Snow Rider

May 12th, 2015

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

Early season at Stratton Mountain, I caught up with a Ski School instructor on the chair lift to the summit. We’ve already had one snow storm in November, which dumped 13 inches of snow on the mountains, so the slopes looked ready. Prior to that, the day time temperature was cold enough that they were running the snow guns all day and all night to prepare for the 2014/2015 season opening day.

 

Unfortunately for me, when nature decides to snow that much, there is too much to do around the inn that prohibits me from entertaining the idea of catching the fresh powder. I shovel snow around the front entrance, back door, the guest room entrance and deck. I take snow off the front entry roof so that icicles will not grow there. I try to rake some snow off the hedges so that they will not be crushed by the weight of frozen snow. If there are any icy spots on the parking lot, I will spread some ice melt. It is a full day of work to dig out of a big snow day.

 

By the time I got to Stratton on Monday, a couple of 40s warm days have melted most of the snow. By Thursday, the temperature was down to the low 20s again; however, this deadly combination of temperature fluctuations made the trail surface extremely hard and icy. Not too many people come out in such conditions, so the top half of the mountain never got enough traffic to have the shave-offs that provided any hope of grip.
I went down carefully with ample amount of cushion left in my knees to react to suddenly slipping edges. Low temperature and icy surfaces meant that there was a very little friction between the board and hard snow. Controlling my speed and carefully measuring the amount of unexpected movements underneath my board, I tried to remain in control over such an unforgiving condition. It is no time to learn new skills as the consequence of anything other than perfect execution is a hard fall, usually accompanied by pain.

So, when I find myself riding the chair lift with a Ski School instructor, I wanted to ask if there are any tips for skiing in conditions like this . After a casual exchange of “Hi”s and “How are you”s, I started talking about how bad the conditions are. He told me that he has been a ski instructor for thirty some years. He used to work at Jay Peak near the Canadian border, but moved to Stratton because he wanted to get a new certification. There is a panel of judges who decide you are worthy of a certain level of certification and there are seven such judges in the Stratton area, but there are none up there. So he moved down to Stratton so that he can find out what’s in the minds of these judges and become familiar with the way they think of skiing.

 

I never knew such a level of ski certification existed. Apparently, at that level of skiing mastery, it is not about technical skills and much more comes into play. It reminded me of the documentary movie about the Master Sommlier examination. There are now 135 professionals who have earned the title Master Sommelier in North America. There are 211 Master Sommeliers worldwide since the first successful Master Sommelier examination was held in the United Kingdom by the Court of Master Sommelier in 1969. This movie gives a glimpse of what it takes to pass the nearly impossible Master Sommelier examination. Check out the movie “Somm” at the NETFLIX documentary section.

 

Back to snowboarding… As I practice the familiar lines on the Black Diamond trails every week, I figured out that the difference between a good run and not so good run is purely your attitude. You have the skills and technique to negotiate the slope. The steepness of incline is such that the harder you try to control, the more chances you have of losing control. When the unexpected surprises you, your attitude changes. Fear takes over, doubt seeps in and confidence dwindles. Then, it’s over. Instead, you should trust your ability and let your body spontaneously react to whatever is happening underneath. Seek less control and minimize resistance. After all, it is a controlled fall. You are falling undeniably, while balancing to stay up. Respect what gravity is doing to you, and don’t just insist on what you are doing to it.

 

 

So when I met the ski instructor of 30 some years, who moved to Stratton to prepare for the next level of certification, who is skiing in these impossible conditions, I wanted to ask what revelation he had on skiing. He told me about his friend. They grew up together and they were in the same development program when they were teenagers. His friend went onto competitive skiing and achieved much success. He is in his mid 50s now and they still see each other once or twice a year. “You know what…”, he says. “Every time I see him, he starts out by saying, “I am working on a new move…”

 

Come to Ormsby Hill and peek into the minds of Masters…

 

In pursuit of the best snowboarding move…

Yoshio

The Inn at Ormsby Hill
1842 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255
802-362-1163
800-670-2841
www.ormsbyhill.com
stay@ormsbyhill.com

Something To Do

May 12th, 2015

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

That night, Jesse and I were looking for something to do. We successfully managed our 18 hour trip from Bangkok to Koh Samui, an island off the eastern cost of Thailand. The trip was comprised of three mode of transportation: train, bus, and boat, for a total cost of $15 U.S. dollars.

 

The morning started out adventurous. On the way to the Bangkok train station, our taxi driver was merging into a big main street which was jammed with hundreds of cars inching their way forward. He was a bit too aggressive, playing a game of chicken, and he ended up bumping into the car in front of him. The taxi driver was yelling something, presumably claiming his innocence, and the other driver in front of him came out of his car and was yelling back to him with both arms up. We did not understand a word of what they were saying but we knew exactly what was going on. I turned to Jesse and he said “Let’s go!” We jumped out of the taxi and started running toward the train station, laughing uncontrollably, as we understood that the payment was optional.

 

We had a 12 hour ride on a sleeper train. We weren’t sure if we could get something to eat on the train, but the chance of us finding something appetizing was remote. So we stopped at the only convenience store in the station. We walked around the store aisles twice but we just could not find anything that looked interesting. There were local passengers buying their dinner to bring onto their trains, but none of the stuff they had looked familiar and we weren’t sure if our stomach could handle it. The last thing you want is to be sick on a train with strange object in your stomach. I don’t really remember what we ate but not much beyond Ritz crackers and coke.

