Author: Clara

Springtime

I do think we’re done with snow! Possibly not, but this week marks the start of spring for us. Sunshine, bugs, the first daffodils. Our groundhog, Marmie, has come out of their hiding. Our bat box is built and up in the meadow. That was 

Flights of Foundry, April 10, 2022

The Rewilding Our Stories Discord participates in Flights of Foundry on April 10. Save the date. It’s going to be fun hanging out with these peeps. Our meetup is in the Toast room (instead of the original Eyrie room) and is titled “Ecology and climate 

Books

You can find all my books at Dragonfly Publishing. I will eventually talk more about them here. I just finished the first draft of my second novel called The Stolen Child, representing a couple years of a lot of writing. Not only did I publish a novella in 2020, in the ecological weird genre, called Bird Song, but on top of writing my second novel, I wrote a short children’s book called Finn’s Tree Alphabet, the first in a series for Finn Wilder, a very special baby in our family! My next project is a novel called Elk Stories. It’s about a woman having phone conversations with her mother, who has dementia. Now, I have to admit there might be some parallels to reality, but the story is totally fictional and has the backdrop of a weirder and wilder world with her mother’s confabulated stories, which get stranger all the time, and climate change changing the landscapes of the woman’s home drastically. I’ve thought a lot about how to bring the story forward with dignity and respect to people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. I do see a parallel between that and the unpredictability of ecological disaster. As I’m thinking about it, I came across an image I’d like to use in the design of the novel and will tease it here. I have already licensed this image for reproduction.

Three Years

It’s been nearly three years since we moved across Canada and bought a cottage house on the outskirts of Halifax, and it has been a wild three years. I was going to list all the bad things, but will not because we all probably already 

Ice Storm

By last Thursday, it was predicted that Nova Scotia would have an ice storm starting sometime on Friday. We often get dire weather predictions and have had Nor’easters and winter storms now five weekends in the past six. I find it lovely for the most 

A Day in the Life

I was thinking about the ordinary today and realized that my days are not the languid, unstructured, and undisciplined days I spent when we moved here to Nova Scotia. They have some sort of routine now, leaving less time for things that I used to do but which also were sort of meaningless in the long run. And even though I have less time, I have more energy if that’s possible. I’ve done “A Day in the Life” posts before, so here’s another one.

Yes, I get up in the morning. Whereas in the old days I would snooze my alarm several times before getting out of bed, dreading the rush hour commute to campus in the Vancouver area, these days I don’t have one of those old-fashioned things called an alarm clock. Rather my phone is scheduled to send an alarm M-F at 7:30 in the morning. I jump right up when I hear it and immediately take a shower. Then, now that it’s winter and we’re not using the crazy expensive electric heat that Nova Scotia has to offer (no natural gas lines to the province, no hydro, and no wind farms, even though they would run well here because there’s so much wind!), I make a fire in the wood stove. I guess there’s some projects in the making, as far as hydro and wind energy, but Nova Scotia is slow to get things done. Then I have about 15 minutes to eat a quick breakfast and do at least one tweet on a place I volunteer for.

It is like paradise sleeping until 7:30 and not having a commute. My job is a contract job and goes until July 23rd. I sit down at my work laptop and spend the morning in meetings, sometimes training, and, more and more, not training having learned enough on my own that I am working with strings that contain translations and code for various languages around the world, all related to something positive, health products that help people to breathe better. The technical writer team just got some new software to manage translations and strings, and it’s interesting how all of it works, and I’ve caught onto the new tool pretty well. I really enjoy the job. The team is actually from Halifax, and they voted to work from home, trying to avoid Covid, and I’m surprised how well I adapted to a quiet job like that. I think I really enjoyed my old job because I worked with students and the department was so great. But this job is far different. I miss some of my old coworkers, but I really like my new coworkers too. And our team is smaller, and there’s no customer-facing fires to put out like I used to have to do. I’m afraid to say it, but even though I am still learning this job, it feels like a privilege to have it, to no longer have to commute anywhere, and so forth, especially in the winter.

