I thought I’d recommence here by trying out a new practice, that of the weekly review; it seems to serve quite well two people for whom I have considerable respect – Eevee on the one hand, and Sacha Chua on the other – and so perhaps it will serve me well, too.
And I can do this, now! Near the end of January I began keeping a journal, more or less by accident; it’s something I had tried before, but never really persisted, and I shrugged and figured I’d give it another shot to see what I could do with it. Since January 21, I’ve filled a first 240-page volume cover to cover, and am thirteen pages into a second! So this time it seems to be working, I think.
One of the ways I’m finding it’s working is that it helps me preserve continuity of memory – not that I have any unusual trouble in that regard, I suppose, but the occasions of each day so insist upon themselves that we do tend to lose sight of the minutiae ultimo diēs. But to make note of them, in the evening of the day or first on the morning thereafter, preserves them! And I find I’m glad that it does, not least because I can write a weekly review now!
– and they’ll be shorter in future, I promise. But this one has a lot of ground to cover, hence the great big wad of prose up here at the top, as well as those to follow.
In particular, three days after I started my journal, I fell ill with the rather nasty flu that went so far around this year. I was lucky, though – it didn’t badly imperil me, but only gave me almost two weeks of my brains half cooking out of my head with fever.
And it turns out that spending most of two weeks with my brains half out of my head was not such a bad thing for me! It was interesting to say the least, and remains so now that I’m well again; I think it’s done me a lot of good, and I’m told by some that I seem – well – stranger than before, a little. One friend at one point said that I sounded just about ready to join the Hare Krishnas! That was right after, though, still perhaps almost during, and I’ve settled down a fair bit since then.
But whatever change there is in me, it’s of me, too; the flu, and the fever, added nothing, and if they took anything away, perhaps it is only a measure of the fear that I’d so long let prevent me from being more truly what I am. A measure, not all – but I’m working on the rest, and finding some success there. As I do right now, by posting again here!
So, then – to the occasions of the week, and of the last little while.
– specifically, fiction: a craft in which I found much satisfaction, once, and hadn’t touched in nearly twenty years. I have recovered it now, though, I think! Since the beginning of February I’ve written roughly forty thousand words of story prose, and about six thousand of those this week past. I’m still very rusty! And as my style here might suggest, verbosity is a great weakness with me – I’m wrestling toward greater concision, but have a ways to go before I reach it.
But I am told nonetheless that the work I’ve thus far done is not without merit, and I’m glad! And though the works I describe may not appear here – or may! In the fullness of time, we’ll see – I confide that others certainly shall, as I find time to turn my hand to topics beyond those I’ve engaged thus far.
– of course. It’s the nature of my work, after all! I changed jobs this August past, and have worked at Under Armour since – an incredibly exciting environment full of skilled and knowledgeable colleagues and just plain good people, all of us working with a tech stack that’s modern and complex and just plain large beyond anything I’ve ever seen before!
This was a change that in some ways I really didn’t want to make. My colleagues in my prior role, wonderful people all, were hard to leave behind! But though my team there was amazing, the technology available for us to use was badly behind the times, and the business had no interest in budgeting for the personnel or the infrastructure necessary to bring it up to date. I felt myself stagnating there; when I heard from Under Armour that they might find good use for my skills, I could hardly decline the opportunity.
And in retrospect, I’m very glad I did not decline it! I’ve learned more in the last few months than I did in the three years prior, simply through such constant exposure to the leading edge of my field, and such opportunity to interact with the minds and people who push it forward. I’m told, as well, that I have not failed to make a substantial contribution of my own, and that I’ve made my presence a benefit to the engineering organization – which I cannot help but be glad to know!
(And my former colleagues and I haven’t lost touch, and still make time to enjoy one another’s company now and again. Something else for which I’m glad!)
– Not so much a specific practice, this, as something I’ve always done. But on Sunday, when I took my camera with one of my grandfather’s lenses and went to and fro in the earth, and walked up and down on it – among the occasions of the day, I found two slim volumes of poetry, shrink-wrapped as if against spoilage, lying on the asphalt of an alley alongside 41st Street.
Of course I brought them with me – to be sure, I had long regarded poetry, especially the modern sort of stuff one most often finds from a small press, to be largely bumpf, and expected no different here. But I try not to be so blind to the world as to fail to recognize her kindnesses, the little gifts she gives to those with eyes to see – and I saw such a gift here, and could not choose to spurn it. And how glad I am that I did not! One volume in particular, Moss & Silver, collects the works of a Slovene poet whom I have found surprisingly simpatico. Here, an example –
An Attempt to Decipher the Phenomenon We Call Sorcery
Sorcerers know something about the body of
the one they want to bewitch that he
does not know himself. They instill this idea
in their victim in such a way that the victim
feels it physically, but not reflexively. Because
the most frequent reaction to a physical
sensation is a bodily one, they take control
of the body; and because the soul depends on what
the body does they take control of the soul, too. This
is a chain reaction. Sorcerers often cast spells
because something is missing in the connection between
their own soul and body. They want to make up this
deficiency with someone else’s body, and
because sorcerers take something from the connection
between the soul and body of the one
bewitched, the bewitched one wants to become
a sorcerer, too. Thus arise huge complexes
of aggression, aggression that many times does
not realize its own origin is enslaved. People
who take part in sorcery never remember
the intimate reasons for their personal propensity
to manipulate other people’s souls and
bodies. Immunity to sorcery comes from
recognizing these reasons and feeling disgust
before them, not from hating sorcerers and doing them
violence. Do you recall the verse: What sorcerers seize
and take to the monsters? Bodies are also
able to transform, not just souls. Every embodied being
constantly builds and changes the image
of its body. These changes lead either to fetters
or to freedom; there is no being that could not
have a chance to save itself from sorcery. No
hell is eternal.