 

As the train slowly departed the Bangkok station, it proceeded through the city section where home-made shacks occupied either side of the train track and kids were playing six feet from the moving train. The train was moving slowly through the slum section as if to show some respect for people who were living there. Such co-existence is so beyond the western standards that it almost made me question who was there first, train or people…
As the night fell on the track, the train conductor came to lower the bunk bed and spread clean white sheets, which seemed totally unbalanced with everything else on the train. As I went to the toilet at the end of the train car, I noticed that the same conductor was washing himself between train cars with a bucket of water. There was no shower on the train, but apparently this man wanted to wash off his sweat before he went to bed. You wonder who is more civilized…

 

As we reached the destination station at 6:00am, we got off the train and immediately got on the bus parked outside of the train station. It seemed everyone who got off the train got on this bus as there was no other purpose for this train stop. About a 30 minute ride later, we were at the boat dock waiting for a passenger boat to take us to the island. There were already a bunch of backpackers and young travelers of all nationalities. Checking on the boat schedule, we found out that the next boat was 3 hours away. We were in no hurry and the only goal of that day was to get to the island.

 

Finally, the boat came and everyone moved toward it. As we got on the boat, we were told to put our bags and backpacks on the deck and go inside. As we went inside, all the seats were already taken and we were pushed out to the other side to the front deck. Aboard the packed ship with the over-capacity passengers squeezed on the top of the deck of the boat, we could not move from a square foot of the assigned space for the entire 3 hour journey under the blazing sun. All I could think about was that this is the kind of boat that you read in the newspaper – the over-capacity boat capsized in the open sea full of refugees…. and one Japanese and one American on board.

 

We had been on the island for a couple of days. Obviously we survived the boat trip. The only thing we had to do that day was to get to the island alive. We’ll worry about everything else when we get there. That’s how we felt about this whole journey. Finally when we got there, we worried about nothing. Jesse was 17 years old then. Young, fearless, open to new experiences. No big deal, Dad.

 

12 years later, Diane and I were looking for something to do. I decided to finish my 11 year stint in Tokyo and it was time to return to the U.S. Our son, Jesse, got married that year and I wanted to do something different than commuting back and forth to New York City. After much thinking, I arrived at the conclusion – I want to spend six months snowboarding in Vermont! Somewhere along the line, this idea of a bed and breakfast came up. After a brief investigation, it seemed like something Diane and I could do together. We did not have any hospitality experience but we thought we could figure it out after we got there. 11months later, we bought this beautiful, historic, country estate B&B in Manchester, Vermont. The rest is history. It is a path less traveled, but it is certainly a journey worth taken.

 

As you know, I am a student of retirement and I talk to many guests about how to prepare for a happy retirement. One of the guests said, when asked about his retirement, “Retirement is not something to be figured out. It is a mystery to be lived!” Sometimes you cannot figure out everything before you jump in, but the joy of living a mystery is something you just have to find out in real time.

 

Come to Ormsby Hill and when you cross that Vermont state line, somehow, you feel different…

 

In pursuit of the best mystery…

Yoshio

The Inn at Ormsby Hill
1842 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255
802-362-1163
800-670-2841
www.ormsbyhill.com
stay@ormsbyhill.com

Carnegie Hall

May 12th, 2015

 

Hi Everyone,

 

What do you do when you get snowed in for a couple of days in Vermont? Plan a trip to get out of Vermont!

 

This year, we went to Carnegie Hall to see Keith Jarrett’s piano solo concert. I had never been to Carnegie Hall and did not quite know which seats to select, but I ended up with the front row of something called “Dress Circle.” Carnegie Hall has four layers of balconies, of which the third one is called “Dress Circle.” Reading about the history of Carnegie Hall, I learned that it was specifically designed and built for superior acoustic characteristics. The idea was conceived in 1987 and the construction of the building was completed in spring of 1891.

 

Around the same time that Carnegie Hall was being constructed in New York City, Edward Swift Isham, a Chicago lawyer, purchased an old Vermont farm house in 1885 and turned it into a 10,000 sqft summer house. Isham renamed the house Ormsby Hill and welcomed many guests, including Mrs Julia Grant, a wife of General Ulysis Grant, on July 29th, 1895. Atop rolling hills in the valley, sandwiched between the Taconic mountain range and the Green Mountains, it must have been an idyllic place for Isham to spend summers, where his grandfather, Dr Ezra Isham, came to practice medicine in 1800.
Ezra and Nancy Isham had six children and their oldest son, Pierrepont, born in 1802, studied law under Judge Richard Skinner and established his law practice in Bennington. Pierrepont married Samantha Swift, a daughter of the first minister to serve Manchester’s Congregational Church, was appointed to the Vermont Supreme Court and later lived in New York City where he died in 1877. Pierrepont and Samantha had three children, Edward Swift, Mary and Henry. Edward’s sister, Mary, married Major Sartell Pretice and had four children. Marry’s oldest son married Alta Rockefeller, daughter of John D. Rockefeller.

 

Over on the other side of ocean, Japan was coming to the end of the Samurai era, when Commodore Perry came to Shimoda with the infamous Black Ship and demanded to open the country for trade with America. Japan had been a closed country for 220 years (1633 to 1853), since the Tokugawa shogunate enacted the policy whereby no foreigner could enter, nor could any Japanese leave the country on penalty of death.

