It’s already the new year in some parts of the world, and will be here, soon. So let me just say! Happy New Year! I hope 2022 is filled with delight. Not just in big moments that punctuate periods of our lives, but in the little crevices and cracks that make up our daily lives. I hope you find the time to savor your friendships, to find that transcendent cup of coffee, to notice (and appreciate!) that moment in the afternoon when the clouds part and the world is lit up with that peculiar, golden, magic light.
I hope you find, and keep, and cultivate love, in whatever shape that takes. I hope you find joy in your journey, that you remember that the journey, not the destination, is the point. I hope that at least once this year, you find something that reminds you of a happy memory from your childhood. I hope that you make many more happy memories.
I hope that 2022 proves to be sublime, in all the best senses of the word.
Here we are, in the last half of December. The past year (and really, two years) has been a weird mishmash of hurrying up and waiting, with days and weeks sort of blurring into each other. If I didn’t keep a work journal, I doubt I’d be able to tell you what I did last week, let alone a few months ago, and that doesn’t really help with the non-work parts of my life. I doubt I’m alone on this blurring – the pandemic dulls the punctuation of life, barring the occasional exclamation when something finally happens.
But I am very poorly today & very stupid & I hate everybody & everything.
Not feeling it today. I’ve felt distracted and irritable most of the day, and at odds with time.
I’ve long maintained that I write here at my whim, and not as a brand or for an audience, but I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t tickled when I see an uptick in readers, get responses or likes, or any other sort of feedback that makes it feel less lonely and like shouting into the void. Then, there’s the personal desire to show some consistency and that I can be reliable, and the feelings of guilt if I don’t maintain that self-imposed schedule.
But sometimes your brain is just sour, and your time is scattered, and your focus is lost in the fog.
As I mentioned in an earlier post (and you might have surmised by the flurry of posts), I’m on my annual sojourn to Squam. It’s a time to see family, decompress, swim, and take stock of things. I look forward to it every year, and always make time for it, even if it means not doing as much other travel as I’d like. I like to sit on the porch and look out at the lake, and listen to gentle waves against the shore and the wind in the trees. It’s nice to catch up with people, too – I may not always be as directly participatory, but my ears are open and it’s nice to pick up what others are doing. It’s a particular feeling that brings some level of contentment and unencumbered activity.
The blog has been lying fallow for a while. It’s getting to be time to till the fields and resume a regular practice. Sorry for the radio silence! I know how lonely the isles of blogging can be. I hope to resume a more regular practice soon, but not quite yet. Bear with me while I get my shit together. In the meantime, what’s happening?
This week in Portland, there is finally a cold snap and some snow, and related posts about snowpocalypse. However, I’m not there. I’m in Hawaii, on the island of Maui, listening to the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore. I’m okay with this.
How, why, what? Well, the short version is that my brother’s girlfriend ended up getting hooked up with a week in Maui, and the place was big enough that they decided to invite me along. So it’s me, my brother, his girlfriend, and her kids.
While I recognize that it’s, y’know, during a pandemic, and I do feel a bit guilty about being “part of the problem” (so to speak), we’ve been doing our due diligence. Hawaii requires negative COVID tests, documented and certified by trusted testing partners, in order to not be quarantined and checking in daily for 10 days, which we did. One of us is even vaccinated (both doses). And at a certain point of stress and depression (and frankly the pure temptation of free lodging in Hawaii), you decide to take the calculated risk and do the damn thing.
The water has been warm, and ranging between 70 and 80 each day, with a nice ocean breeze. We’ve already seen whales breaching and playing, hung out on the beach, and just generally taken things easy. We have a list of things we want to do while here, but none should be particularly stressful. I was a little nervous about going (because pandemic, and related guilt about traveling during one), but being here has really driven home how much I needed this. I’m not actually unwound yet, but it’s kind of like when some background noise you’ve been trying to tune out finally stops — it’s only when you’re removed from the stress that you realize how much you’ve been storing in your body. I’ll get there (knock wood).
