Post # 3230: Many projects, little sleep

This morning I scared a racoon in the garden as I left the tiny zendo after-meditation. I wish I could have gotten a picture of it scampering away because it was undoubtedly the fattest raccoon I have ever seen. Compared to when we lived in East Vancouver, I don’t see raccoons here nearly as often, but springtime definitely brings them out into the open a bit more and I’ve heard them fighting on the other side of the fence some nights as well.

It’s been a week of trying to get things done despite intermittent insomnia. I can only blame the shift in weather and energy for my sudden inability to sleep through the night, so I hope that calms down again soon – because it’s very difficult to move forward on projects when I’m exhausted all the time.

Workwise things have been in a bit of a lull the last couple of weeks.. This is always the case when the fiscal year flips over and we do our project plans for the next year. Up until year end is a flurry of activity and then things get pretty quiet again while we wait for the budget to drop and new projects get approved. I’ve been focused on work planning, and performance management – and getting the two people on my team properly assigned with work now that I have them as permanent staff. I had my own performance review as well this week, and received the highest praise I have ever achieved in my working career, which stemmed from the huge shift in my work unit I’ve helped motivate over the last year, first as acting manager, then as supporter to the other acting manager. While I’m glad that our regular manager is back now, her year of absence did afford me some pretty great work opportunities. I’ll be interested to see the government priorities outlined in the upcoming budget, because that guides our work to some degree.

On the studio front, I’ve become re-obsessed with weaving in the last couple of weeks. As I’ve written here in the past, weaving is a time-consuming and somewhat complicated undertaking (not to mention, expensive). All fiber arts have dimensions of this, but weaving more than any of them. I think this is why I tend to drop out of it periodically. Only a month ago I was talking to Brian about possibly selling off all my weaving supplies since I had not been able to rouse my interest in weaving in close to a year. This last week I got a warp on and off the loom (to make four tea towels) in record time. I am starting a new project today (hand towels for the bathroom), and am re-tying up the treadles on the large loom (although I did manage to get it warped at Christmas time, I tried a new tie-up that it turned out I don’t like). The problem with weaving is that I’m hot/cold with it. When I’m hot, it’s all I want to do. When I’m cold, I want nothing to do with it. Few other of my interests work like this for me – and I can’t ascribe it to one season or another. It just happens when it does. Go figure that it would happen just when the weather is getting so nice!

Around the house we’ve started working on our latest project – a canning kitchen! While I have long had an outdoor burner for canning in the summertime, we are going to go all the way and install a sink and counter alongside that. It will sit directly in front of our actual kitchen so we can share the plumbing going in, though we will greywater into the garden going out. To start with, we invested in a (kind of pricey) stainless steel sink and countertop which we will then get some cabinetry installed around. The three-burner will also get a cabinet front to hide the propane tank. Because this is at the (covered) entrance to our house, we are paying a professional to make cabinets. I want it to look good and not cluttered. We got the sink/counter last week so we popped things into rough place last weekend:

I know I’ve said this before, but the more we tool our home to be specifically for our needs/interests/comfort – the less likely it is that I am ever going to leave. A properly set-up area specifically for canning and outdoor entertaining is something I have dreamed about, and we are making it happen!

This is one of those weeks that has dragged a bit (insomnia) so I am pretty glad to nearly be seeing the weekend when I can catch up on my sleep and make some more headway in the garden and studio. Hope you all are seeing sunnier days out there!

Post #3229: Unexpected offerings

I dip in and out of the idea of getting published one day – by which I mean publication in a magazine or online periodical, or by a publishing house (as opposed to self-publishing ventures). It’s a bit of a block for me. Most of the content I write goes to Comfort for the Apocalypse and I have a hard time getting excited about writing content that is tailored or fits a particular demographic. At the same time it feels like publication is legitimizing, and elevates writing from being seen as a “hobby” to something else.

I am germinating a new idea for a possible book project which has brought this question to the fore again. Really, it’s the question of why I write at all. Is it to get published/be legitimized? Or is writing a way of figuring out what I think and connecting with others via those communicated thoughts?

If you read most online advice articles about writing a non-fiction book, the main recommendation is to write a powerful book proposal and get it in front of publishers. They say maybe you should write a chapter or two of the book, but the main thrust of the advice is to sell it as an idea first before investing too much time in the writing of it. This suggests of course, that one has a fully-formed idea of what they want to write before they do it, which is the exact opposite of me. I come up with a general idea and then write it out into an incoherent first draft, which I then edit it several times, asking myself a thousand questions about whether each word choice is what I really want to say, and then ending with a piece that is radically different than what I thought it would be. The idea of carefully writing a book proposal and then sticking to it is a bit unfathomable to me. Not to mention the idea of having to sell myself or my ideas to others.