 

My great great grandfather, Bunnai Endo, was born in 1853 in a Samurai family. At that time in Japan, there was a class system that indicated social hierarchy and everyone was classified as either Samurai, Farmer, Engineer, or Merchant. My great grandfather, Zensaku Endo’s birth registration shows Bunnai Endo as his father and he was a Bushi (samurai class). Bunnai taught children of Samurai families at a school generally called “Terakoya”, and later became the first principal of the Minami Koizumi Elementary School in Sendai, Japan. The Office of School Principal, which still to this date proudly hangs the pictures of all the School Principals in the past, has the framed photograph of Bunnai Endo on the wall. How do I know that is my great great grandfather? I have the same picture that was handed down to me by my father.

 

Between 1887 to 1891, at Andrew Carnegie’s request, Carnegie Hall’s architect William Burnet Tuthill toured and studied European concert halls famous for their acoustics. He also consulted with architect Dankmar Adler of the Chicago firm Adler and Sullivan – a noted acoustical authority who was responsible for Chicago’s Auditorium Building, itself completed in 1889 and known for superb acoustics. A favorite quote from Isaac Stern said, “Everywhere in the world, music enhances a hall, with one exception – Carnegie Hall enhances the music.”

 

The five-day opening festivities of Carnegie Hall in 1891 attracted the cream of New York society such as the Whitneys, Sloans, Rockefellers, and Fricks who paid $1 to $2 to see the performance. It is fascinating to think that the Ishams and Lincolns might have been among the people who attended the opening of Carnegie Hall. 124 years later, Kelly, Diane and I went to Carnegie Hall on a snowy evening to see Keith Jarrett play solo piano. With the packed audience completely mesmerized with his piano playing and deep harmonic sound enveloping the entire hall, Keith Jarrett came back to the stage three times for encores. What a night!.

 

Come to Ormsby Hill and reimagine the 19th Century Isham life…

 

In pursuit of the best acoustic moment…
Yoshio

The Inn at Ormsby Hill
1842 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255
802-362-1163
800-670-2841
www.ormsbyhill.com
stay@ormsbyhill.com

Water Crystal

February 16th, 2015

 

Happy New Year – Everyone,

 

In a relatively low-budget independent film called, “What Bleep Do We Know?” (2004), the main character, Amanda, played by Marlee Matlin, goes down to the subway station and notices a woman on the platform showing photos of water crystals taken by Dr. Masaru Emoto. She explains that, from beautiful words and music come beautiful crystals and from mean-spirited, negative words, come malformed and misshapen crystals.

Dr. Emoto published these results in a photograph collection book titled “Message from Water 1″ (1999). He reported that the combination of non-resonating vibrations can result in destructive energy and nothing can be created from it. When vibrations resonate with each other, it always creates a beautiful design, thus most of the earth is covered with beautiful nature. He first observed this phenomenon when he froze the water from pristine rivers and lakes from the country side and compared it to frozen city water. He was able to see beautiful crystals from water from the country, but nothing formed from the city water. He took photographs of the water crystals that were formed by water from different places and found similar patterns.

 

He further tested his theory by examining the shape of crystal created from water that was exposed to kind and beautiful words, like “I like you” and “I love you” and compared them to water that was exposed to hostile and ugly words. For each of these experiments, he used water that was distilled twice for hospital use to eliminate any chance of pre-existing conditions. The results were astonishing.

Although Dr. Emoto’s findings are considered pseudoscience and none of his claims were scientifically proven, the notion that beautiful sound waves (and thoughts as energy waves) could be absorbed into water and create resonance that results in a beautiful water crystal is romantic. If you imagine that infinite number of combination of waves absorbed into water molecules, creating an unique resonance signature in a particular space, at a particular time, it makes sense that we never see two identical snow crystals.

The implication of this idea is intriguing if you remember that the adult human body is approximately 70% water (90% for infant babies). We are constantly surrounded by waves of sound, light and colors, smell, heat, and energy, which are all vibrations creating resonance within us.
Our thoughts and emotions are constantly affected by these waves and we create our own cocktails of energy waves that affect others around us. You know your mood affect your family and people you work closely with, but your thoughts affect them just as much.

 

When we listen to a truly moving performance by an artist who can emote such an overwhelming feeling beyond her technical deliberation, we get emotional and our eyes well up with tear. Is that resonance we are feeling inside? We also know that when you share a happy occasion with other people, it increases the happiness you are feeling but also make others happy too. The happy energy oscillate with greater amplitude when resonance is created among the people who are sharing that moment with the same frequency. Happiness is contagious because it resonates. We experience resonance all the time. Perhaps, Dr. Emoto’s claim is not that far fetched.

Come to Ormsby Hill and immerse yourself in untainted vibes of Vermont!

 

In pursuit of the best resonance…

Yoshio

Snow Rider

February 16th, 2015

 

Hi Everyone,

 

Early season at Stratton Mountain, I caught up with a Ski School instructor on the chair lift to the summit. We’ve already had one snow storm in November, which dumped 13 inches of snow on the mountains, so the slopes looked ready. Prior to that, the day time temperature was cold enough that they were running the snow guns all day and all night to prepare for the 2014/2015 season opening day.

