The long windup

The long windup earns me a lot of grief at home and at work. It seems other people don't prepare the same way I do. I assumed it was common.

Basically: I make a huge mess followed by a series of other messes and then—hey presto—the thing in its final form emerges.

Case in point: the ongoing—and seemingly never-ending—wall and steps construction in the backyard. For a long time it was just a trench and piles of rocks and blocks and dirt. Then it was a trench with some rocks and blocks in it, surrounded by rocks and blocks and dirt. It seemed like it was in this state for an unnaturally long time, even though blocks were being added to the wall, but it just never looked more done—still surrounded by rocks and blocks and dirt. Then, in one weekend, the dirt pile moved and the ground got flattened and some of the rock and blocks piles got depleted and the whole thing started to look finished. (Even though it is very much not finished.)

I get why my approach drives people nuts. The situation looks bad—until it doesn't. For me it's mise en place. I know the pieces are ready. I know it's coming together. I can see the parts in motion, in time and space. Patience—enjoy the product, enjoy the process.


The pleasure of sport was so often the chance to indulge the cessation of time itself—the pitcher dawdling on the mound, the skier poised at the top of a mountain trail, the basketball player with the rough skin of the ball against his palm preparing for a foul shot, the tennis player at set point over his opponent—all of them savoring a moment before committing themselves to action.

—George Plimpton. Paper Lion (1966).

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