Welcome back to Bower Corner. My last few weeks have been quite an emotional ride, which has led me to think a lot about the dichotomy of living in a world, or even universe, of precise measured-ness (if that is a word), and immeasurable-ness, which would be too large, extensive, or extreme to measure.
One of the most compelling measurements in life is that of time. The sun and moon rise and set, seasons come and go. Humans have subdivided time further, into mornings, afternoons, nighttime, hours, minutes, seconds, and milliseconds. We time our wakefulness, our job attendance, recreation, exercise, cooking, and even how long we can revel in the shower. We know how long a song lasts, a playlist will play, and a program or game will last. Time is now money. Daily and hourly productivity is measured on cash registers and services are billable by time.
Even before our birth, we’ve been measured. Our mom’s tummies have been subject to tape measures, and ultra sounds. The second we are born, our weight, length, and head are measured, and an Apgar score is called out, relative to baby health. The measuring goes on day by day, week, by week, month by month, and year by year. Even as mature moms, we are still measuring, wishing we had our youthful figures back. Often we are being measured as we die, pulse, oxygen levels, respirations, and other relative vitals.
My husband’s job in the building trades is evidence of the everyday necessity of measuring. Every aspect of construction is a precision game, beginning with architectural and engineering plans, to surveying, excavation, foundation, framing, plumbing, electrical, and every process used in finishing. Painting, tile, flooring, cabinetry, lighting, trim, etc. Of course, at times, this includes Tom’s custom fabricated ornamental iron railings, fences, and other hardware. His welding shop is an oasis of measuring as you can imagine. He’s even been measuring massive wasp nests in his vacant lot (or more exactly – scrap yard).
As a side note, my husband is quite the collector of ladders. Not only are they used to measure, but are measured. Tom seems to need one of every height and type. Each job has a different ladder requirement you know.
My work in healthcare is a whole different area. That of human biology, requiring the utmost care in measuring. Our work in a dental office is down to millimeters and fractions of millimeters, as we care for patients. So is the work of medical providers, specializing in ears, or feet, or bones or all sorts of intricate surgical procedures. Even the pharmacy aspect of medicine is carefully measured. When my frozen shoulders were each healing, the important measurement was range of motion in every direction. Why I’ve even had a kidney stone measured at 5.5 mm. As painful as that was, it doesn’t compete with some other trophy kidney stone stories I’ve heard. I don’t care to compete for the biggest. Yikes, I surely digress.
Our food is prepared by measuring. We have measuring bowls, cups, spoons, thermostats and thermometers, scales, and more. We count portions, calories, ounces, pounds, BMI, and the minutes before we can take our next bite or meal. I even count those dark chocolate chips and almonds I like to snack on. It seems so much better to take six at a time several times a day, than a piggy handful all at once.
Transportation measurements are undeniable. We buy fuel in carefully measured amounts, paying by a carefully chosen price per gallon and watching our fuel gauge, hoping we won’t run out of gas again. We measure oil pressure, fluids, RPM’s, speed, miles, altitude, latitudes, and longitudes. We cross borders, measured by political demarcations.
Weather is measured by degrees, wind speed, humidity levels, dewpoints, air currents, atmospheric pressure and particulates in the air. Clouds are categorized, tornadoes and hurricanes are predicted, and we experience the results of weather forecaster’s calculations or miscalculations no matter what.
Nature itself, as wild, unique, and unpredictable as it can be, is still a subject for measurement where possible. We have topographical maps for our globe and other spheres in space. We count animals, study insects, measure moving sand dunes, ocean currents, climate tendencies, and all imagined observations on our planet and beyond.
Our earth, and the universe beyond is also measured. Modern scientists are only building on the knowledge ancient mathematicians and astronomers found in the precision and predictability of our solar system, rotations, eclipses, and other thrilling heavenly line-ups.
Sports are no exception. Golf is measured by swing arcs, driving range yards, and inches of putts. Football, soccer, basketball, and baseball, are all measured with exactness as athletes kick, run, throw, shoot, swing, catch, dive, slide, and push through to obtain points that are tallied upon scoreboards with stats that analysts study and comment upon.
Even in our favorite hobbies, we can’t escape measuring. At this time of year many people are hunting, measuring the grains reloaded in their shells, which are measured by calibers and millimeters. Distances, wind speed, and animal motion are all taken into consideration. Antlers are measured and points counted. Even fishing becomes scientific, measuring ripples, shade, time of day, size and type of hooks, flies, and lures. All are considered. Fish finder transducers use sound waves to locate objects, hopefully walleye if you want my opinion.
My hobbies are all products of measuring. Whether I’m cutting out a sewing project, trying to match seams on a quilt, casting on knitting stitches, doing a triple crochet with three wraps, or trying to finish a much too challenging baby sweater, I’m measuring. My dad recently renovated a sheep wagon which took a whole lot of measuring to restore. He even special ordered a strangely sized mattress that would fit. Our neighbors have spent years enjoying home design, which was one measuring project after another. As bystanders, we watched in amazement as their creative ideas have come to life, all carefully measured and executed!
My music life of playing, singing, and teaching uses the term measure to order how we count. Everything is exact, the number of counts per measure, the distance in pitch intervals and counting values of each type of note. Accuracy in notes, fingering, timing, and dynamics are the foundation of music. Even the best improvisors have learned their skill by knowledge and practice of techniques that make their smooth style, seem easy and uninformed, when it is the opposite.
All disciplines in the arts have similar measuring. My metal-artist daughter’s work is a product of careful drawing, planning, and measuring. Metal forging temperatures and processes are very specific for her desired outcomes. The most flowing poetry and beautiful literature is labored over greatly, considering all sorts of aspects of meter, repetition, grammar, and so many measurable techniques that give the illusion of effortlessness to the readers.
Tom and I love to garden and find that we are again measuring. When should we plant seeds, how long will it take a plant to produce, what low temperature will kill it, how much water is too little, or too much. We measure our results by the size of pumpkins, the number of tomatoes on that Sweet 100, the bushels or pecks or weight of our harvest and how many jars we’ve canned or bags of frozen or dried fruit or veggies we’ve put away for winter.
There is method in my madness to enumerate measurability in the world around us. In all of this finiteness, I’m also keenly aware of the immeasurability of human relations, emotions, gratitude, generosity, and feelings. Infinite possibilities boggle our minds, and sweep through our beings. I hope you will join me soon for Part II. Please, please, please, share your thoughts on this subject in the comments, even if you think it is pretty irrelevant or silly.
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