 

Unfortunately for me, when nature decides to snow that much, there is too much to do around the inn that prohibits me from entertaining the idea of catching the fresh powder. I shovel snow around the front entrance, back door, the guest room entrance and deck. I take snow off the front entry roof so that icicles will not grow there. I try to rake some snow off the hedges so that they will not be crushed by the weight of frozen snow. If there are any icy spots on the parking lot, I will spread some ice melt. It is a full day of work to dig out of a big snow day.

 

By the time I got to Stratton on Monday, a couple of 40s warm days have melted most of the snow. By Thursday, the temperature was down to the low 20s again; however, this deadly combination of temperature fluctuations made the trail surface extremely hard and icy. Not too many people come out in such conditions, so the top half of the mountain never got enough traffic to have the shave-offs that provided any hope of grip.
I went down carefully with ample amount of cushion left in my knees to react to suddenly slipping edges. Low temperature and icy surfaces meant that there was a very little friction between the board and hard snow. Controlling my speed and carefully measuring the amount of unexpected movements underneath my board, I tried to remain in control over such an unforgiving condition. It is no time to learn new skills as the consequence of anything other than perfect execution is a hard fall, usually accompanied by pain.

So, when I find myself riding the chair lift with a Ski School instructor, I wanted to ask if there are any tips for skiing in conditions like this . After a casual exchange of “Hi”s and “How are you”s, I started talking about how bad the conditions are. He told me that he has been a ski instructor for thirty some years. He used to work at Jay Peak near the Canadian border, but moved to Stratton because he wanted to get a new certification. There is a panel of judges who decide you are worthy of a certain level of certification and there are seven such judges in the Stratton area, but there are none up there. So he moved down to Stratton so that he can find out what’s in the minds of these judges and become familiar with the way they think of skiing.

 

I never knew such a level of ski certification existed. Apparently, at that level of skiing mastery, it is not about technical skills and much more comes into play. It reminded me of the documentary movie about the Master Sommlier examination. There are now 135 professionals who have earned the title Master Sommelier in North America. There are 211 Master Sommeliers worldwide since the first successful Master Sommelier examination was held in the United Kingdom by the Court of Master Sommelier in 1969. This movie gives a glimpse of what it takes to pass the nearly impossible Master Sommelier examination. Check out the movie “Somm” at the NETFLIX documentary section.

 

Back to snowboarding… As I practice the familiar lines on the Black Diamond trails every week, I figured out that the difference between a good run and not so good run is purely your attitude. You have the skills and technique to negotiate the slope. The steepness of incline is such that the harder you try to control, the more chances you have of losing control. When the unexpected surprises you, your attitude changes. Fear takes over, doubt seeps in and confidence dwindles. Then, it’s over. Instead, you should trust your ability and let your body spontaneously react to whatever is happening underneath. Seek less control and minimize resistance. After all, it is a controlled fall. You are falling undeniably, while balancing to stay up. Respect what gravity is doing to you, and don’t just insist on what you are doing to it.

 

 

So when I met the ski instructor of 30 some years, who moved to Stratton to prepare for the next level of certification, who is skiing in these impossible conditions, I wanted to ask what revelation he had on skiing. He told me about his friend. They grew up together and they were in the same development program when they were teenagers. His friend went onto competitive skiing and achieved much success. He is in his mid 50s now and they still see each other once or twice a year. “You know what…”, he says. “Every time I see him, he starts out by saying, “I am working on a new move…”

 

Come to Ormsby Hill and peek into the minds of Masters…

 

In pursuit of the best snowboarding move…

Yoshio

Looking for Mr. Kind

December 8th, 2014

 

Hi Everyone,

 

“I’m going to be a kinder person today!” That is what I told myself as I walked to the subway station in the morning. Why? Because if I did not remind myself that I should be a kind person, my body would be on automatic pilot to get me to my work as efficiently as possible without any divergence of any kind. In a crowded subway station in Tokyo, with hundreds of people commuting to work with a clock-like precision, one needs the help of auto-pilot.

Navigating through the stairs, escalators, subway station corridors, traffic lights and elevators, I move without thinking. If I deviate from my morning routine, I wouldn’t know what that would do to my estimated arrival time. If I arrived at my office building 5 minutes late, a line would form in front of the elevators allowing only so many people to enter into the elevator hall to fill the just-arrived elevator box. You are so focused on moving efficiently and avoiding any collision, you block out any other input that has no effect on your efficient commute. Sometimes I see a woman losing her shoe on the stairs, or an umbrella dropping out of man’s brief case, but I don’t stop to pick it up because…. you know, I need to stay in the formation. There are at least 50 people between me and that person and somebody else will pick it up and bring it to the Lost and Found. It doesn’t have to be me, I have to get to work on time. I cannot miss my 9:00am conference call. And so forth.

One day, I was being purged out of the subway car as the door opened and my eyes were automatically searching for the most efficient route to get to the exit. In a corner of my eye, I saw a woman getting sick and squatting on the platform. Should I stop and ask if she needs a help? But I am already past her and to go back against the waves of people would be a total disruption to this orderly flow of subway commuting. The sea of people has already washed me away from her and I am further and further away, almost at the top of the stairs.