(From Moss & Silver, Ugly Duckling Presse. Reprinted for the purposes of review and criticism.)
As one who fell foul of such a sorcerer, and spent too many years under her sway before I found it in myself to escape – I can tell you, because I know well, that there is great, vast wisdom here. And I am no longer predisposed to regard poetry as bunkum.
I also reread Virtual Light last Sunday, having purchased a paperback copy at Atomic Books on my way back home from Hampden. I’ve missed that book! I think it might be Gibson’s best – self-contained, taut and engaging, with neither the complex chilly literariness of Neuromancer – I loved it and still do, but all the same – nor the tiresome self-absorption I find in his latter work.
And finally, acting long belated upon several recommendations, I’ve laid hold of a copy of Keith Johnstone’s Impro. I’m only about three pages into it thus far, but – well, put it this way. I’m only about three pages into it thus far because, when I began reading it yesterday morning, I knew that if I did not stop where I was and that right quickly, I would neglect the responsibilities of the day to read the whole thing in a single sitting – read and then reread, and contemplate, and consider at length in my own journal. Slim though it be, it is that worthy a volume, and I can recommend it without reservation even on so brief an acquaintance.
– Less than I’d have liked, really. Another craft to which I once turned my hand, and stopped for far too long – and the time away really shows; I was never tremendously good, especially with the living form, and I am less skilled now than before! But I do keep trying, albeit intermittently. And, in some compensation, I’ve discovered a degree of skill at fine pen illustration that I never had before! In the fullness of time, I’m sure I shall produce works that merit publication here. Until then, as I find the will and the time, I’ll keep working at it.
– We’ve visited here, once before – the Hedwin plant at the bottom of my street. As well that we did when we did! – for it is there no longer. Only the cement pads remain, on which it stood so long, and scattered piles of cinder blocks that were once parts of its walls, and the sundry detritus of Baltimore’s industrial past. While out walking last Sunday, I stopped there first among its remains – contractors’ fences knocked aside by the gales of the days before, it was no hard matter to gain access – and sought, through a fifty-year-old 50mm prime lens inherited from my grandfather, to capture what I might of what’s left of the place. I’ll post that gallery soon, the first in far too long, and with it more of those photos I have from last year, of Hedwin when Hedwin still stood.
– perhaps too grandiose a word; by this I mean my daily commute, and various peregrinations.
Of the latter, first – my walk last Sunday was the first such in a very long time, about as long as I’ve worked for UA. I recall that I felt I had good reasons at the time for choosing not to do so, but in retrospect I have no idea what I imagined those reasons to be! My God it felt good to be up and about on my feet again. Far too great a pleasure to go on so denying myself!
And of commuting, then – In my prior role, I took the light rail every day, and walked to and from the stations. That doesn’t work well with Under Armour, though, unless I choose so to spend three hours out of each day – the span between the light rail line, and the water taxi commuter terminal, is just too far to quickly cross.
Loath as I am to drive, I began doing so daily nonetheless – until, in September, my tired old Saturn got totaled. In a parking lot! – which may give some idea of the vehicle’s age and general state of repair. Since then I’ve grown familiar with Uber, and had many excellent conversations with many excellent drivers, as they helped me get from here to there. But I find I no longer love not only driving, but simply being in a car at all – there is that about it which repels me, and though I do not understand why, neither do I especially care. And not only that – I miss my exercise! Ironic that I’ve gained thirty-some pounds since starting to work at an athleticwear manufacturer, but so it goes – and so I desire it should go no longer.
So I’m going to start using a bicycle again! As soon as the weather permits it – to be sure, that’ll be no obstacle once winter starts to set in again at the end of the year, but I feel I should be gentle with myself at the start – I’m going to start getting the benefit of the Baltimore Bike Share, and thus hastening my commute to a point where it’s practicable. After a while, I think, I’ll purchase a bike of my own – but as with any large purchase, I require of myself that I develop the habit first, and only once I reach the point of outgrowing the tools to hand do I permit myself to invest in their replacements.
It’s going to be hard work – especially at first, while I’m still as yet unused to it. But I’ll make myself its equal, and I’m looking forward to the challenge!
Indeed, if this year is to have a theme for me, then I think that’s the one it has established for itself. And I’m glad of it! Since 2013, and mostly all unawares, I’ve sought ways to recover from the harms inflicted by too many years of an ill-omened and, before long and for far too long, deeply abusive marriage. Sought – and mostly failed to find, and the people who were in my life then and are no longer now, I blame not at all for that distance; I was very fearful then, and I think I must have been very tiresome as well, and each of us after all faces hard struggles of her own.
But I think I’ve finally got the measure of it now! – that, and begun to find myself equal to, and find myself answers for, the first two of the four most important questions: Who are you? and Why are you here? Not done yet, to be sure. But finally, in earnest, beginning – and finding aught of value in the search.
Until next week, then!