Which comes back to the fact that writing, for me, is a way of figuring out what I think and then connecting with others, even if “others” is only a very small newsletter and blog readership. My day job means that I don’t have to monetize writing, which is probably a good thing because marketing me isn’t my strong suit. Perhaps writing isn’t my strong suit either, but it requires less effort (and that’s saying a lot because writing is no walk in the park).

This blog is my most personal place, and the place where I worry the least about my output. In keeping with that, and the fact I work my ideas out as I wrote, I’ve decided I’m going to start posting here more meaningfully again in order to experiment with some ideas and writing approaches (in addition to my Friday week-in-review blog posts which work for me on a different level).

When I first started 18 years ago, the whole purpose of it was to document the apocalyptic times we were living in then (hence the tag line “more apocalypse, less angst”), but it has been a place to document all sorts of other thoughts, life changes, and recipes as well. When we first moved to Gabriola, I tried a brief rebrand with a softer tag-line and more textile-focused content, which felt totally inauthentic to me and so I switched back to whatever it is that projects, and added CfA to the mix of outputs. Whether I post her regularly or don’t, is the closest thing I have to a diary of the last eighteen years of my life and so it makes sense that as I continue to shape and build my writing (and music), I would do more of that here.

Post #3228: Letting things go

I’ve been having a lot of mask-related dreams in the last few weeks where I am in a public space and either I am not wearing a mask and everyone else is, or I am wearing a mask and everyone else is not. At first I thought these were like test dreams – where you go to take a test and can’t find the room, aren’t wearing pants, have forgotten everything – which are always coded as dreams about anxiety. I thought the mask dreams were similar because anxious distress hallmarked my interactions in those dreams. But this week I’ve come to understand them as dreams about not being in proper relation to others. My distress is about the mismatch between my state and the state of others, my relationality, and it is this that provokes the anxiety. As a dream-message this makes a lot more sense to me given where we are at in the pandemic. By now, I had hoped to be in greater relationship with others again, but instead we are in a deadlier third wave and still waiting for vaccination. No wonder my subconscious is telling me that I’m not relating as I “should”.

One thing I have been working steadily on all week is getting my loom warped. I started this project two weeks ago but something went really wrong in the warping process and I had to scrap my first attempt. I finished threading this second attempt and got it all wound onto the beam on Wednesday night. This morning I threw a few shots in it to make sure it was set up correctly and voila! It might be the best warp I’ve every put on in terms of a clean shed:

This fabric will be used to make four kitchen towels of different colours. It’s not a very exciting pattern, but I wanted something simple to put on and weave off the loom for a quick set of dish towels (two of my old ones got holes recently). I frequently envision and try to execute really grand projects, but the truth is that simple is better and more do-able given all my other projects and work commitments on the go. For this weave, I took four shafts off my (eight-shaft) loom to make the whole enterprise easier and am I ever glad I did. Note to self: when I cut corners by leaving empty shafts and lamms tied up, it actually makes everything more difficult and time-consuming.

In addition to getting the loom warped, I also finished sewing a dress/tunic on Monday though I have no photos to prove it yet.

I found out this week that there is nothing wrong with leg that swelled up a couple of weeks ago. The metal plate hasn’t shifted, the bone healed fine underneath it 18 years ago, and there is no deterioration of the bone. The doctor thought it had just been aggravated somehow but told me that unless it continues to swell up, there is nothing to worry about. That’s good news for sure, but I find myself asking if I want to return to running even now that I know the striking impact isn’t harming me in any way. One of the ways that I’ve coped with the pandemic is by getting a bit exercise-obsessed, adding running to an already full schedule of weight lifting, yoga and walking. After taking a week off from everything when I got the swelling, I realized that all the activity is really crowding out other things, including my ability to sit/be quiet/think. I don’t want to give up the weight lifting which has measurably changed my life, and walking is pretty social for me. Yoga is intermittent/non-obsessive. But running, quite frankly, feels like a lot of work for little additional benefit. Perhaps as nicer weather rolls around I will find it calling to me again, but for now I’m happy for a bit more time to do other things than exercise.

In carrying on with the theme of giving things up, I am well on my way to my 2-year retirement plan from my union position and have successfully referred several union matters to my new shop stewards in the last couple of weeks. Every time I *don’t* take something new on, I feel a little relief run through me. While I still have to help the new reps with their grievances, responses to inquiries and so on, just the fact that I don’t have to interface with upset people every day feels like a huge weight lifted off of me. It’s also making me aware of just how much stuff I was fielding in the first place as I try to ensure that I don’t overload anyone (for the last couple of years, there have literally been two of us taking every case – now I have several people on board to distribute the work to).