 

Then, I changed my mind and decided to go back and ask her if she needed any help. By the time I got to her, some older lady had already reached out to her. Relieved, I turned around and headed to my work, re-experiencing this incident over and over again in my mind. Why did I not stop and turn around the first minute that I saw her? What if her condition was so time sensitive that a few minutes delay would have caused an irreversible consequence? I felt that I needed to make myself react more quickly and not allow my auto-pilot to override what I was feeling. I had to remind myself to be kind.

 

So began my experiment to be a kinder person. The first test subject was the old man at the subway station Kiosk where I bought my newspaper every morning. This particular Kiosk was located in the center section of the platform and carried all your commuting essentials, i.e. 3 major newspapers, Nikkei business newspaper, 3 sports papers, a dozen weekly magazines, candies, snacks, soft drinks, disposable umbrellas and even men’s ties and ladies stockings. The inventory is all within his reach, yet the typical protocol is for the purchaser to pick up the desired item from the shelf and bring it in front of the Kiosk person along with his payment. The Kiosk person never touches the goods. Over the years, the efficiency of Japanese subway Kiosk buying behavior has been elevated to a level surpassing a vending machine. The speed at which the transaction needs to be completed during the busy hours has eliminated any unnecessary movements and exchange of words.

 

As the Kiosk became a human vending machine, I noticed that no one said “good morning” to the Kiosk person. So I decided to say “Good morning!” to him every day to see if my unexpected opening will awaken his human side. If I am kind to him, maybe I can pull him out of this efficient automatic response mode and make him smile. I say “Good morning!” and put my coins down. He has already identified my face and the kind of newspaper I’m going to purchase, thus narrowed down the combination of change that I might require. A second later, he hands out the exact change, fulfilling the Kiosk person function perfectly, but absolutely no response to my friendly greeting. He does not even look at me. Next day, I say “Good morning!” and put my coins down. Exact change comes back lightening fast, but no eye contact. I did that for 5 days straight and never got any response back from him. He is tough. Not all acts of kindness are acknowledged.

 

The next experiment was to adjust my behavior by being conscious about my intention to be kind. If I remind myself to be a kinder person every morning on my way to the subway station, I may notice all those chances to be kind, which I was previously screening out. I decided to turn off the auto-pilot and let myself react more spontaneously.
This worked really well. Immediately I started to notice people dropping things, getting lost, looking for help all around me. This phenomenon extended beyond my commuting time and into the weekend so that I was helping the biker get his big motorcycle up on an icy road in early spring, catching the sliding snowboard that fell from the rack with the owner nowhere to be seen, shutting off the water faucet in the cafeteria when a hastily leaving person did not shut it off completely, helping an old man who collapsed on the street, babbling stories that were in cohesive, and so on.

 

The city is full of incidents that a small random act of kindness can help someone or something to make it better. You probably saw them before, but you somehow screened out most of them. Now that I opened my eyes to any situation that my random act of kindness could participate in, I was catching at least one opportunity everyday. Then, my friends started to notice what I was doing. They were kidding me at first, but pretty soon, they too were starting to see these opportunities to be just a little kinder. Wow, being kind can be contagious.

 

Our subconscious mind is so capable of navigating the daily routine on auto-pilot, but by doing so, it screens out all those seemingly unnecessary stimuli to the point your life almost feels repetitive and boring. You now have to seek out other artificial stimulation to sprinkle your life with excitement. You shop, you travel and you game. Why not open yourself to kindness and you discover that there are so many things you can do. Best of all, when you find yourself being spontaneously kind in a random situation, it makes you feel good. It makes you happy.

 

Come to Ormsby Hill and turn off your auto-pilot. You might bump into kindness you thought you never had…

 

In pursuit of a kinder me…

Yoshio

The Story Behind our Firewood – Michael Christopher

December 8th, 2014

 

Hi Everyone,

 

Michael Christopher rang the front door bell on an uneventful afternoon in spring. I went to open the door and there standing was an old man with a grey beard and dirty overall pants. He reminded me of the man from Duck Dynasty. He asked if we needed any firewood, which happened to be on my To-Do list for this spring, so I invited him into the inn.

 

As he came into the gathering room, he was telling me that he used to be a musician but now he cuts firewood. This caught my attention and I promptly brought out my PSR electric guitar I’ve been playing since two Christmas’ ago and handed it to him. After a quick inspection, he sat down on the couch and immediately started strumming some complex chords with 9th and 13th. In between chords, he played solo just enough for me to judge that this man can really play a guitar. Impressed with his guitar playing, I asked him where he learned to play like that. He said that his father was a musician and he grew up listening to his father play and they also listened to a lot of radio. These days he prefers to listen to extraneous sounds like wind and tree leaves chattering. And he believes in transmigration.

 

He said he has good hardwood that burns well. He uses a measuring cage so each cord of wood is precisely measured. No funny business. Oak, Red Maple, White Birch. No soft wood, only hardwood that puts out good heat, he said. I was sufficiently interested but before I could commit to it, I needed some more information. Before I had a chance to ask him if I could see the wood that I was buying, he told me that he did not like to sell the wood until I had a chance to look at it. Perfect! Let’s go see the wood.

