Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Working on my attitude....

When I got up this morning, it was raining. While posting a cryptic comment on the Quincy Writers Group blog, the rain changed to snow - or white rain as my breakfast companion calls it. I discovered, while browsing the A section of my dictionary, that the root of the word attitude is the same as that for aptitude. Interesting. While pausing on "attitude," I noticed "Attleboro" nearby. Interestingly, Attleboro was the neighboring town to Norton, Mass., where I grew up. We definitely had an attitude toward Attleboro. It was much bigger than Norton. In fact, it was a city while we were just a town. Every square inch of Massachusetts is in either a city or a town. Having lived in the West for many years, I've grown accustomed to the fact that the entire state of Massachusetts could fit between many pairs of towns in the West. Another tidbit along these lines: the entire state of Rhode Island could fit twice in the county I live in now. My county has a population of around 22,000 while RI runs around 1,000,000! Anyway, back to the subject of attitude - I'm still working on it. When I was on the high school track team, I was nervous about competing against Attleboro. They had the top long-jumper in the region. I was Norton's long-jumper [We called it the broad jump then.], and I beat their guy! Also, our team beat Attleboro! Reinforced our attitudes! So, as I paged my way back to aptitude, I stumbled across Asheville, NC, a town for which I have great fondness. You see, Asheville is in a region where "attitude" is frowned upon. Yet, it's the location of one of my all-time favorite bookstores, Malaprops. Now there's a name with attitude. Plus, the store was run by a lesbian couple. Great place, right next to the public library and only a couple of blocks from a great pizza place, the Mellow Mushroom, whose motto is "Keep on Shroomin'." Don't ya love that attitude? Another great feature of Asheville which my family has indulged often is the weekly bluegrass gathering in the town square all summer long called "Shindig on the Green." Great times.
Now, before I stray too far from the topic of the day, let me just say I'm working on an essay that will explore the extent to which a "naturalist," which is what I am or aspire to be, is defined by an attitude. What launched me on this exploration was the reminder on some web site or other that the word "attitude" is used in a particular way in aeronautics and space flight. If attitude is the direction in which you are headed with respect to some sort of baseline ("normal" society?) then there must be some sort of analogous way of looking at the attitude of a naturalist. I read in a recent issue of Writers Digest that "The key to the successful nature essay is to see what is not commonly seen." I love that. It's a reminder to me, constantly, in my writing and my photography. Which leads to my final tangent (love that word, too) for the day. When I got to work I was amazed at the response of lots of robins and starlings to this sudden snow storm, so I got out my camera and photographed birds from the warm confines of my office. I've included one photo from a week ago, before the snow returned, that of a nice red willow bush budding. Then I promised myself to finish the essay before the end of the week.

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