New neighbors: the end of a long, quiet season

Our new next-door neighbors moved in this past February, and we had introduced ourselves to each other and begun on good terms. But a few weeks later, I was regretting an outburst I had indulged in a moment of anger and frustration. An outburst that might have undermined the still-newly-fledged goodwill between us.

There had been ungodly noise coming from their backyard, a terrible screeching that continued longer and louder than I thought permissible for anyone civilized enough to be aware of the need for consideration of their neighbors. I assumed the noise must be coming from their five kids who at the moment were outside, hollering and shrieking as they played. Or perhaps it might be coming from some noisemaking children’s toy or device newly on the market that some money-is-our-god capitalist had struck gold with, now set to invade the already loud-as-hell American soundscape nationwide.

The kids had been very noisy on an ongoing basis almost from the beginning, which I tried to tolerate for a time. But this went considerably beyond previous intrusions: the straw that broke the camel’s back. Anger rising within me at the violation, my emotions began to boil over. I yelled over the tall, stockade-style wooden fence that hid the neighbors’ yard from view — as forcefully as I could without damaging my delicate vocal cords — “Hey! Hey! Can you pipe it down over there!?” No response.

The ungodly screeching continued. So I repeated my combined query and command, “Hey! Heyyy! Can you pipe it down over there!?” Whereupon I heard back from an adult male voice, “No!”

Read moreNew neighbors: the end of a long, quiet season

How the 12 new Hermit Spirit mastheads were designed, Part 3

Go to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Images here are from Pixabay unless noted as sourced from iStock. For links to all of the fonts and original images used for Hermit Spirit’s site-wide and section mastheads, see Credits/Colophon.

“Reverie Massage Music Playlists” Masthead

Top Menu > Work > Reverie

After having focused on three business mastheads in a row, I was feeling the need to dive into something more fluid and nature-based, design-wise. In fact, that idea had been part of the impulse behind the main Hermit Spirit masthead itself. Or at least something with an organic, textured look, which is what I had originally planned as an underlying theme for most of the mastheads.

You can read more about the Reverie idea here, but in a nutshell, the playlists arose out of the need to put together the right kind of music to accompany regular deep-tissue massage sessions I began getting many years ago. Back then, I had developed repetitive-stress syndrome from years of computer work, tried several different things over an extended period to manage it, and found massage worked better for me in helping do so than almost anything else.

Over time I put together more and more playlists of different types of music, with a common thread running throughout: The music needed to be both relaxing but also captivating, even mesmerizing, for the one lying on the table, but also potentially energizing for the therapist. Definitely not the boring, insipid, saccharine, or sleep-inducing fluff that so much so-called yoga or spa music unfortunately seems to consist of.

When I decided to create a section of the website for publishing these playlists, I came up with the name “Reverie” to call to mind the daydreamy, absorbing mental state I intended them to elicit. So… when designing the Reverie masthead, what kind of image might best evoke that?

Read moreHow the 12 new Hermit Spirit mastheads were designed, Part 3

How the 12 new Hermit Spirit mastheads were designed, Part 2

Go to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Images here are from Pixabay unless noted as sourced from iStock. For links to all of the fonts and original images used for Hermit Spirit’s site-wide and section mastheads, see Credits/Colophon.

“The Hangman and the Picture-Hanger Guy” Masthead

Top Menu > Work > Hangman/Picture-Hanger Guy

This was the next header I tackled after the Hermit Spirit blog masthead. Why? Well, the web page it sits atop brings in some extra inquiries for a gig I’m involved with that helps pay the bills. We’re talking basic “keeping the wolf from the door” motivation here. Despite the fact I wasn’t going to release the new website redesign until all headers were complete, I still felt an internal push to create the mastheads publicizing current income-producing endeavors first.