 

He told me to call him in a week or so. We’ll meet at the gas station in Arlington and he will take me to see the wood. I thought about it a bit and wondered if it was a good idea to do any business with a complete stranger that just happened to drop in one afternoon, but then again, he is a former musician and how bad the guy could be if he can play a guitar like that. I was willing to take a chance.A week later, I called Michael Christopher and we agreed to meet at the gas station at 1:00pm. I was still not entirely comfortable meeting with a stranger and being taken somewhere to see the firewood, so I asked Diane to come with me. Just in case.
He told us to follow his truck and we drove into a back road to a small field behind someone’s backyard. There were two measuring cages, one full and the other half full. There was no sign of a wood splitter or chain saw. Michael told us that he likes to cut wood by hand. The wood was indeed beautiful, a lot of white birch, some red maple, all cut to approximately 16 inch lengths, nicely fit into a measuring cage that is 4 feet high, 8 feet long and 4 feet deep. I turned to Diane and asked what she thought of it. She said, “Beautiful!”

On the day of delivery, Michael Christopher came with his 80 year old father whom he calls “Pop.” In his small beat up truck, it took him three trips to deliver a full cord. I helped them unload the firewood and stack it up in a neat woodpile at the far end of the basketball court. In between trips, I invited them into the dining room for a nice cold lemon water and gave them a mini-tour of the property. They liked the inn.

 

Michael Christopher said that he would deliver the second cord of wood in a week or two. Since he was still cutting some more, it will be a bit greener than the first cord, but that did not bother me as I had enough wood to last for the next winter. He called about a week later to tell me that it was taking a bit longer because he was learning to cut wood by axe and he was getting good at it. He was also thinking about getting a Draft horse to get the logs out of the woods. I did not quite comprehend what impact the axe and Draft horse would have on the promised delivery, but a few weeks later, he came with his friend to deliver the wood. I was busy with the check-ins and did not see him that day. The next day, I went out to check the firewood he just delivered. The uneven chopped ends at approximately 45 degree angle unequivocally confirmed that these logs were completely hand cut by axe.

 

A couple of weeks later, on another calm uneventful afternoon, a hunter green Jaguar pulled into the drive way. The driver’s seat door opened and Michael Christopher came out of the car, with his grey Duck Dynasty beard and, this time, a clean pair of pants. Who are you, Michael Christopher?

 

He stopped by one more time that year and told me that he and Pop were going south for the winter. The cold winter in Vermont was really getting to his father and they were thinking of going down to Virginia for the winter. Besides his hands and feet were really bad shape from cutting wood in snow and he needed to give them a break this year. He said he loves Vermont and will definitely be back next summer, but for now, they were heading south.

 

The winter of 2013/14 was a particularly bad winter and we had a lot of snow all the way into March. Skiers and snowboarders were loving it, but it was tough for other people. It was really, really cold too and I had my face covered with the neck warmer so not an inch of skin was showing for the entire snowboarding season. There was a mound of snow in our parking lot in April, which Diane called the “glacier”, and we wondered if there would still be a snow pile in the parking lot in May.

 

Michael Christopher stopped by again in September of this year. He said that he was playing a guitar again. He picked up a jumbo Martin guitar with huge sound and he will never play an electric again. He told me that he and Pop went down to Florida Keys and saw the street musicians, and he was excited about the idea of playing music for random people and connecting with them through music. He came full circle as playing music on the street was something he did before he started touring with the band, he said. I was so happy to hear this and congratulated him.

 

I led him to the patio and I asked him to wait for me on the porch while I went back to the house to get the book that I wanted to give him. We sat on the chairs on the porch, facing the mountains, and we talked. He was once again impressed about his father’s absolute pitch when Pop named the notes he played on the previous day after hearing him play the song only once. He talked about possibly picking up a small accordion in Philadelphia for Pop on their way south. He talked about his divine love and how it will center you and you will not be affected by adverse energy out there. I told him that he is a purist. In my world, I said to him, it is more difficult to go straight on a snowboard as anything will affect my ability to remain straight, even my fear, and I will be constantly reacting. Instead I make S turns so that I am focused on each turn and initiating my action, and everything else becomes a faint noise in the background. As we sat there on the porch, on an uneventful sunny afternoon, we became friends.

 

Come to Ormsby Hill and enjoy uneventful sunny afternoon…

 

In pursuit of the best firewood…

Yoshio

On the Walls at Ormsby Hill

December 8th, 2014

Hi Everyone,
What makes a stay in Bed & Breakfast unique is that every B&B is decorated with a touch of the owner’s collection. Some inns have an impressive collection of original antique furniture and art collection, but for the most part, you’ll find some sort of accumulation of things that seem to reflect the owner’s life.

We have moved 18 times during our 34 years of marriage and moved across the Pacific Ocean 8 times. Every time we moved, we cleaned out things to lighten the load, but certain pieces stayed with us and survived the ocean liner container. They are not a collection of fine art or antique furniture, but our memories on the wall.
In the first living room of Ormsby Hill, we have,

Katsunori Hamanishi Japanese Print
Born in 1949, Hamanishi is one of a group of Japanese artists who have explored the rich, dark, three-dimensional effects achievable with the old European mezzotint techniques. His early subjects – twigs, branches, rice stalks, rope – are presented in a three-dimensional form on paper. We have several pieces of Hamanishi’s work which we picked up in Tokyo between 1999 and 2004. Diane says that the branches and rope reminded her of Jesse (our son) playing in our backyard in Pennsylvania, trying to make a bow and arrow, which always ended up with an inevitable break.
Japanese Woodblock Print by Kuniyoshi
Utagawa Kuniyoshi (January 1, 1797 – April 14, 1861) was one of the last great masters of the Japanese ukiyo-e style of woodblock printing. The range of Kuniyoshi’s subjects included many genres: landscapes, beautiful women, Kabuki actors, cats and mythical animals. Highly collectible now, Kabuki actor ukiyo-e prints were originally used as fliers for the Kabuki theater back in 1800s. We purchased this piece in 1984 when we lived on Kotto Dori (Antique Street) in the Aoyama district of Tokyo.

