reverb10: brisk moments

Okay, I signed up for #reverb10. It’s the now annual event, the continuation of #best09 from last year. A prompt a day, all month long, to contemplate 2010 and reveal 2011. In the way of my world, the evening after I signed up, I discovered a new Twitter book club and I joined in for that, too. So this will be a busy month.

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

This one is hard, very hard. I mean, I can think of one moment vividly but it’s not a nice one. I accidentally poured boiling water on my hand a few months ago. It’s still healing. That definitely stabs my memory, but I’d rather it didn’t. So let’s not go there.

Nice moments are so much better, don’t you think? Some very nice times stand out, but they aren’t vivid memories. I recall them in swirling pastels, not streaks of bright colors.

I was reminded just a few days ago of times I feel invigorated and full of life. Brisk walks. I don’t walk nearly enough these days. I walk to do errands at work daily but most of the time it’s more of a stroll with company. Last Friday I was out on my own and temps were low, so I walked fast. And I noticed how great I felt. I was locked in my own world (that’s how I walk solo), so I can’t tell you the details. But I can recall the moment I noticed. I was walking by a parking garage on a dirty city street, nothing picturesque or quaint, no harmonious sounds, just street traffic in the distance. But the air was very brisk, the world was very crisp, and I felt good.

I used to walk a lot, long ago. I grew up in an area with dense population, no busing where I lived as the schools were not miles away. So I always walked to and from school and my walk was close to a mile for many years, over a mile each way a couple of years. For college, I lived in one of the dorms on the outskirts of a spread out campus and walked a lot each day, miles, back and forth between home and classes a few times a day, mostly long treks, not short bits that add up. But now I live in a town where I’m too far from work and from stores to walk to work and to run errands. I should take up walking as exercise and I have tried from time to time, but it never sticks. For years I walked my sweet kitties, taking my mostly indoor boys out for supervised outings several times a day. That was my walk time, but we mostly meandered around my lot and in the woods behind my house. I truly treasured those times and felt alive then, too, but they were not real exercise. And without my guys, I avoid going out where we used to go. Maybe last week was a reminder to move on and start walking again.

reverb10: not-writing

Okay, I signed up for #reverb10. It’s the now annual event, the continuation of #best09 from last year. A prompt a day, all month long, to contemplate 2010 and reveal 2011. In the way of my world, the evening after I signed up, I discovered a new Twitter book club and I joined in for that, too. So this will be a busy month.

December 2: Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing and can you eliminate it? (Author: Leo Babauta)

In one sense, most things I do don’t contribute to my writing, not directly, because I’m not a writer. My background, my work, even my passion, isn’t for writing, at least not text (designing and coding software is my vocation, but that’s not what this post is about). Still, here we are, in a blog post, and this blog is, well, writing! So there you are: turns out I’m a writer.

This poor blog is neglected. I always intend to write more often but I never get around to it. There are things I need to do in my day that can’t be eliminated and things I want do in my life that won’t be eliminated. But I’m not so busy that I don’t have time to write a post for months on end. So what’s holding me back?

Well, there’s inspiration, as in the lack thereof. I can’t think of things to write. I know, the answer is just write, about anything or nothing or everything. But most times when I sit down to post, nothing comes to mind, not the nothing you can write about, but the nothing of a void…no words at all. I have to start collecting ideas, writing short posts about little things, finding “assignments” for myself.

Another problem is my sense of my writing. I read other people’s work and truly feel it’s not just better but so much better than mine. I need to stop thinking about that. After all, a little practice might help. And it’s one reason this blog is here.

“My fingers,″ said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I would not take the trouble of practising…”

—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

reverb10: word and word


Okay, I signed up for #reverb10. It’s the now annual event, the continuation of #best09 from last year. A prompt a day, all month long, to contemplate 2010 and reveal 2011. In the way of my world, the evening after I signed up, I discovered a new Twitter book club and I joined in for that, too. So this will be a busy month.

The December 1 prompt (yep, already behind), is: One Word. Encapsulate 2010 in one word. Then jump ahead a year; what would you like to the word for 2011 to have been. (Author: Gwen Bell)

It’s very hard for me to think of a word for 2010. My life flowed on all year but nothing major happened. I started to think of words like waiting, asleep, and on-hold. But I wasn’t asleep and my life hasn’t been on-hold; I just kept going on an even keel. Looking back, I think I’ve been adapting and adjusting. 2008 and 2009 were hard years with a lot of loss. I think I spent 2010 trying to come to terms with things and accept all of it. I wasn’t consciously doing that and I know I haven’t totally accepted it all, but on reflection, I think that was my mode all year long. It would be nice to say my word is acceptance, but I’m not sure I’m there yet. But one word for the year is adjustment.

On the other hand, there is something that does stand out in my mind right now. I’ve jumped back into reading this past year, reading avidly. In college and in the years that followed it, I read a lot. Then I lost that, mostly because I went through a period when I was busy working long, long hours on projects at work, and got behind with the massive amounts of comics I collected and then felt I had to catch up on them before I could start a book. So I only read books when I was traveling, on planes and during visits away from home. That lasted a while, decades, in fact. A few years ago, I called a halt to that. I stopped buying comics to add to the backlog. I got a library card and I also dug through some unpacked boxes of books in my cellar. I rediscovered my love of books. And looking back over 2010, that is the one activity that I see not just being a part of my year but intensifying all year long. So another word for 2010 is reader.