Unlike all the other headers, I didn’t need to search for any images to be used for this one. I’d taken plenty of photos with my smartphone of completed picture groupings and other wall hangings on actual job sites where my partner and I had worked. From those, I narrowed things down to the potential photos shown in the gallery below (click any image to enlarge):

In mulling over how many photos to feature in the masthead and how to arrange them, I realized three photos in the header’s central viewing area would be plenty. Otherwise the layout of the photos themselves would get too “busy,” and they’d need to be significantly reduced in size to fit the available space. That, in turn, would sacrifice graphic impact and good viewability. There was enough going on in any single photo to begin with, since virtually all of them featured groupings rather than lone items on the wall.

When selecting which photos to use, a key aim was showing that we don’t hang just pictures, but almost “anything on a wall” that can be hung. To illustrate that, for the three main photos I chose a large picture grouping we’d done, a second one showing antler mounts, and a third featuring unusual tribal artifacts.

Read moreHow the 12 new Hermit Spirit mastheads were designed, Part 2

How the 12 new Hermit Spirit mastheads were designed, Part 1

A look behind the scenes — and how things so often take longer than you think.
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Images here are from Pixabay unless noted as sourced from iStock. For links to all of the fonts and original images used for Hermit Spirit’s site-wide and section mastheads, see Credits/Colophon.

A week ago I launched the newly redesigned and rechristened Hermit Spirit website here after about two months of spare-time effort. Two major tasks were involved, the largest designing 12 brand-new mastheads for different sections of the site, including the home page/blog header. At the same time, I wanted to retain the typography and layout I’d previously developed for the main content area (body copy) plus the navigation menus, sidebar, and footer.

The latter task required porting the CSS, or cascading style sheets, from the preceding Think Outside the Box version of the site built on the now-defunct Headway theme into GeneratePress, which the current website uses. (Both are themes for WordPress.) I won’t go into the travails involved with the latter task because it’s code-intensive and not something most readers will care about. But I thought it might be of interest to take a peek behind the scenes at how I designed all the mastheads.

The main “Hermit Spirit” site and blog masthead

Homepage • Also: Top Menu > Blog

First, for comparison, here’s the previous Think Outside the Box blog masthead, followed by my new one for the retitled Hermit Spirit version. (Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

You’ll notice two things off the bat: The new blog masthead is much simpler, and deeper vertically (at 400 pixels) than the previous one (286 pixels deep). I found that the Think Outside the Box masthead — designed primarily for computer monitors — lost most of its impact on smartphone displays, which are much smaller but have now come to be used for a significant percentage of all web surfing. So my watchwords for the new masthead series were larger and simpler.

Read moreHow the 12 new Hermit Spirit mastheads were designed, Part 1

Hermit Spirit blog conversion: interim report

Wardolfski turns over a new leaf with a reasonable-length post (say it ain’t so, Joe!), while his hermit self beavers away designing a new incarnation of the blog.

Things are going well with the website conversion, all things considered, with about five weeks of spare time now into it. I really enjoy the process of envisioning a new direction for any endeavor, whether something ongoing or a fresh start, especially the brainstorming side of things.

It’s a fragile endeavor, though, the ideas coming and going swiftly: for visuals, headlines, layouts. One must be on continual standby to note things down immediately, lest they disappear as evanescently as they flicker before the mind’s eye, trying to catch the proverbial lightning in a bottle. With pen and paper or a computing device at the ready, for a time prisoner of the muse or mistress. Pledged to do her bidding so as not to be cast out before you have obtained both satisfaction and release from your desire.

For me this stage tends to go by relatively quickly. Ideas typically come in a multitude of rapid staccato bursts — an experience of one “high” after another. While there can also be some cognitive dissonance as sometimes-contradictory ideas spew out like fireworks, it’s all part of the process.

As someone who enjoys learning new things and having my head turned upside down occasionally while simmering and percolating through to a new view, cognitive dissonance is to be welcomed because it means things are in flux. And flux, a boiling over of ideas, often chaotic, is a key aspect of the creative process. Eventually, as things evolve, the contradictions resolve themselves, and any ill-fitting pieces puzzled over begin falling into place. A direction progressively becomes clear, but as it does comes the challenge, the hard part: all the detail work required to implement the vision.