Painting from Jesse’s High School Art Class
We don’t know if Jesse was intentionally trying to make a black and white drawing that had a Japanese flavor, but it sure looks like one. When I found this piece in the portfolio bag hidden behind the bookcase, I realized that I had not seen a single piece of art he did in Mamaroneck High School before he graduated in 2000. It was a shocking realization that I practically missed 4 years of his life when I was flying back and forth between JFK and Hong Kong every six weeks, playing the life of an international executive. Hopefully he got an “A” on this one.
Photograph from Kelly’s Africa Trip
Kelly (our daughter) took many photos in Africa during her three week volunteer at a private elementary school in Ghana in 2009. There must have been a late afternoon down pour, which formed the golden puddles on the dirt road. Still strong light of the African sunset have blackened the roadside forest to the background, leaving only the rich brown reflection on the momentary water surface. Kelly always had good eyes and sense of beauty that transcends what is obviously there.

Hand Colored Photographs from Uncle George’s House
There are two hand colored photographs on the western wall of the first living room at Ormsby Hill. One on the left is titled “Juliet Escaping” and pencil-signed by David Davidson. According to Heathside (http://www.hearthsidehouse.org), He was considered to be one of the top two national leaders in hand colored photography, second only to Wallace Nutting, in the early 20th century. Davidson met Nutting at Brown University and learned this fine art from him. Most of the photographs are around Rhode Island and he founded the Davidson Photographic Studio in Providence, R.I. His photographs were so popular that hardly a New England wedding occurred where the bride did not receive at least one Davidson picture as a wedding gift. Interest in hand colored photographs ended in early 1940s.
The other hand colored photograph is titled “Echo Lake Franconia Notch” by Charles H. Sawyer. This appears to be one of the later images of the 1920s -1930s which is ink-signed and titled in an elegant script. It contains a label on the back, which says “The Sawyer Pictures, 55 Pleasant Street, Concord, New Hampshire”, where he had a studio. Both of these pieces ended up with us via Diane’s mother. Uncle George was a chiropractor, never got married, and quite a collector of arts and beautiful things.

There are a few more pieces in the gathering room and each object has a story behind it. We are not the American Pickers, but do ask us about any piece that piques your interest. We’ll love to tell you about it.

Also in the gathering room is some loaned art from 3 Pears Gallery and Jud Hartmann Gallery. I thank Gigi Begin for letting me use her exquisite painting of pig titled “Lard Sale” for the heading of this newsletter. Let me also tell you….. Well, Diane is calling me for dinner. We’ll catch up next time you are at the inn.
In pursuit of the best framed memories…

Yoshio

Inspiration at Ormsby Hill

December 8th, 2014

 

Hi Everyone,

 

When I was a young professional working in the ivory tower of Corporate America, I was amazed how brilliant everyone was. It was the late 1980s and matrix management was in full swing. Everyone had one direct reporting line boss, who had the authority to decide your bonus, but you often had one or more dotted-line reporting relationships, whose opinion could influence your future in the company. Cross-functional communication was important in such an environment; therefore, we had meetings. Lots of them.

Access to the information was carefully controlled and everyone came to the meeting equally prepared. Usually we came to the meeting with a similar pre-conclusion in mind. One might have gone one more step ahead and thought of a couple more horizontal options; however, they were all along a similar line of thought. Thus, the agreement on the next step was a fairly non-controversial gentleman’s affair.

Every once in a while, there is this person who comes to a completely different conclusion. Most people see one and two, and expect three to be the next one. But occasionally, someone declares that seven could be a possible next step. One, two, seven? What kind of logic will produce such a conclusion, though it is often a brilliant idea that catches everyone’s attention. How can I learn to think like that? Watanabe-san, my mentor at the time said that he was “training” to have inspiration. He looks at the rising sun and meditates in the morning. Wholah! He gets inspiration.

 

This got me thinking. I did not think that the rising sun and meditation in the morning would work for me, but surely I can do something to increase the chance of having inspiration. When and how does inspiration emerge? What are the conditions or state of being that is conducive to inspiration? What was I doing just before I had inspiration? Is a search of causation contradictory since inspiration by definition is spontaneous and nothing proceeds inspiration?

 

One day, I was in my gym working out as usual. I finished the treadmill and I was working on the upper body exercise machine. After a couple hours of workout, I was exhausted and sitting on the seat of the machine with a towel over my head. I was lost in time, until this inspiration came up. Ah-ha, this is it. You make your physical body so tired so that you are not even aware of what you are thinking, then your mind wonders around and bumps into an idea. That’s inspiration! Non-thinking must be the prerequisite of inspiration; therefore, it is logical to make yourself physically so tired to the point you cannot think. Then it will come.
From that day, I went to the gym everyday and practiced this process of working out to exhaustion to induce the state of non-thinking. I was successful in squeezing out an inspiration or two. I thought I was onto something. Then, it was gone. Maybe I got used to it too much. Maybe I was impatient with the process of getting myself tired and I was not tired enough. I started to workout even harder to make myself more tired so that I would reach the state of non-thinking quicker. One day, I worked out so hard that I was sitting on the seat of the machine, again with a towel over my head, patiently waiting for inspiration to come. I don’t even remember how long I was in that position, but then, one of the trainers came and tapped my shoulder. “Endo-san, are you okay? You have not moved in ten minutes.”

