set where you only get the Nature Channel, and where the snow is on the ground, rather than on your screen. But there are no commercials and it's endlessly entertaining during breakfast and lunch.

Bill Becker—who served for many years as the Fellowship's Treasurer and was therefore a member of Oversight—used to treasure his winter trips to Dunmire because: a) he could count on seeing at least one male cardinal in full plumage (a bird whose range doesn't extend to the Front Range of Colorado, where Bill resides); and b) we often scheduled Oversight meetings to coincide with playoff football weekends, which Bill enjoyed watching with friends. (In fact, I've attended more Super Bowl parties at Dunmire Hollow than I have in northeast Missouri!)

Going Like 40
Another point in common among Harvey, Marty, and me is that our long-time communities are all celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. That's right, Shannon Farm, Dunmire Hollow, and Sandhill Farm were all founded in 1974, which has turned out to be a vintage year for everyone except Richard Nixon.

These past two days it was enjoyable to be with close friends, getting the work done, and coming together for an Oversight interim meeting for about the 40th time. It's been quite a run.

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