Read moreHermit Spirit blog conversion: interim report

Crossroads ahead: renaming blog to Hermit Spirit. Here’s what’s up.

The best kind of change might be one that surprises you.

Over the last few months, I felt changes looming that I could not quite put my finger on. At loose ends on a few different fronts, first I found myself casting about for something to write on the blog here, but nothing presented itself.

Then, after an almost chance event — reading a rather off-the-beaten-path article on a blog about spirituality and meditation, a foundation stone that had once been important to me but had gone mostly dormant for many years — I realized it was time, I wanted, needed, to refocus my approach to life. I felt moved to revive and take up something again from the past that had fallen away, and once again move forward with it.

It was an impulse I had pushed down amid the incessant demands to make ends meet in today’s ever-onrushing world. Not always voluntarily, but something I had felt was necessary and had gotten used to, and perhaps even thought was a sign of the no-nonsense pragmatism needed to get along in life. Only now that approach was no longer working for me, as it had for such a long time. Now the impulse was returning, and it had not taken that much of a tripwire to do it.

In the past I had done some sitting meditation practice from time to time, but now, juggling more responsibilities and activities than I would prefer despite my attempts to place limits (the story of modern life, right?), I decided to try combining meditation with my evening walks.

Though I had been running several mornings a week, by the time evening rolled around, my body was often in need of some additional physical exertion, if light, to relax from the rigors or stresses of the day. So, I would go out for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood alone to unwind. Otherwise I could not always sleep well.

And… not initially too hopeful at first, I found the new approach to meditation worked. It wasn’t long before I began feeling more in tune with myself spiritually again, and was able to then pick up the inquiry I had left off with years before.

Read moreCrossroads ahead: renaming blog to Hermit Spirit. Here’s what’s up.

Making a new friend: the old, neglected running track

A locked-up track in the far corner of a public middle school’s grounds, going to waste. A fence-climbing 60-year-old runner who doesn’t realize his age. A long-overdue interval workout waiting to be performed, in need of just such an overlooked venue. Result: An affair between man and 400-meter oval.

It is winter in early February here on the windy Great Plains, and the last several weeks have been fierce, at least for running. Temperatures have turned unseasonably cold for long stretches, sprinkled with only a few warmer days to squeeze in key workouts — those either faster or longer.

To add to the difficulty, because of unfortunate coincidences recently, nearly two months have elapsed since my last track interval workout. Two consecutive respiratory colds of two weeks each, something that had never happened to me before, along with the harsh and unpredictable weather, have meant that for an entire month I have done only easy shorter or mid-distance runs for workouts while dealing with the sniffles, sneezing, congestion, and coughing.

Something that surprises most people is that continuing to run through respiratory sickness actually makes me feel better in most cases and weather things with less trouble. Still, beyond an easy pace and middling distance, it’s best to hold plenty in reserve and not risk overdoing during such periods.

A few times, energy level and lungs permitting, I’ve thrown in some 4 x 100m strides (that is, four very fast repeats of 100 meters each, just shy of a sprint) or 4 x 150m hill repeats here and there to try and keep the fires of speedier pace stoked a bit, but it hasn’t been much. Not enough to maintain the fitness level and more honed “edge” I seek, and that makes the training process as rewarding and enjoyable as it can and should be.

Read moreMaking a new friend: the old, neglected running track

A makeover of old Bibles (dream 8)

I am inside an old church with my handyman partner Paul, with whom I once worked as an assistant in his business on a part-time basis. We have been called in for a meeting, weeks or months later, after a consultation we provided the ministers and other elders of the church. In this case it was not handyman services we provided, but a recommendation for how to reprint their old Bibles and other holy books. They are unhappy with how things turned out and we have been brought back in for them to point out what they do not like.

