Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sights Along the Sound

Sunday morning, 8:30. From my rented porch, I can see the waters of Puget Sound drift quietly by, past cedars and pine and a hundred yards of low scrub. From here, it looks as though the beach is a straight walk from the porch, but actually, you have to walk down quite a long and steep flight of stairs. Across the Sound, the land rises and falls in its own gentle, green waves. Further off, to the right, I can see inlets and channels and more distant land.

A variety of birds are squawking and chittering. I can identify crows, but not much else. The air is cool and crisp and wonderful.

There are deer here who must never have known a predator. They are bold and calm and fearless—they do not flinch or run when you pass by or approach them. Two nights ago, at dinner, a doe and three fawns walked right up to the window where we were eating. Taking a cue from us, perhaps, the three fawns jockeyed for position under their mother and began to nurse.

If it weren’t for the constant and harassing phone calls and emails from work, this would be very peaceful indeed. Just days before we came up here, The Bosses let me know that, back at the Home Office, they had declared a moratorium on vacations and personal time until after Labor Day, after all of our new schools had opened. All well and good, said I, but this vacation was planned and paid for months ago by my mother-in-law, to pull all of her extended family together for her birthday. Well, all right, said they—you can go, but don’t call it a vacation and make sure you maintain phone and email contact.

The problem with a start-up company is that every new thing that has to be done is Completely New, and has no clear structure or process behind it. Deadlines are aggressive, goals are set high, the stakes are even higher—but there’s no clear agreement on how things should be done and who should do them. And even where there is agreement, it’s not clear that the process agreed upon is correct or efficient—because it’s all too new.

In the position into which I’ve been thrust, as the Point Man for these new schools—the person situated between the Home Office and the partner districts—everything is supposed to funnel through me and be managed by me. In practice, what this tends to mean is that people simply dump tasks on me—tasks that could easily be done by other people, and sometimes tasks that really must be done by other people, because I don’t understand them.

So it’s not just calls and emails I have to manage up here—it’s also confusion and repetition, redundancy of effort in one place and lack of effort somewhere else. I’m not as patient with all of it as I should be.

And I should be. Because when I can shake all of that garbage out of my head, there are barbeques and saunas to be had, bonfires and boat parades to watch, and two happy children to play with—marching through the woods with walking sticks, digging for clams on the beach, or learning how to kayak.

And the Sound rolls by whether I’m wise enough to watch it or not. And the crows caw, and the wind blows, and the giant trees are unconcerned.

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