Sunday, November 3, 2019

The humble art of maintenance

There are, I've come to realize, two types of people in this world: the builders, and the maintainers.

The builders are the creative and innovative set. Their visions result in everything from soaring bridges to the internet. Without them, we'd still be plodding along in log cabins and plowing behind oxen.

But once those soaring visions are realized, then someone else must maintain what was created. That's me. And it also accounts in part for why Don and I get along so swimmingly, and why we've been able to work steadily over the years toward our goal of self-sufficiency.

Don has an astoundingly creative mind and the talented hands that go with it. Me, I specializing in maintaining the things he's built. Don has a magic touch with tools, a liquid fluidity that is awe-inspiring to behold. I'm all thumbs. Don can visualize in his mind exactly how the end-result of something will look. I simply take that end result and use it for years.

Don builds the livestock feedboxes. I feed the livestock. Don builds a kitchen countertop. I maintain the kitchen. Don builds a milking stall. I milk the cow.

This division of labor suits our temperaments and talents very well indeed. This doesn't mean our home is squeaky-clean and perfect, but it does mean our homestead (usually) purrs along on an even keel.

Interestingly, this also applies to fiction writing. I have a writing friend, Ann Malley, whose creative and fertile mind for plot twists blows me out of the water. Me, I can't plot my way out of a paper bag. We've collaborated on our writing for years and I depend on her to an alarming degree to help me figure out what motivates my characters. In turn, I hold her steady and tame down some of her more dramatic plot twists and turns, and help fine-tune her writing. We hammer scenes and plots and synopses back and forth to each other constantly.

This is the friend I'm flying out to visit in Virginia tomorrow, and where Older Daughter will rendezvous with me. Ann and I plan to have a cozy evening hashing plot ideas back and forth over a bottle of vino.

Once I have a story's outline -- once the "creative" part is done -- then my "maintenance" instincts kick in and I can write up a storm. Go figure.

The world needs both these types of people, the innovators and the maintainers. There's no sense trying to force one to be the other. Innovators would be bored out of their gourds if they were forced to do maintenance tasks for hours on end. Maintainers would be bewilderingly lost if forced to be innovative. But put the two together, and it's often a match made in heaven.


  1. Oh, my gracious, I'm so excited for you! Have a wonderful trip and visit. Daughter lives two hours south and the way SwampMan bemoans the grandchildren, you would think that they had relocated to Mars. I'm sure that you are going to be so much happier with your dearly beloved oldest daughter closer, but not much you can do about younger Navy girl unless California has a REALLY big earthquake and ships can dock much closer to Idaho.

  2. You're very close, but there is one more kind of people...the ones who neither build nor maintain.

    Destruction is easy and fun.
    Building is fun, but not easy.
    Maintenance is neither easy nor fun.

    Those like you who are gifted and happy at maintenance work deserve to be valued and treasured.

    1. Can I hear an 'Amen!' Well said.

      The third group is addicted to frivolous pursuits. They are waiting for Alexa to build an addition, make home improvements and plant the garden.
      Montana Guy

  3. Might I suggest then a maintenance-related path for your journey?

    My experience with I-90 in snow has been that Wyoming and Montana are very serious about keeping those roads clear, especially so heavy goods vehicles can continue on their journeys.

    My experiences along I-40 include being snowed in and iced in for several days in Flagstaff.

    Most US motorway maps don't show this, but the highest points on the US interstate system are from western Nebraska into eastern Wyoming along I-80.

    US motorway maps also do not show that I-70 through Missouri is the worst-maintained stretch of interstate in the country, and that the constant pounding against your vehicle's suspension may mean that it takes most of a day to cross what is roughly a quarter of the length of Montana, much of which will be spent giving your tired arms and wrists a rest.

    Instead of trying to avoid adverse conditions until you're near your destination, make your journey along routes where the people are used to having to keep their roads in usable condition instead of in some half-way usable condition or perpetually under construction.

    Driving along eight hundred miles or so of blustery Montana snowy interstate that stays clear enough to be passable is considerably better than being stuck iced in along a more southerly path where the locals freak out every time there's more than a quarter centimetre of snow.

    BTW, I-94 is not a particularly great spur route: unless your vehicle has an engine heater, you may be in for something a bit more irritating during stops than dealing with the possibility of snow.

    Nearly every hotel I've stopped at along I-94 has outdoor electrical outlets for engine heaters.

    Best of luck with the journey, and do stay in touch ...

  4. I have no idea of your time line but the south seldom gets really bad weather until the end of November. The above poster is correct in that when we do get bad weather we just wait a few days for it to warm up and melt the roads clear. Good luck with your trip!

  5. I can write plots,describe characters, clean it all up and have decent luck with the outcome. However, I met a woman from Romania who wrote stories but they were bare-boned plots with no character development or description. Her son and I translated them from French. When she read my embellishments, she said they were beautiful in French but more beautiful in English when I added to them. Is there a future in this? (rhetorical)