On handyman jobs, Paul is my mentor, the one with a lifetime of experience, and takes the lead in consulting with customers. In this situation, however, our roles are reversed. Here, it is me who has decades of experience as a typographer in countless situations with all manner of clients. Paul is along for the ride on this one, but has a good eye. I am glad to have him along, even if just for the company and moral support.

The denomination of the church is unclear, but it has the feel of a very old-line religion, not a newer Protestant or evangelical church. The interior architecture is of old polished woods, with light-colored stucco walls in shades of muslin, tan, and taupe. Aside from the walls, everything consists of dark browns and sepias. There is not much lighting, so the ambience inside is dim and overall somewhat dark. The atmosphere weighs on my spirits a bit.

I rarely pay much attention to clothing, but the ministers and elders I am talking with are wearing old, traditional attire of some type, not from today’s era. The feel is perhaps 1800s, possibly even 1600s to 1700s, depending on the man. There are no suits and ties as would be the case today. There are no women among the group. Everything is completely old school.

Read moreA makeover of old Bibles (dream 8)

Picnic of champions: A reunion of out-of-shape athletic has-beens

An opportunity to connect with former university track and cross-country teammates from long ago does not go quite as hoped.
Names and a few identifying details have been changed out of respect for anonymity and personal privacy.

A white envelope

The envelope arrived in the mail unexpectedly one day this past summer. White and of regular correspondence size, with a computer-printed appearance of the type that suggested a mass-mailing, it appeared at first to be just another piece of junk mail.

With the flick of an eye, I glanced cursorily at the return name and address, which in part bore the acronym of my university alma mater. Probably another request to donate funds I did not have, I supposed. A plea from university boosters appealing to fellow former attendees now presumed to be economically prosperous.

A further glance, however, showed this normally on-target snap-judgment to be in error. I saw that the return address held the name of the man who had been coach of the university cross-country team for which I had competed my freshman year. On the line directly underneath his name were the words “XYU Track and Field Reunion.” And on the line beneath that, “Such-and-Such Place Assisted Living.”

This suggested something more worthy. While I had not cared that much for the coach, the lines on the envelope provided the telltale synopsis: An accomplished man now more frail, winding down his final years of life. Many former athletes whom he had coached, also aging, who had not seen him, or each other, for decades. A chance to get together, pay tribute, and catch up and relive old times with former teammates. And, perhaps, an opportunity to rekindle previous acquaintances, and see where things might lead.

Read morePicnic of champions: A reunion of out-of-shape athletic has-beens

Unknown Amanda Pelko (dream 7)

I am out exploring the rural dirt roads northeast of the small hometown of my youth, where I logged thousands of miles as a distance runner then. I have returned to be here for a morning, perhaps a day, just to wander around and soak up the countryside on foot. Things have changed in the decades since, but I still recognize the roads and surrounding land.

This place of pastures and farmland and barbed-wire fences, and the back roads running between criss-crossing it all was the center of my universe. Halcyon days. It feels good to be here again, refamiliarizing myself with the terrain, getting to know the land as it now exists years later, at least in this dream.

Every now and then, as the morning passes, I can see a lean, sinewy runner striding along from a distance. They appear to be in their element, their form honed as if they have been at this for years, as if they know their way around this locale.

I continue meandering along, following my nose, enjoying the luxurious hours. Halfway through the day, I decide to begin the return home and get a workout in at the same time. Home is an indeterminate west or west-southwest somewhere, so I head generally that direction along the perpendicular grid of dirt roads and begin running.

Not far into the run, about a quarter of a mile after taking a turn from one road onto another, I happen to look back and see the lean runner heading the same way I am, toward me. It is rare to see a serious runner in the area, and I would like to meet this individual. Maybe talk to them a little bit, and get to know more about them if they are willing.

Read moreUnknown Amanda Pelko (dream 7)

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