On the Birdsong Gabriola front, I finally got the domain fixed on the new website so I can share with you. Yesterday I confirmed out summer line-up of local musicians for a yard concert series starting at the end of June – which isn’t on the website yet but will be by the end of the month. Just the other day, Brian and I were out in the yard and a woman I’ve never seen before pulled her car up and got out to ask if we could put her on the email list for the house concerts – so clearly I’m not the only one in need of some social music time these days! I am quite hopeful that outdoor shows in mid-summer with vaccinated people will be allowed, making this a little bright spot to look forward to.

The BC pandemic numbers may be high, but at least it’s Friday and we have some sun on the horizon for the next several days. If you subscribe to Comfort for the Apocalypse you’ll be hearing from me on Sunday – but otherwise I’ve got few plans for the weekend coming other than writing, weaving, and playing some music. Hope you are all well out there in quaran-land.

Post #3227: Good Friday

I have spent this Good Friday in the car, on a ferry, travelling to Parksville and back for a thyroid ultrasound. This is a hangover of a cancer scare from many years ago. There was and is no cancer but we like to check on those thyroid nodules every year or so just to make sure. It’s not how I want to spend this day, it being the first of four days in a long weekend, but I don’t say no when the medical system offers me an appointment. You never know when they will offer you another one. There is just no room in this world to be fussy anymore. Too many people, too few resources. We take what we can get and move on.

This last week has been unremarkable in almost every way except that it started with a power outage, and that meant that I couldn’t work and so I took myself on a walk around my neighbourhood on Monday morning, down to Sandwell Provincial Park where sea lions were rafting in the bay and Canada geese were teaching their young to fly. I wish I could start all my weeks, all my days, that way. I’m grateful for good paying work that I can do from home, of course. I feel very lucky about that. But all things considered, I’d rather have my days to myself. It’s times like this that I remember my 25-year-old self starting work in the government and wondering why my late-forty-something co-workers were so grumpy about it all. It didn’t seem so bad to me then, and I guess it still doesn’t now – but the older I get, the less patient I am with it all. Waiting for budgets, waiting for election calls, conducting performance management reviews, churning through the paperwork required for every small thing. The immediacy of springtime, the crisp wind coming off the strait: that feels real when so much of the digital realm in which I spend my days does not.

My fitness routine after the weird leg incident of last week is pretty much back to normal except that I’ve switched my running to walking for the time being. Everything feels okay again, with a bit of tightness in my ankle, so I’ll see about adding impact in the next couple of weeks. I’m also going to ask for a referral to an orthopaedic specialist when I talk to the doctor next week. I’d like an opinion about whether that bone is healthy or deteriorating so that I can take any measures to help it out before the rest of me is falling apart anymore. I expect it is just one of those things to monitor and that activity, especially activity that supports strong bones and mobility in my joints, is about all that will slow the onset of arthritis at this point. I have noticed since returning to playing the violin in December that the arthritis that had been creeping into my hands has completely disappeared. Which doesn’t mean its gone forever, but I think I have managed to stave it off for a bit by returning to a practice that demands huge amounts of strength and flexibility in my hands.

I suppose I can now make the claim that I have fully returned to playing music since it’s been four months of near-daily practice. This is probably the longest stint of intensive playing I’ve had in over a decade, and yet four months of practice is nothing. I am humbled over and over by the challenging nature of good violin/fiddle playing, the impossible hand maneuvers and dedication to posture required. I feel like I’m just skirting the edge of “hey, I don’t sound half bad” most of the time, and not getting too far beyond that. On the other hand, I’ve learned and memorized several new pieces – two in the classical genre, a couple of Romanian folk songs, and a couple other folk tunes. After a long stretch of feeling like I could no longer memorize anything, I’m finding that it really just comes down to chipping away at it line by line, sometimes very painfully.

If all I get out of playing music is improved hand dexterity and memory skills then it’s worth the effort just for that, but I am currently harbouring secret fantasies about playing chamber music with a couple of monster players who are kicking around. Perhaps with another year or two of daily practice that will be possible!

I am really very impatient to get vaccinated at this point, but not so things can “go back to normal” because there is a lot about my life right now I am loathe to give up. Really, I’m just hopeful for some spring and summer parties – I’m missing the people in my life way too much. Though we have been lucky to maintain some regular friend visits throughout this time (outdoors and so on), I’m ready for a bit more than furtive gatherings with one other couple huddled around the fire! Though I keep hearing rumours that we’ll all be done on Gabriola by the end of April, we don’t have our community-wide vaccination date yet so I’m not holding my breath. At least I can see through my Facebook feed that more and more people I know are getting the shot (frontline workers, older folks) so I know that it can’t be long before we get ours.