 

After my non-thinking exercise theory failed, I came upon this thought. Perhaps we are not capable of non-linear thinking. We are only capable of sequential thinking; however, we have the ability to have multiple thinking processes going simultaneously. We think of work, we think of music, we think of snowboarding, we think of family. What if we have multiple thinking paths going at the same time. While individual thought paths are sequential, each one is at a different point of thinking. You thought one-two-three on work, then skip to music thought and think two-three-four-five, and shift to golf for eight-nine, then skip back to work and land on four, but you jumped so far from golf thought to work thought that you forgot you’ve already had one-two-three. Would four then not feel as though it came out of nowhere? What if you intentionally keep the distance between one thought to the other so radically different that the wider you jump, the more inspirational it feels, even though at some point in the past you already had one-two-three.

Then it dawned on me. Is it not the same as the old saying of “Work hard, Play hard”? If your thoughts are jumping in close proximity, you cannot avoid sequential thinking and therefore all your thoughts are linear and predictable. You need to put your brain through non-related line of thoughts allowing different ideas to seep into each other. The harder you keep the distance apart, the more often you feel like you are getting fresh, non-linear, out of the box, inspirational thoughts.

 

The good thing about this multi-thinking and distance jumping idea as a source of inspiration is that it is trainable. You can practice the technique of multi-thinking. You can practice the technique of thought jumping. It is sort of like channel surfing on cable TV, but you are doing that with your thoughts.

Once you become trained with multi-thinking and thought jumping, you will recognize the moment when you catch an inspiration-like idea emerging. Not quite sure where it came from, but the logic of it surely feels familiar that I must have thought about it unconsciously. It is random as anything, yet they line up so beautifully that it has a clear order of sort. I love to catch my inspiration!

 

Come to Ormsby Hill and catch inspiration in-between your thoughts.

 

In pursuit of the best inspiration…

Yoshio

Best Coffee at Ormsby Hill

December 8th, 2014

Hi Everyone,

I was looking into coffee grinders the other day and came across this graphic. It shows visually how concentrated specialty coffee shops are in San Francisco relative to other cities. That means more competition but it also means that there is a large audience who appreciates specialty coffee. Perhaps we should hit a couple of these specialty coffee shops in San Francisco to learn more about coffee serving technique and equipment. Check this out: youarehere.cc/#/maps/by-topic/coffee_shops

We learned from Pierre Capy, the owner of Mocha Joe’s in Brattleboro, VT, that the best time to brew coffee is within 2 weeks from the roasting date. That’s why we order our coffee every two weeks. I saw other people mention that the coffee pros claim that 4 days to 14 days is the best time to brew coffee. The moment after roasting, the process of oxidation starts and “oxidation” is another word for being stale. You are losing flavor as the roasted coffee becomes stale.
Now, a similar thing happens when you grind your coffee beans. By grinding your beans, you are increasing the surface area that is exposed to air which increase the loss of flavoring gas. Some of our guests mention that when we grind our coffee in the morning, the smell of coffee fills the entire house and they can smell it from their bedroom. Now that is the flavor gas of coffee beans leaking out. By grinding just before you brew, you are trying to capture some of those fleeing flavors in the brewing process.

By the way, I told some of you that Pierre used to put water through 3 water filters at his coffee shop in Brattleboro VT. By the time, water comes out from the third filter, it is pure H2O. He then reintroduced the exact mix of minerals to mimic the water in Italy, and that’s the water he used to brew his coffee. That’s pretty deep into the water dimension of brewing coffee, though an ideal cup of coffee is less than 2% coffee solubles and 98% clean hot water, so it makes sense to work on the water element.

Also you might have heard me tell the story of Mocha Joe’s technician, Benjamin. He calibrated our FETCO coffee machine to optimize the coffee extraction, testing the results with a digital refractometer to obtain the right level of TDS, i.e. total dissolved solids. Extraction is one of the most important elements of finished coffee. While coffee beans are comprised of about 70% non soluble materials and 30% that dissolve in water, not all of the 30% is desired for a good coffee. Too much extraction can give the finished product bitter flavors. Hitting the optimal balance, which is typically 18% to 22%, is what makes a great cup of coffee.

Coffee brewing is as much a science as an art; therefore, you can improve a cup of coffee with technology that leverages your knowledge of what makes the best coffee. Yet, there is variability in what coffee people like. Different types of coffee appeal to different people. Some like dark roast, some like medium roast, some like strong caffeine and a few like the mildness that acidity brings. At Ormsby Hill, we purposefully avoided defining what type of coffee is the best coffee, but instead we defined “fresh” coffee as the “best coffee” for everyone. We then pushed the definition of “fresh” coffee as not only “fresh brewed” but also “fresh roasted” and “fresh ground.”

Come to Ormsby Hill and taste Mocha Joe’s Peruvian Organic French Roast. It is guaranteed fresh.

In pursuit of the best coffee…

Yoshio