TMS Architect’s guest historian, J. Dennis Robinson, provides us with an interesting post on moving things around and how a change in space or time can really alter your perspective!  As he says, “the more things change, the more they stay the same…” 

“I used to row an Alden Ocean Shell. I put the fiberglass boat on the top of my old Toyota Tercell and hauled it from one access point on the Piscataqua River to the next. Once, long ago, I put the boat in the back yard to store it for the winter — and it sits there still.

Memories of a rowing shell. Source:  J. Denis Robinson

Memories of a rowing shell. Source: J. Denis Robinson

So I bought a pretty snappy stationary rowing machine. It was sleek and well-built and I got the same exercise without leaving my office. But for reasons unknown, I stopped using it after a couple of years. I walked around it. I promised myself I would row again. I scolded myself for being lazy, but to no avail. I had lost momentum.

A few weeks ago my life changed. The details are not important here, but the message is. One day, in a fit of nostalgia, I found myself looking through old college books and, with change in the air, I gathered up a boxful and gave them to a charity auction. To fill the empty shelf in the den, I moved in a few items from my overcrowded office in a converted garage next door. A friend came by as I was shuffling things around and together we hauled a heavy ceramic propane heater out of the office (it broke two years ago) and stored it in a shed.

My office was starting to look better and bigger, so we lugged the rowing machine out of the office and into the den in the house upstairs. But to make room, I had to take apart an ancient futon and, sweating and swearing, we moved the futon and its wooden frame to the basement.

Suddenly there was enough room in the office to accommodate the weighty electric piano that I bought 25 years ago. It had been sitting in a corner in the living room for at least a decade. I never played the piano in the living room. The karma was not right. It was too public. But the minute I got the piano into my private office space, with the propane stove and the rowing machine now gone, I started plunking away. Within an hour I’d written a song.

I felt so great about the new song that I went upstairs to watch TV, forgetting that I had moved the futon out and the rowing machine into the den. I sat on the sliding seat of the rowing machine and flicked on the boob tube. A little later, bored with the movie I was watching, I stuffed my feet into the straps on the rowing machine, grabbed the handle, and pulled.

What had been a huge obstruction in the office was suddenly a dynamic exercise machine. The location changed everything. I clicked off the television and looked out the two low windows from my second floor den. Just across the street, behind my neighbor’s house, is the swift swirling Piscataqua River that divides New Hampshire from Maine. There is a marina on the opposite shore, gleaming with white boats.

Gliding back and forth on the sleek metal machine, I pretended I was back on the river some 20, maybe 30 years ago. I could even smell the salt water and feel the cool breeze as I fell into a hypnotic rhythm. Things change. People come and go. Rooms fill up with stuff, empty out, and are filled again. But like the proverb tells us, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

J. Dennis Robinson is editor and owner of the popular Web site and author of 11 books about history. His latest titles are UNDER THE ISLES OF SHOALS about archaeology and AMERICA’S PRIVATEER about the War of 1812. He is currently finishing a book about the 1873 Smuttynose Island murders due out November 4, 2014. You can “follow” his history postings on Facebook.


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