Degrees of Difficulty

June 7, 2022

Steve and I are marking my recent retirement from church with a short getaway to Ithaca, NY. Ithaca is one of our favorite places. There’s spectacular natural beauty that once (42 years ago) inspired me to strap on cross-country skis. Of course, I only recall the intense and futile effort expended to stay upright, and (equally of course) I haven’t done it since. There’s amazing food (Ithaca is home of the Moosewood Restaurant, a famous and fabulous vegetarian place that has its roots in the hippie days). There are two great colleges: Cornell University and Ithaca College, so there’s always something cultural (concert, play) going on. We leave on our trip later this morning and I’m really looking forward to it.

Anyway, I thought I’d do a bit of research about walking/hiking trails in the area, making note of the ones labeled “easy.” Buttermilk Falls Trail sounded splendid, but it’s a “moderate,” so no go. Potter’s Falls Trail (“easy” and about 3 miles long) seemed perfect—until I read the reviews. One mentioned that the second half of the trail was so steep the reviewer had to climb on all fours (!) so I guess it’s easy if you happen to be a dog.

I cry foul when I hear or read about any physical activity, from bike riding to bowling, described as “easy.” My friends, NONE of it is remotely “easy,” at least for me. Heck, I can’t even float in a pool, and that is something you don’t even have to be alive to master!! And I am equally challenged by: technology, card game rules, piano playing, foreign languages, woodworking and gardening. And so on.

So what AM I good at?

Well, I like to think I’m a pretty fair writer (though you may draw your own conclusions). I used to think I was a decent actor until the first negative review of one of my dinner theatre performances in 1978 (“Elise Cunningham was stilted and unconvincing as the daughter”—see, I can still quote the darned thing!) From that moment on, my theatrical confidence fell below zero. Oh, I got some kudos acting in children’s theatre but, face it, gang, kids are not that hard to impress (their idea of a fabulous performance is the maximum number of comic pratfalls). There’s gotta be something else I can do with little effort…

Oh, yes! Cooking! I find cooking and baking “easy.” My listeners’ eyes glaze over as I describe homemade cakes that involve four layers and two kinds of frosting. “It really is easy!” I protest. “Just try it!” But now I have a reputation: no one on earth believes me when I rate a recipe as “simple” (even though that 22 ingredient stew is a snap. Honestly.)

Degrees of difficulty are so individual, aren’t they? One person’s “elementary” quantum physics equation is another person’s “beginner’s” violin tune. Therefore no one should rate anything, I say!

Or maybe rate toothbrushing as “challenging,” and give everyone one daily victory?






    I am an author (of five books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a retired director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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