And what do I want for 2011? To be able to look back in a year and have a sense of satisfaction with the year that will just have flown by? I’d like it to be growth. I’d like to reach my acceptance and move on. I’d like to try new things and I’d like to improve who I am. I know we can always be doing this, should always be doing this, but I don’t feel like I did that much this past year. And so I call it out for 2011.

book club fun

I’m participating in the 1 Book, 1 Twitter (1B1T) global book club which has been going for about a month now. Lots of folks are reading the same book and discussing it on Twitter. I follow the author Neil Gaiman there and found out about this event when he mentioned that his book American Gods was doing well in the voting. Then it won the vote. I’d just finished reading the book only a month and a half before 1B1T started, but I decided to read it all over again and join in. I’ve never been in a book club before, so I wasn’t sure how this would go.

I dreaded English class in high school. Finding deep meanings and themes in books and interpreting symbolism was way beyond my interest in reading and I wasn’t all that good at it.  I could manage some when forced to, but it doesn’t come naturally when I read. Also, I was very timid about speaking up in class and participation mattered.  And to add to my discomfort, for some unknown reason I was in an AP tract class where all the other students were talented writers and wizzes at literature To this day, I think it’s because I scored 100 on a multiple choice test about Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in 9th grade, given after all the class discussions and asking for no new insights…so they threw me into the AP class, like that proved I could handle it. I’m not a creative writer, either.  Everyone else in class, and I mean everyone else…it wasn’t a large class and we all knew what the others turned in…wrote lovely, innovative papers.  I wrote straightforward, dull, and wordy things that read like a report for some government project or a manual for some complicated gadget.

 I don’t dig deeply into movies or books even now.  I don’t usually notice the themes unless someone else points them out. Maybe I’m lazy? I like complicated plots and complex connections between characters and I can remember, or recall quickly when reminded, detailed storylines from movies, TV, and books, sometimes going back decades. It can be a useful skill if you want to keep up with long running TV shows or comic book continuity. But it doesn’t mean I dig into the meat of a story. I accept the storyline for what it says on the surface, I guess. Deeper significance just doesn’t occur to me.

Okay, that said, 1B1T is a blast.  It’s given me a much greater appreciation of this book.  The discussions have pointed out a lot of themes and symbolism I glossed over, ideas that I would have missed. It’s also been a great resource with people sharing links and information about places and names used in the book that I hadn’t looked up when I read it before. I’ve met some good people through 1B1T, too. It’s been a fun time.

And along with that, 1B1T has helped me feel better about my own reading skills.  Although I didn’t notice some themes as I read the book, once they’d been mentioned, I’ve run with some comments and contributed to the discussion. I never did that back in English class.  I was too scared to speak up and doubted any thoughts I had.
And a few times, people pointed out and discussed points I did recognize while reading!  I never thought anything about it while reading.  I mean, if I catch something, it must be obvious, right? But now I’ve seen that maybe I’ve been underestimating myself a little.  Not completely: there are plenty of points I missed.  But still, seeing any evidence of this is a revelation.

So now I’m raring to go: bring on the next book.

talkin’ games

When we were young, my folks often took us for day trips on the weekends. We went to places in town; it seems like the art and natural history museums and the aquarium were popular spots because I recall them so well. We probably went to each one several times a year. I’ll try to write about those trips another day.

We also went on long drives. My mom loved to go riding out of the city to watch the countryside roll by. Later on, as an adult, I wondered about that: my dad was a traveling salesman and drove all week long, but I never heard him begrudge my mom these outings and he did all the driving. On some of the trips we we stopped and saw interesting sites or went to roadside farm stands, but other times we would just drive for a few hours and then turn around and toodle on back home.

Anyway, we played spoken games while motoring along. Sometimes just us kids, and other times my folks would join in, too. There was the standard license plate game, trying to see how many different states’ plates we could spot. My dad was good at that one; I think he might have played it solo while driving around during the week. He always knew what all the other states’ plates looked like. It was easier back then; each state only had one style of plate for most cars, though many states changed their lettering and background colors each year.

And there was the geography game: first player names a geographic location, then the next person has to come up with one that starts with the last letter of the previous place, and so on. I think we allowed any geographic name—cities, states, countries, provinces, and also rivers, oceans, mountains, and so on—but restrictions could be added. Sure loved that game. My sister and I studied up for it for a while, looking up interesting town names on world maps. We probably started doing that to learn names of places that start with A, and don’t end with A. A lot of place names that start with A end with it, or at least a lot of the ones we knew then. Plus it seems to me that a lot of other places that didn’t start with A still ended with it, so it was easy to get stuck in the A’s. I don’t recall many of the interesting names we learned any longer, except that I will always remember that there’s a town in Australia called Humpty Doo. We played other games in the car, too, or just fooled around sometimes, but the geography game was a biggie and we often returned to it.

I don’t play it any longer. Hmm, I should; I could use a prod to brush up on geography. I still like spoken games, though. I tend towards trivia games nowaday, often about movies. These are spontaneous, started because of some mention of a movie or actor or maybe someone says a line from a film and then a chain of challenges might start. Or a topic just comes up and we see how many films we can name to fit it. I’m not sure everyone would call these games; maybe they’re really just discussions. But even so, they’re fun discussions and they feel like games to me. And they sometimes come up during car trips, too. :-)