Maintenance trumps repair. It’s better, for example, to maintain the edge of a knife — occasionally stropping it or drawing it over a crock stick — than it is to wait for it to get dull and have to sharpen it. Changing engine oil regularly is preferable to replacing a blown head gasket.
Taking care to charge (or swap) all those batteries this week was a maintenance task. It ensures that our devices will be ready when we need them, as well as avoiding the disappointment of finding that a neglected alkaline cell leaked and ruined a perfectly good flashlight.
A bonus of doing maintenance myself is that it gives me an opportunity to do function checks and, more important, lay eyes on parts and systems that may otherwise be ignored. Obviously, when I change the oil in my truck I get a chance to check the condition of the oil I’ve drained. But as long as I’m under there I can eyeball everything from seals to exhaust hangers.
Not long ago that mindset caught a bum switch on a rechargeable headlamp. An easy fix.
Maintenance can help prevent the need for repairs, or catch a problem when a minor fix heads off a major overhaul (or, worse, complete replacement). I’ve also found that taking responsibility for my own maintenance tasks, whenever that’s practical, is incredibly satisfying.
It’s a self-reliance thing, discipline that’ll be even more important once we’re living on The Mountain.
Now I’d like to share an illustration, however trivial it might seem, of what I mean.
This morning I addressed devices powered by conventional, replaceable batteries, among them a pair of Uniden walkie-talkies. Deb and I use the handheld GMRS radios in campgrounds and when traveling together in different vehicles. We bought ’em cheap, remanufactured, and they serve us well.
After their last use in July, we casually tossed the little radios into an overhead cabinet. Pulling them out today to check batteries I found that one antenna had broken off — just the protective shell, actually, leaving the coiled wire and load intact. Had we mindlessly shoved something else into the cabinet, we could’ve sent that walkie-talkie straight to the trash.
Fortunately, because I was engaged in regular maintenance, I caught the damage before we would’ve had to replace the radio. I repaired the antenna with a piece of electrical tape. Simple.
No, buying new walkie-talkies (they’re sold in pairs) wouldn’t’ve cost us much, but that’s not the point. I still believe in taking care of what I own — perhaps, by some folks’ standards, a bit obsessively. That’s the way I was raised. Shame on me for not taking better care of these radios.
In related news, I ordered an inexpensive hard case for them.
This is the final day of what Arkansas Game & Fish refers to as “modern gun” deer season. (Regular folk call it “deer gun season.”) A few short “modern gun” hunts are coming up — December 26th – 28th and December 29th – 31st, the latter limited to private land, antlerless-only. The second and last “Special Youth Modern Gun Hunt” will be January 7th – 8th.
Bow season continues through the end of February.
Last we checked with Deb’s cousin, he hadn’t gotten a whitetail yet this year. The neighbor who hunts the land across the road from ours reports that he and his have taken a few bucks and a couple of does. The way he described them — “I got a one-horn” — at least some of them walked by our trailcams.
Deb has decided to postpone her first hunt ’til next year.
When she mentioned that to the excavator operator the other day, he said, “Shoot, if I’da known that I’da brought y’all some. Y’all eat hawg?”
We do love it here.
Two does lingered a long time by Mountain One late last night, the first multiple we’ve seen on our trailcams in quite a while. We’re overdue replenishing deer corn, and when we get around to that I think we’ll scatter more up by Mountain Two than we do down below.
The whitetail population on The Mountain is coming out of hunting season in good shape, I’m sure of that. Over the winter and into spring I’d like to get a better look at how it fared.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the subject of “pace” has been a recurring theme here on the blog over the last two years. Though I won’t confess to it being a preoccupation, I’m more aware of pace now than ever before.
I wrote this last year after returning from just my second visit to The Mountain:
“Most of the questions I ask myself these days can be answered in two words: ‘slow down.’ I’ve spent the majority of my life and livelihood pressing, pushing, hurtling from one moment into the next and the next. A big benefit of the odyssey Deb and I have undertaken is that it’s allowed me to ease off my personal throttle.”
The months since have only strengthened my commitment to slowing down. That isn’t the same thing, necessarily, as doing fewer things or doing less of the things I choose to do. It means adopting a deliberate gait (figuratively as well as literally) and a conscious approach to living.
Speed kills. Sprinting desperately through life kills relationships, competence and experience. It both blinds us and cripples us — always, and in all ways.
Conventional wisdom tells us that speed is essential to ambition. And I’m telling you, from experience, that speed is the enemy of achievement.
Ambition is the booby prize. I hate to break it to all the go-getters, ladder-climbers and box-checkers out there, but ambition is 100% bullshit.
Want to achieve? Slow down. Trust me on that.
Now almost halfway through my 66th orbit of the sun, a passage from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has taken on new meaning:
“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway.
“To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.“
That’s been a favorite quote of mine for over 40 years. I didn’t make the connection until recently that Robert Pirsig, in his endearing way, had crystallized the essence of what I call “pace.”
I’m ideally situated these days to practice my dedication to pace. Life moves more slowly in The South. The Mountain has a way of slowing me down. Country living, though I’ve yet to immerse in it, benefits from a deliberate approach.
Getting dressed in the morning. Savoring a meal. Driving to the grocery store. Traveling the country in a motorhome. Conversing with a friend. Making love. Gapping a spark plug. Splitting kindling. Harvesting a deer. Walking the winter woods.
Charging a shit-ton of batteries.
There’s not a single thing in life, be it work or play, that isn’t better with an awareness of pace. I only wish I’d discovered that sooner.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.