Wednesday, June 29, 2022

It's a Lot

And by "it," I mean many things. 


What do I do when it's a lot? 


A pretty evening sky.

A few things.


I do my work, for starters. Yes, it's hard to focus. But I'm lucky to do what I do under the few constraints I have. 


Some pretty yellow flowers.



I do active looking. I look for pretty things, for things that inspire gratitude, for things that restore my faith in other people. For example, I look for people being nice to each other. 





Some pretty wild roses.



I do targeted actions. Yes, voting. Yes, donating. Yes, engaging gently with others. And learning--how Supreme Courts work in two different countries, different approaches to protecting women's rights. 


That's it; that's that. That's what I've got these days. Is it enough? For now. For today.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Moon, Solstice, or Aurora?

When I woke up at 3 a.m. today, I wasn't especially happy to be conscious, but I was curious. What had awakened me? I didn't remember dreams, bad or good. 


Then I saw how light the sky was. (Our bedroom blinds don't block everything.) 


As I lay there, I reviewed the options. That light in the sky: It could be the moon. It could be the solstice. Or it could be the aurora.


I got up and tiptoed to the window to look. Turned out, the sky was just that light at 3 a.m. on June 22 this year. Thanks, solstice!  


But as I tried to go back to sleep, I thought about the differences between the moon, the solstice, and the aurora. 


The moon is full every (wait for it) month (not exactly, because our measurement systems aren't accurate, but still). The full moon isn't always visible from our bedroom window overnight, but it is visible several times a year. The regularity is comforting, even when we can't see it.


The solstice happens twice a year; one in the darkness and one in the daylight. Also regular, but with more time between -- even more time, a full year, between 3 a.m. twilights.


The aurora -- well, that's a gorgeous gift, bestowed at random (more or less). It may be more visible in the winter than summer (though I've seen some spectacular displays on August nights), and it may occur in clusters. The point is, don't set your watch by it. 


Clouds, not the aurora, but pretty nonetheless.


So as I lay there not-quite sleeping, I considered work, and projects, and my days, and time passing. And my expectations. 


Summer is such a busy time, almost frantic as we try to do things in the long days to prepare for long nights. Because I am a creature of habit, I value the events that present themselves with regularity -- the grass needs to be cut, "someone" should sweep the roof and rafters of the little camp, footpaths have grown up and need to be thinned, it's warm enough to safely drag the boat nearer the water, the neighbours have seen a hungry raccoon so it's time to stop putting food out for birds. That kind of thing. 


Some things happen with the regularity of the moon, some are more solstice-type events (car service), and several years elapse between some (related: we have a new garage door).


But I never want to expect ONLY those events that recur, whether monthly, annually, or every couple of decades. 


I want to be open to the unexpected. Sometimes, opportunities fall into my lap; sometimes I pursue projects that don't pan out but I'm glad I tried because why not.


The metaphor: I love seeing the moon, and I appreciate the special nature of the solstices as they pass. And, when I wake 3 a.m., I want always to remember that I COULD see the aurora.


Now, back to my third day in a row of "town errands," with another day possibly Friday. Happy solstice! And happy moonrises, and happy auroras, when next they come. 


Thursday, June 16, 2022

When Does Plenty Become Surfeit?

One comment I consistently receive (less so, recently, because eventually I DO learn) on essays, is that I too often posit topics as questions. 


For example, I could have titled this post "When Plenty Becomes Surfeit," and written much the same post here. 


Asking questions is part of an essay, even when they're not technically phrased as questions. But on reaching the last part of an essay, one of my critique partners said, "I really feel you owe us some answers here -- not 'the' answer, but 'your' answer, even if it's just an answer for now." 


Fair enough. But today, I want to linger in the question -- to live here for a while on the page, as I am (perhaps we all are) in "real life."



Too much green in spruce and birch?
Not sure that's possible.


Here are some sample questions I consider regularly.


Where is the line between "I am who I am" and "I can happily learn new ways of being in the world"?

When does irreverence become disrespect?

When does caution become fear?

When does risk become reckless?

When do I make decisions based on my own preference, and when do I make them based on my responsibility to others? (And related: how can I make "responsibility to others" my own preference, thereby having the best of both worlds?)

When does strategic thinking become dithering?

When does "plenty" become "surfeit," and its permutations: When is "enough" a deprivation because you don't deserve more? When is "enough" a futile effort to fill endless black hole?

When is "we're all in different places" so vitally different from "you do what you're comfortable with"?

When does "I have a right to write and speak" drown out someone else's turn at the mic?  


I don't have answers to these questions. I like living in them. I like the possibilities and challenges that the questions represent. I like having different inclinations on different days.


Today, I am comfortable knowing that "too much green" isn't really possible in these grey and rainy June days. Tomorrow I  may have a different opinion. 


Do you live with questions? Should you, maybe, just a little bit more? (I don't have an answer, but you might.)



 

 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

June is Alzheimer('s) and Brain Awareness Month

June is a full month. It's Pride Month, with its celebration of rebellion and joy and love. It's Indigenous History Month, with its celebration of endurance and generosity as Indigenous people share stories we should have learned but haven't yet. 


It's also Alzheimer (in Canada) and Alzheimer's (US) and Brain Awareness Month, with its calls to raise awareness of dementia and related diseases, and its ever-hopeful hashtag, #EndAlz.



Growing in the wild around here,
forget-me-nots. Pff, as if I could.