I have a half hour lunch whenever I want to take it, and am much more flexible than my old job on when I work. I prefer starting early and leaving early-ish. So my day goes by pretty fast, actually, and by 4:00 pm, I am done working, with still hours left in the day to do the other things I love. I don’t go to sleep until midnight sometimes, though I aim for 11:00 pm at the latest. On my lunch hour or after work, I work out on the water rower several times a week. At first, I went too hard, too fast, and destroyed my lower back, so I restarted the work-out doing fewer minutes and not every day.

I have been playing a game on an emulator, and getting into that lately in the early evenings. Morgan is still working later than me. He is still on Pacific time with his Vancouver crew. We are both extremely fortunate to be able to work from home. Some of that is because of our education and training, but a lot of that is age-based. If I was younger during Covid, it would have sucked. Before college, I mostly worked at restaurants. Growing older isn’t all bad.

So at night I like to get more creative. I generally do errands (laundry, housework, shopping, helping bring wood in, etc.) at night and also then either play a game or edit my novel that’s coming out this fall. I also like to hang out reading the neat thoughts and news of people in the Rewilding Our Stories Discord.  We have a great group of people there who have diverse interests but join to explore the various ways in which we create worlds (stories, games, films, etc.) around ideas stemming from nature and/or environmental issues. I also began writing a new novel called Elk Stories, but it is only two pages long right now! I know that there’s a big part of me that needs to be creative and artistic, or I go nuts.

I also spend as much time as possible keeping in touch with family. I call Mom once a week sometimes. We got into this conversation about face moisturizer we use recently. I’m not really the type of person to care about fashion, makeup, hair, etc. In fact, I haven’t had my hair done at a salon since before Covid. I just do it myself, or Morgan trims my dead-ends off. But winters here are sort of dry, or at least the air dries out my skin, and on a whim I decided to start putting cream on at night. My mother and I had a conversation about which cream we use, and while so ordinary, it was an endearing moment because we never really talk about stuff like that. It was a nice shared moment with her, and something I’ll always hold in my heart. She uses L’Oréal, and I use Oil of Olay.

We have family get-togethers on Zoom occasionally, especially a few around the holidays, and one thing we can all agree on is how wonderful it was to grow up the way we did, with my mom and dad always hosting parties at their house, which the grandchildren (who are no longer children) still go on about. We most recently talked about Mom’s traditional Christmas Eve spread, and though a lot of us are now geographically far apart, we are emotionally connected in many ways, including the kind of food we remember. We all carry on that tradition of her Christmas Eve party food, and we always talk about it every year. What all did she make? Am I forgetting something? She would make these wonderful bacon-wrapped chicken nuggets with a slice of water chestnut and doused in bbq sauce, held together by a toothpick. She made tiny sandwiches with tiny Pepperidge Farm breads, without the crust, and she’d spread deviled ham and deviled chicken on those. She had glass bowls of m&m’s, various chips, dips, pretzels, crackers, frozen pizzas sliced up into squares, shrimp with cocktail sauce, chunks of cheese, little smokies covered in bbq sauce, deviled eggs, and I’m sure other stuff I will remember later. She also made a wonderful punch with fruit juices and sherbet, and it was in her memorable big glass punch bowl with the glass ladle and glass dainty cups. It was so traditional that a lot of us carried that on, though you can’t find the good chicken nuggets here in Canada, that she used (or maybe they are just really terrible), nor can you find that bread or the deviled meat (sometimes you see the ham in stores around here). I found a similar punch bowl in a thrift store, though in this house we’ve only used it for apple cider when we collected apples from our trees this past late summer. I made some punch at the old house on the west coast, but spiked it, of course.

New traditions. Straining cooked apples from the yard into the punch bowl for cider.

So, a lot of my daily life is the carrying forward of traditions. But I’ve created new ones too. Nobody likes Covid, and we all miss going out to be more social. I’m a vegetarian so cannot eat a lot of stuff Mom made as I was growing up, though it’s kind of wonderful to think about that food, just because it was a shared memory with so many others. Also, growing up in the Midwest and in a family where Mom and her relatives came from the South meant that certain foods were so good. In every novel I’ve written so far, I’ve mentioned shucky beans, even in my weird fiction Bird Song. But I’ve found new ways of making things like mustard greens. Instead of bacon and pork fat, you put in cashews and olive oil, for instance. My creativity at night, with food, often is experimental.

