Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Learning, Learning

I like to learn things. Or at least I think I like to learn things.

Yesterday I had the chance to learn about algal blooms on Lake Superior, from the comfort of my dining room table. 

Including an algal-bloom-coloured pen!

It was an excellent presentation, with representation from both countries, and much useful information about distinguishing potentially toxic algal blooms from (e.g.) pollen, an annual nuisance. 

At a time when communicating science has been difficult at best -- lots of folks blaming messengers, people without appropriate expertise serving as messengers, and the inevitable politicization of good health practices -- this presentation was reassuring. 

The presenters addressed science and technical questions, and the hour included ways your average person, like me, can distinguish between standard algal growths (look for filaments to indicate standard growth) and potentially worrisome algal blooms. The presentation showed what useful information (like photos, and which specific perspectives) to collect if you are reporting a possible bloom. The presentation included safety considerations (don't let pets romp in yucky water, hose them and yourself off after being in a lake) that were excellent reminders. 

Also, hundreds of people were there, a reassuring reminder that lots of people love Lake Superior.

Given my purported "love of learning," there are, however, some things I apparently have difficulty learning. Small silly things. 

A recent example: I shouldn't brush my teeth while wearing actual clothing. If I were a product, I could claim "dripping toothpaste on my sweater for twenty-five years." That was a different time I went out in public with spots on my sweater (and a kind friend suggested brushing my teeth earlier in the "getting ready" process). I thought I had learned since then. And yet.

At least I can look forward to a future in which there will always be something new for me to learn. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Looking for Wins

We're awaiting yet another dump of snow--we've had one every Wednesday for something like two months. 

And today, for some reason, I'm considering small wins. Little victories. Moments about which, even in retrospect in the wee hours, I can be proud of my behaviour. 

1. At a meeting in which people made inappropriate and ignorant comments, the kind that make me gasp aloud and my eyes narrow, I didn't get sucked into responding in a way that would have given the comments legitimacy and further derailed the discussion. Much as I am learning to speak up, I am also (perhaps eventually) learning when not to.

2. I figured out a technical network issue after only a quick internet search and giving it a whirl. To be honest, I'd rather do significantly more research than I ended up doing if it meant I didn't have to call tech support. 

3. I reset our cordless phones (yes, we have a landline; we are dinosaurs) after they'd mysteriously gone wonky--again, with minimal research, some unplugging and replugging, and some (much) poking of buttons. My motto: "Just try it!" The stakes were low. At worst, we would had had more tech gadget waste for the landfill. 

4. Miscellaneous: I completed a writing project and returned to another. I spent time out-of-doors when it was pleasant and I could get out, and I stopped myself from complaining two times for every one time I groaned aloud. I sat and looked at the lily growing from the bulb I despaired of a few months back. I managed, planned, monitored, created, and cleaned up. 

I continued with the business of daily living. I felt grateful to be able to. And that's win enough.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Thirty-Year Storm

We're expecting another big storm today--worse for Winnipeg and parts west, but here we expect at least a deluge of rain onto frozen ground, and possibly snow. 

At this point, there's nothing really left to say about that. 

Except when you're playing with rhythm in the wee hours of the morning, to wit:

An April morning:
I’m sunny on the inside
Rain and snow outside

Storm in the forecast
They fill wood box and bathtub
But won’t wear a mask

The house is aging
Rain seeps under the windows
Creaky metaphor

Rain as tears, wind as anger
In the morning, joy. 

Note that I learned the word "volta" in the wee hours as well. It's the point where the poem turns to a second idea, which is apt, given that "volta" is Italian for "turn".

So I wasn't going to lament the difficult winter and stormy transition to spring YET AGAIN, but can I just say that I haven't given up hope that this weather system is a volta?

And, just so that I remember that part of transitions, even the external ones like weather, is up to me, full disclosure. Yesterday I ran errands without any coat at all (we were in the car mostly), and I've walked outdoors lately. So yes, it's no longer February.

Even on the inside.


Wednesday, April 6, 2022

What I’m Taking Into April

Momentum, mostly: both the thing itself, and a better understanding of it.

In March I experienced the strange sort of joy that comes when you finally sit yourself down and get to work. In this case, I was doing all the paperwork that goes into our income tax returns.

This lily has been working overtime on growing, and I appreciate it.

It’s a lot of paper (and electronic documents, which oddly still feel like paper), what with weird pandemic payouts and changes (or not) in two countries’ tax codes.

Truthfully, it’s not THAT big a deal. I’m not researching obscure legal precedents or creating something from scratch; I’m basically filling out forms and passing them along to others who fill out other, official forms. Eventually, money will change hands.

However, it IS a job that always looms large in my imagination. Through the years, I have ruined many a sunny-winter-morning-with-coffee moment when I realize, “Ugh, the TAXES—I need to get on those.”

But this year, I Niked: meaning, I just did it. And amazingly, every day I worked at it, the job actually got smaller.* In fact, I started early enough in the year that I could have worked fewer hours at a more relaxed pace (yes, on more days) and still been done in record (for me) time.

But I didn’t. Once I got going, I wanted to keep going. So I did, and after a couple of focused weeks, I pulled most of it together and sent it to our accountant.

I felt pretty good—proud of myself—about finishing before the last minute. I let myself enjoy that feeling and I recognized that I want to keep feeling it.

Not necessarily that I want to work on one thing at a time, and certainly not that I want to work on spreadsheets eight hours a day for an extended period of time.

But the pride, the feeling of accomplishment—that. Completing something. Doing good work.**

As a result, I’ve also done the side jobs that arise as part of the whole “annual tax” task. (As the returns are filed, we will have more logistics: payments and uploads and papers to pick up. I am aware of this but remain undaunted by it.)

AND I’ve started a deep edit (not my manuscript) that has loomed large. AND I’ve drafted that essay that’s been rattling around in my brain for a month or so, which may not go anywhere but needed to be drafted.

And also treats: I’m still reminding myself of the ones I’ve mentioned already this year—my bulb-in-a-pot lily has grown a flower and is a special joy, and there’s some banana bread in the freezer. But this whole momentum thing may be the best treat of all.



* What does it say about being a writer that when you work at something, the job remaining seems to grow? Not just the good kind of growth, as in “more words” or “more story figured out,” but also the daunting feeling that this job is turning out to be even more complicated than you’d imagined. The feelings of “the next draft is sure going to take a whole lot of shaping” and “I’m going to need to research this a LOT more,” and “is this even going anywhere?”

Or maybe that’s just me?

** Yes, I'm also aware that feeling proud of good work maybe shouldn't feel as rare as it apparently does, and I'm ALSO-also aware that saying aloud that I've done good work is something I could also do more, speaking of things that feel daunting.