As you may know, I wrote a book about Alzheimer's. It's also about my mother, and my father. It's about our family, inertia, denial. Mistakes and regrets. 


And, to be fair, it's about joy, and dogs. Glass on a beach and a set of sheets. Home.


It's also about sounds and love, and how they both reverberate through time. I'm glad I wrote it, and I'm so honoured that it has touched many people. You can read more about it here. 


Years ago -- nearly eight years ago -- I also wrote about Alzheimer's (linked here). Eight years is a long time, and I produce a lot of words on the regular, so I'd forgotten this specific post.


It includes these paragraphs, which hold true today. 


Sometimes I picture a lab tech grabbing a sandwich at what should have been the end of her shift but isn't because processing an extra batch of samples each shift means getting results that much earlier ...

* which lets her lab meet an earlier publication deadline ... 

* which helps secure an extra $100K in research funding ... 

* which produces results leading to a collaborative project with a drug company ... 

* and maybe just maybe it's THIS drug that proves effective.


And because she's a numbers person as well as a people person, the disease statistics--millions of people with the disease, each of whom has family, all of whom are waiting for good news--may haunt that lab tech.


So I hope she thinks of us, when she thinks of us, not as suffering people in need of her pity, nor as impatient family members wishing someone would do something.


Instead, I hope she recognizes we're a giant cheering section, urging her on. 


Still true today. You go, lab tech. We're rooting for you, and we're rooting for each other -- for every person who has dementia, and for those who love them. 


 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

What I’m taking into June

Another dose of COVID vax


A drain strainer for the bathtub, shaped like a starfish, that works a treat (strains hair, lets water through).


A pair of houseshoes in a larger size (my big toes are ecstatic).


Some Penguin Classic clothbound versions of Jane Austen titles (I’m still missing Emma SO FAR), each of which has an updated introduction, and I’m LOVING them.


Loving the hardcover clothbound Penguin Classic
versions of Jane Austen's novels 



A new, perhaps slightly strange, interest in Beowulf translations and a specific re-envisioning that reconsiders love and monsters 


A bunch of photos through rainy windows, to say nothing of photos of a squirrel (or several?) at our old bird feeder 


A squirrel atop a bird feeder, snacking



A writing conference registration, a writing group commitment, and the prospect of being with other writers, maybe even in the flesh.


The energy of writing to elected officials even though I know they’re indifferent at best and likely actively working against the world’s best interests. It’s the energy not only of speaking up, but also of seeing myself speak up, if that makes any sense. 


The world’s cutest boots, which I have been wearing for the past eight weeks any time I venture outdoors.


The ever-adorable Rifle Paper X Keds collab.
As a bonus, you can see just how muddy
it gets around here in the spring! 



Renewed delight in the peepers that sing me to sleep. Every year, they’re one of my favourite signs of spring. They began in the middle of a thunderstorm a few weeks back and are charming friends. 


And a general delight in spring, with fresh starts and new beginnings for which I'm always grateful, even as I never forget that those starts and beginnings both build on old knowledge and exist in the context of a difficult world. 


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Poet's Words



See also: church-goers, grocery-buyers. And car-drivers, joggers, sleepers in beds.


This poem, online at the Jellyfish Review.


More about Kathy Fish.



 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Things I'm Reading

I don't recommend all these things, necessarily. However, I thought they had interesting points to make.


The cover of Jose Saramago's
The History of the Siege of Lisbon,
held in front of our sunny deck and red pines


The History of the Siege of Lisbon, Goodreads link


Our book club read this. The main character is a proofreader who--from frustration, perhaps, or perhaps from just growing awareness of his own agency--inserts a "not" into a history book and sets in motion a larger change in his life. 


I liked the idea of the power of the lesser-celebrated members of a book's production team. I said more about it on Instagram, where I'm (surprisingly) @marionagnew. You're welcome to find me there.



How Growing Up in the Digital Age Impacts Young Minds 


Salient quote: "A third concern about viewing habits among the very young comes under the heading of the displacement hypothesis: time spent watching video potentially displaces other more age-appropriate activities such as face-to-face interactions, creative or open playtime, physical movement, outdoor play, and reading, all of which are known to foster brain health in kids."  


I know my mind isn't technically "young," but I have been displacing some of my usual activities with other, media-based activities, and it hasn't been an especially rewarding experience. 


Also, now is the best time of year for my brain to re-learn about things like the physics of falling trees, bodily energy storage and consumption, the body's Vitamin D response to the sun. Et cetera.



The Making of Moonstruck


Salient quote: "[Moonstruck director Norman] Jewison once believed that, after reaching some arbitrary threshold of success, he would be able to call his own shots. Yet here he was at sixty, still hustling, still facing rejection. Those rejections were “very destructive for me at times,” he confided in an unpublished archival interview. “When I become depressed and disillusioned and forsaken and nobody believes in you anymore . . . you take it personally.”"


Again, I'm not a film director but I have experienced rejection--part of the business--and it's disappointing, and I don't like pretending it's not. (You thought I was going to say I'm old, didn't you? Well, that too.) 


However, rejection is not the end of the story. Sometimes you persevere and make Moonstruck, and even though you don't win the Academy Award for Best Director, you've made a classic that apparently experienced a resurgence of sorts during the pandemic.


Not bad.



And now, between rains, I'll go move dirt around, or move myself around on asphalt, or go lie on a rock, or something (maybe nothing!) else. 


Tra la, it's May.