It’s been 18 years since I was last in Hawaii (last time was January, 2003). The last time I was here, I was 21 and engaged. It feels like a lifetime ago. I’m a different person now, for better or worse; it’s interesting how, while my experience is different, the place itself doesn’t feel that different to me. The timelessness of paradise, I suppose.
Something that has struck me (maybe because I’ve been thinking about such things lately) is how many people here are effectively acting like expats despite Hawaii being part of the same country — here as digital nomads, working remotely and riding out the pandemic. Between the cost of everything being notably different than the mainland, and the place really sort of having its own culture (both literally, as in the native Hawaiians, and more figuratively), it’s sort of the “lite” version of living in a different country. That’s just my outsider’s take, though — maybe the people actually living it would feel differently.
It’s been a few months since I wrote, and honestly, I’m not even sure where to start. The tail end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 have been an interesting time on so many levels. It’s been stressful and disheartening for many, for a variety of reasons that probably don’t need delving into (the election and resulting shenanigans, for instance). Just for my own sanity, though, time for a check-in.
As you might be aware, the West Coast of the United States has been on fire for the past few weeks. It was getting to be fire season anyway (how the hell is that a season now???), and then some ridiculously strong, dry winds swept in and really caused some escalation – estimates were up to 5 million acres burned as of a few days ago. Multiple towns and residential areas are just ashes.
When the wind finally died down, it came as a mixed blessing: while it slowed the growth of the fires, the still air and inversion that came with it meant that all the smoke just sat and collected, leading to some of the worst air quality measurements ever recorded, and put Portland at the top of the rankings for having the worst air quality in the world, for several days.
We’re due to get rain tonight. This should help cut the smoke a lot and reduce the fires. Of course, it’s also expected to cause flash floods and landslides throughout the burned areas, since there’s no longer vegetation to help hold things together.
This year, man. It’s a mess. The world’s on fire, figuratively and literally. I’m not going to iterate through all of the things that are seriously fucked up right now – I don’t think it would help, and frankly you probably are already aware. On a macro level, it feels like we’re teetering on a knife’s edge in so many different spheres, whether it’s political, economic, social, environmental, or other areas. Depending on your point of view, in some spaces, it even feels like the edge has already slipped. On a personal level, though, I’ve been relatively lucky. It’s 2020 and I’m at Squam, so let’s take stock.
When I last wrote (back in February 😅), who’d have thought we’d be on the precipice of a global pandemic? Obviously, my rambling about upcoming travel is now irrelevant (work summit til maybe this Fall? Or later? And the wedding until next spring). The rest of the post still holds pretty true, though.
Everything happening right now is a lot for a lot of people, and that’s pretty understandable. There’s the pandemic itself, of course, where even if you’re not too worried about yourself, you’re probably still worried about friends or family who are at a higher risk. And then the knock-on effects this has on society as a whole – millions unemployed, unexpected and ill-prepared-for financial challenges, impacts on infrastructure, and so on – is a whole source of stress on its own.
For me, it’s not been too terrible. As I’ve noted before, I’m on anti-depressants, which also reduce anxiety, and that certainly helps. Also, my day-to-day isn’t all that different from before. I’m a bit of a recluse and an introvert by nature, so while it would certainly be nice to see my friends, it doesn’t weigh on me as much as I know it does for others. I still go walk Cecil, so I still get at least an at-a-distance view of the world, and I have roommates, so I even still see some people face to face. I still have my job, working from home. I’m still worried about friends and family who are or may be impacted by all this, obviously, but the ones I’ve checked in with are taking reasonable precautions, which means there’s not much that extra fretting will do.
There’s definitely some generalized anxiety and stress that exists in the background, but for me, more than anything it just feels surreal. It’s like the photo of a man mowing his lawn while a tornado is in the background – you know there’s total pandemonium nearby, but your own life still marches on: bills have to be paid, work has to be done, lawns have to be mowed. It’s a ridiculously privileged position to have, but there it is.
It’s the topic of the moment, on everyone’s mind, seeping into every conversation, but I’m going to try and not dwell on it much past this post. That said, I’d love to hear from you (by whatever method you see fit). Are you doing okay?