This morning (a Wednesday), Mary and I went to Cranbrook, the oldest manor house in the Detroit area, and spent a couple of hours wandering about a small portion of its forty acres. It was pleasant and warm, but about ten degrees cooler than it's been the last couple of days, which made being out-of-doors more tolerable. When it got too hot, a breeze coming off the pond provided some relief. Dragonflies and butterflies fluttered about, as well as several small rust-colored insects.
A little ways from the pond, the only relief from the sun was provided by a short tree with a low, broad umbrella-like canopy. I had to duck under the branches to get in the shade. From the outside, it looked slightly unnatural, almost man-made, as man-made as the statues and concrete elsewhere on the grounds. On the inside, I could see the rough scarring where branches were cut away so as to shape the tree's growth to suit this particular, peculiar need.
I'd love to get all Walden on y'all and talk about man's place in nature, but really, the trip didn't inspire much contemplation on that front. If anything, I was thinking more about being born in the wrong social class and perhaps the wrong time, that I would have really enjoyed living in a house with a grand-sounding name and adjoining gardens. But I'm happy to be living in the time I'm in (after all, it's the time Mary is in). I wouldn't say that I was exactly contented with the social class I was born into. I remember watching the movie Quiz Show and being really envious of the dinner scene where the Van Doren family quote literary allusions at each other. By contrast, in my family, dinner conversation usually consisted of implying that someone was gay (and this was considered the sparkling height of wit in those circles), and pasta sauce consisted of two cans of tomato paste plus one can of whole tomatoes, without any seasoning. Reading for pleasure was treated as wildly aberrant behavior, and some member of my family (I never figured out who) once crossed out all the words in one of my books like the wife in "Time Enough At Last". (More than once, my mother simply tore pages out of books so I couldn't read them.) I tried the whole "quoting something literary at dinner" thing anyway, despite all evidence that this was a bad idea - sometimes I wonder if I was intentionally trying to get my family to regard me with contempt - and I'm pretty sure I got grounded for it (or, at the very least, my mother told me to "quit being such a queer", only she wouldn't have used the word "queer").
More than feeling isolated and ostracized, the thing that bugged me about the class I was born into was the lack of time it afforded me to do the things I really wanted to do. I could not, for example, retire to our summer residence to finish my novel. When I got into filmmaking, I was especially sore that I had to do it on odd and precious weekends, and would get bitterly angry about Hollywood trust-fund kids (who of course weren't as talented as I thought that I was) who had connections and oodles of free time and never had to actually work the way I had to actually work. Eventually, I realized that if I had those kinds of advantages, that I would exploit them tirelessly, the same way they were. It's not their fault they had the time to really live their lives, while I was stuck whittling away the hours in soul-crushing drudgery.
Said drudgery meant that for Mary and I to go somewhere like Cranbrook, it would have to happen only when the stars aligned: when there was a weekend, when the weather permitted, when we weren't too tired or exhausted, when we didn't have other more important things that we had to get done. Those more important things included of course designing and developing board games, and that only took up more of our precious "free time" once we started up Hollandspiele. So, these particular and utterly mundane constellations aligned practically never.
But as of this morning, Hollandspiele has been our full-time job for the better part of four months. It's our only source of income, which means of course that it eats up more time than it ever did. Monday and Tuesday this week we spent almost exclusively at our computers, preparing the files for our next two releases. Having finished this task - which has stretched on for weeks, always feeling like we're almost done but not quite getting there, as if it were one of Zeno's paradoxes - as Tuesday bled bleary-eyed into Wednesday morning, I decided that we needed a break and a reward. And so this morning we went to Cranbrook. Mary took her camera, and took a bajillion photos, some of which you see interspersed with my prose.
Mary has a wonderful eye. (Heck, she has two wonderful eyes, softly green and lovely.) Photography is something she enjoys, something she used to do years ago, and is just now getting back into. She has the time to do it now, just like I have the time to spend playtesting the heck out of my games. I now can read books that were always being put off for "when I have some time". There are board games that I bought as aspirational purchases, with the intention of playing them someday when I finally had time to learn them, and now I can do that. I bought the video game Mass Effect and its two sequels when they were on sale years ago, and it's increasingly looking like I might actually load the discs into my Playstation machine, instead of just playing Shovel Knight for an hour once a week. When I did our holiday give-away game Christmas at White Mountain, at the time I had told Mary that maybe someday I might do a proper boxed game using that system; testing on Table Battles has just finished and it's coming out in August. Can my long-threatened game on the Barbary Wars be far off?
Or, we can spend a day at the zoo, driving around the park, or moseying about a manor house and its reasonably opulent gardens. We can, on a whim, run over to the cinema on a weekday, which is certainly better than trying to find seats in a packed (and expensive!) Friday night theater, or a Saturday matinee that's absolutely lousy with screaming children accompanied by parents who are one spilt bucket of butter-flavoring-encrusted lukewarm popcorn from going full-blown Medea (that's "Medea" with two e's, not two a's: Euripides, not Perry).
It's a wonderful thing when your time belongs to yourself. A blessed thing, and a privilege for which we're deeply grateful. And we obtained it, in part through our own hard work, and in part because of the support we've had from you, our customers. Thank you.