Saturday, 31 August 2013

Another six-month check-up


It will be two-and-a-half years on Monday, and as I've found myself doing the last eighteen months, for the third time, I reflect back on the "progress" I've made in the preceding six-month span.

A year ago, when I started doing this internal check-up, I was in the midst of reading Joan Didion's A Year of Magical Thinking and, more or less, sobbing hysterically as I did. It was, in retrospect, a good cathartic experience, although I didn't exactly think so at the time.

Read the manual

I'm pleased to note that there are days where the speed of the loss of insanity -- I refuse to call it a return to sanity quite yet -- leaves me utterly breathless, and in a very good way.

A little worse for wear

Apart from being back at work, doing something I love and that I'm reasonablly competent at (and perhaps most importantly, returning to financial independence), I find myself starting to think about what I want to do with the rest of my life. Of all the parts of my old self to return, this one has been one of the more surprising, and, in some ways, one of the more stunning, hallmarks of change.

I'm still working on the what and the how, but I quite like the idea of "a future" now. Most importantly, I know what, and who, I don't want, and where I do want to be, in my life, and that makes a monumentally huge difference in what happens next.


Reading my journal (the pen-and-paper one where all the thoughts that aren't for public consumption) for the last year has helped me a great deal in sizing up how far I've come -- even my handwriting is more legible -- and in working on a few projects that I look forward to creating before the end of the year.

An additional part of the return has been moving everything from one storage location to another, and being so excited to be able to see old friends in the form of my possessions again. There are some of them I'm not sure I want to keep any more, some I have missed dearly, and some I thought about getting rid of but now want to be reacquainted with.


Now, more than ever, I just want to carry them into my own home and unpack.

Four cabin walls would be just right for me....

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Quantum. Leap.

A light

If you were a fan of the classic late-80s/early 90s scifi show Quantum Leap, you'll remember how Scott Bakula kept time-travelling, showing up to unravel other people's lives. At a much smaller level, that's pretty much what I'm doing.

Afternoon idyll

As regular readers will recall from Shifting for myself, I mentioned that changes were coming.

The one I had great hopes for didn't, as things turned out -- it was a job I knew I could do, and do well -- but the day after I was given the bad news, a friend sent a job posting for a technical editor he had seen. I applied for it, had an interview within a week (with my references being checked the same day), and started last Wednesday. So I'm back doing a job very similar to the first one I got out of grad school in 2000, although for considerably more money.

It's on contract through the end of the year, with the possibility (and likelihood, I gather) of either being extended or me being hired permanently, and the fact that it's something so concrete and normal in my life that it has triggered other, less nomadic, thoughts about my future.


Coincidentally, I also have to move everything I currently have in storage: the building needs repairs. While I'm not ready to find and move into my own home quite yet, shifting things over will afford me the opportunity to do some sorting-out and paring-down in preparation for that step too.

Believe it or not, it's one I'm looking forward to, which expresses a concept that, eighteen months ago, I would have doubted ever being capable of conceiving.

Floating along

Photos in this post come from a walk I did last Sunday: one that we used to do when we lived in the neighbourhood. I've been cat-sitting for friends on a family emergency trip, not a five-minute walk from my last real home.

It is, indeed, déjà vu all over again....


Wednesday, 7 August 2013


As I've been moving about, house-sitting (mainly minding cats) for friends, I've been pulling out intriguing books from their shelves when I've had the opportunity. Frequently, this means that I've become engrossed, and writing my own words (both in this public blog and my private journal) gets left behind.

So I thought it was time to share those as well. As I have pointed out to others in the past, I go in phases: reading very little as fun for long stretches at a time, and then immersing myself in (usually) non-fiction tomes. The pictures, as usual, are selected from some of my recent adventures when my nose hasn't been stuck in a book....


In May, I found a copy of Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Faragó, which was the prime source for the original screenplay of the movie Patton, which is one of my personal favourites -- likely because I have a thing for bull terriers -- and this book told me everything I wanted to know, and more: watching the movie on DVD after finishing the book, was a real education. At 800+ dense pages, even reading this book at my regular speed (which is pretty quick) took ages.


I followed it up with Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, because it was recommended by two of my friends. Not being much of a fiction reader -- life, for me, truly is much more interesting than someone else's imagination -- I really enjoyed this book. Likely being familiar with typography and New York City gave me two good reasons why it held my interest until the end.

Final output

Next up was a fleshed-out version of Neil Turok's recent (2012) Massey Lectures for CBC Radio's Ideas, titled The Unknown World. This is not a book for the faint-of-heart, but it's pretty good if you enjoy books about the intersection of science and philosophy, and I quite liked his writing style. Coincidentally, CBC is rerunning the series of radio programs again this week.

Poppy Plaza #1

Then was Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, which made me grateful I've been trying to eliminate as much preprocessed food as possible. It doesn't mean I'm perfect -- I still get cravings for junk food -- but compared to some of my friends, I do OK.


And now, to the smallest of these books, which will be my companion this evening: Art Lessons: Reflections From An Artist's Life, by Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord. As an artist who is still struggling (although less so than even six months' ago) with finding my way back to a productively creative life, I'm looking forward to cracking it open. Susan has embarked on an unusual way of getting the book into the hands of readers by releasing 61 copies -- one to every state, plus the District of Columbia, in the United States, and one to every province in Canada: I am the lucky recipient of the copy initially sent to Alberta -- out into the wild, traced by Book Crossing.

Because I have been working in earnest on a similar print-on-demand book of my photographs from my year of travel, I'm curious to see how this practice works: not sure I will use this method of distribution, but I think it is an interesting way of both gaining publicity and obtaining distribution.

You might think that there's no common thread to any of these, or that I've been using reading as a stalling tactic for my own work: nothing could be further from the truth. All of these have provoked a fair bit of thought, and a lot of notes about possible projects, which qualifies as time well spent.

Books for Sale

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