I hope all of you out there are kicking off the long weekend without a medical appointment and that you have something chocolate planned for Easter! I’m just on my way back onto the ferry as I write this – and so my long weekend will actually begin for real tonight. If you are looking for some good rootsy tunes – my mini-road trip playlist today has included Goodnight, Texas, The Devil Makes Three, Pokey Lafarge, Crooked Still, and Mandolin Orange – all worth checking out.

Post #3226: (Literally) Limping Through the Week

One of my neighbours has poems and artwork painted on her fence panels. The image/poem above seemed particularly appropriate to me this week – the growth and ebb of life’s events – always coming forward, always receding and so on.

This week has been a bit choppy, owing to the fact that I started out convinced I had a bone infection on Monday which necessitated a visit to the Doctor, the lab, and finally, the imaging clinic in Nanaimo on Wednesday. Upshot is no infection, but something is going on and I need to talk to my Doctor to find out whether the x-ray shows anything.

This is owing to an injury from eighteen years ago, when I broke my fibula while hiking the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. It was a pretty serious spiral fracture and so it was fixed with a titanium plate and six screws. Over the years, I have occasionally felt a little ache there, not related to any particular activity or time of year – but it’s always gone away within a couple of days. This time the ache showed up and persisted for a few days before becoming really swollen in a new way and also made my ankle really inflexible. I suspect (and have suspected in the past) that as the bone has continued to grow and change over the years, that the titanium plate and/or screws have been moved around and that is likely causing the issue. My worry is that there could be deterioration of the bone in there, and that this will continue to cause problems in the future. Given the long waiting list to see specialists in this province, my hope is that I’ll get referred to an orthopedic doctor now with the hopes I can have it seen to before it creates a bigger problem in my senior years.

On the plus side, I went to a yarn store when I was in Nanaimo. It was the first time I have browsed in any store besides the grocery since the start of Corona-virus. I felt both guilty and excited and came away with $150 worth of yarn, which was a much-needed pick-up from feeling old and a bit limpy.

I took the whole week off from exercise (for the first time in a year an a half), and it’s probably a good time to think about re-setting some of my goals. The strength training feels right, but I’m not sure about the running or anything particularly jarring at the moment. I think instead I’ll be looking at more walking and cycling, at least until I get an opinion on what is going on.

On the work front my staffing process is now complete, people have been offered jobs (either made permanent or brought on new) and all of them have start dates before the end of April. This is the single-largest HR activity I have ever undertaken. Now I get to turn back to my project management work which will see new twists and turns as we move into a new fiscal year and the budget gets dropped (new priorities). My manager is also coming back next week after a year of family-related leave which will reshuffle the deck somewhat. With her return and the hiring activity we will have a fully staffed team for the first time in over two years.

I’ve decided to put a new tea towel warp on my smaller loom this week. This after being stalled out on weaving since sometime in the fall. I had prepared a very long warp for that loom (13 yards) but then got blocked about putting it on and so it’s sat for months. In the meantime, I need some new tea towels for my kitchen. Rather than remaining frozen with the giant project – I’m currently winding a warp for four towels which I can get on and off the loom quickly. After that, maybe, I will chance a 13-yard warp (so much can go wrong when putting on something that long). I’ve also been knitting a new shawl this week, and I’m plotting for some sewing in the very near future. Apparently taking a week off exercise has freed up my time for making things a bit – something I need to consider as I rebalance a bit going forward.

The latest issue of Comfort for the Apocalypse (#18) dropped this morning as per the last Friday of the month routine. This March mini-essay saw a major pivot mid-month due to the events of last week which made pulling everything together feel a bit more challenging than normal. On the plus side, I have a head start on the April mini-essay since it was half-written when I changed course. I am at the end of a three-month goal set at the first of the year – which was to reinvigorate my newsletter and get back on a regular schedule of delivery. It does help keep my writing in shape, but more than that, it helps me feel connected to the world on and off this island. I’ll be setting a similar intention for the next three months as I look at my quarterly planning this weekend – as well as some other creative goals for springtime.

Although I am still limping a little, my spirits are starting to lift as the weekend draws near. Looking at the spring blossoms right outside my window I am reminded of this haiku which draws on our hopes for this season of transition:

Try to plant
As for a child.
A little wild cherry tree.

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