Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wimping Out in the Face of the Fossil Demigods?

Saturday, Feb. 28

1:15 p.m.

At what point did my scales tip toward caution and safety, and away from adventure and discovery? Did this come about simply with age or accumulating experiences, or, in fact, is it one of those illusions of memory that anything has actually changed?

I had the opportunity to explore a well known fossil site tomorrow, but, instead, I’ve just chosen to forego the privilege. I phoned the friend who was to join me on the hunt and wished him good luck, knowing full well that the fossil demigods would ensure that the hunt would go on as scheduled, but without me. So, at this moment, burdened with a heavy load of remorse, I sit at my computer composing this lament.

Assert that discretion is the better part of valor and raise up for everyone to see the challenging promise of a drive there of more than 300 miles in heavy rain, the possibility that the site might be closed tomorrow anyway due to the brutish weather, and the probability of a forlorn drive home in sleet and snow. Also blame it on the fossil demigods who used their power to play with the weather (creating the following weather map, kindly run a bit later by the National Weather Service):

My east coast destination was in the Carolinas, a bit northwest of the stationary front just off the coast, inside that area of rain demarked by the tannish dashes.

But, wait. "Discretion is the better part of valor” is one of Falstaff’s aphorisms and no fit cover for my decision. Depressing is the thought that perhaps neither the opportunity of getting out of my rut nor the thrill of the fossil hunt was enough to add the necessary weight to the adventurous side of the balance. I would like to believe that at one time I was other than a Caspar Milquetoast, though, apparently, I am one now.

[An aside: Caspar Milquetoast, cartoonist H.T. Webster’s creation, “graced” comic panels in New York City newspapers for several decades in the first half of the 20th century. This was a character who in a dream ran fleeing from the leaning Tower of Pisa (the anxious persona), and who stood in the pouring rain, completely drenched, and thought to himself that he’d wait only an hour more for the guy who wanted to borrow money from him (the doormat persona). It’s the former aspect of Milquetoast’s character that I feel I’ve laid claim to, not the latter. Clearly, I wouldn’t have stood out in the rain.]

4:01 p.m.

Just listened to a voice mail message announcing that the collecting site would indeed be closed tomorrow due to the weather. A feeling of elation swept over me. By not leaving at 1 p.m. as planned, I had averted driving three hours south and three more hours retracing my steps, and I wouldn't be left out. I called my friend to see what he’d heard. He offered an expression of true graciousness, “I can’t wait to see what the ones who went in today found.” Sigh. That’s the true spirit, maybe it will rub off on me.


The tooth (2 ½” on the slant) from an Otodus obliquus that sits atop this post is a gift from my wife, presented to me at 1:35 p.m. with the words, “You were hoping to find something big this weekend. And, by the way, it’s not wimping out, it’s being responsible.” [Later addendum: Now, I'm not so sure about the ID on this tooth. It's my typical rush to judgment.]

Additional Afterthought

There is a danger with a blog that there is no unpublished draft. Hell, that there are no drafts at all. I suppose that’s the point of a blog, though I’m uneasy with that, aspiring to write essays, not record rushing streams of consciousness. With that in mind, I suspect this post should have remained on my computer. Novelist Ian McEwan has commented, “I’m quite good at not writing. . . . I’m a hesitater.” (The New Yorker, February 23, 2009) Hesitation as good thing . . . a novel idea for the blogging world.

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