I’ve also been thinking of the places we would go out to on a Friday night, pre-Covid. We had our favorites back in the Vancouver area. We liked to go to the Greek Taverna or sometimes a little Italian place called Romas. They had a great dish with eggplant, whole wheat spaghetti, and some other stuff, which I’ve tried to remember–so tonight I made that and it was delish. Besides the eggplant, I put in red onions, kalamata olives, roma tomatoes, green pepper, garlic, and parmesan cheese. The sauce is just an olive oil base. I guess if you had some red wine, you could add some of that. I loved going to Romas. In the winter it was cozy, and in the summer, they had a little patio you could sit outside at, and a hydroponic garden area. But we don’t go out to eat anymore, or we were starting to until Omicron came along.

Oh the little things you miss.

Well, it’s just now early evening on a Friday night. The end of a work-week means a different sort of routine for the weekend. I dip into wine on a Friday or Saturday night, and though not by resolution or anything, I limit myself to drinking alcohol only one night a week. A lot of my family is doing a dry January. Screw that, haha. I think moderation is key. I also just want to try to stay healthy into an old age. Too many weird things happen. One of Morgan’s aunts just died this week. Her breast cancer came back. Little odd quirks happen all the time, and accidents, and you can try to be really good with health, eating, etc., but something can come along and take you. It could happen to any of us. At any age. My niece recently told me that over the summer she got to see some good friends they had met on the road, and within a couple weeks after they visited, they were killed in a freak plane crash.

Maybe I should tie up this post with a few quotes from one of my favorite movies, Dazed and Confused, which is so close to my high school experience (minus the hazing rituals), and related to some of my thoughts now as I think of daily life, of the ordinary, of a sort of connection I have from the now to my past and future:

“Alright, alright, alright.”

“And let me tell you this, the older you do get, the more rules they’re going to try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin’ man. L-I-V-I-N.”

“… with all of this American Bicentennial, Fourth of July brouhaha — don’t forget what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning aristocratic white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.:

“Well, all I’m saying is that I want to look back and say that I did I the best I could while I was stuck in this place. Had as much fun as I could while I was stuck in this place. Played as hard as I could while I was stuck in this place.”

“Check ya later! Check ya later!”

Wintry Moods

It is not even Christmas, but I’m over it. I have one lit reindeer in the bay window, plus a few pine cones. I have two Zoom chats with family coming up this week, which I am looking forward to. It means a wee bit 

Event: DORKS Talk – December 18, 2021

I’ll be giving a presentation at a live DORKS event on Saturday, December 18th, at 2:15 central/3:15 eastern! DORKS is affiliated with Rice University, and they have a lot of interesting topics. This Saturday’s topic is science & art! I will talk about ecologically oriented 

Salt Peanuts

I just watched Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President, a documentary that came out last year. It was available up here in Canada on Kanopy. We get five free movies a month through Kanopy from our library, and they often have art house features and independent films.

When I grew up, Jimmy Carter was a president and then later did and does a lot of great work with peace, Habitat for Humanity, clean energy, and more. I guess I always admired him because he kind of reminded me of my dad. Like Jimmy, Dad was born down South, not really the deep South, but the gateway to it—Louisville, Kentucky—where I was also born. But, because my mother was born in the Appalachian Mountains, our adventures to the southern states began in Eastern Kentucky and then went southward to where aunts, uncles, and cousins resided throughout the years: Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, and all the way down to Florida and west to Texas. I think my parents probably shielded us from the worst problems as we were growing up. Mom and Dad supported civil rights and, like Jimmy Carter, who went to black churches and loved gospel music, so did my parents. When we lived in the Chicago area, Mom and Dad tutored down at the Keystone Baptist Church on Tuesday nights. I sometimes went with them because I was good in English and languages and wanted to practice teaching kids, but as I recall, I mostly tutored them in math. We made friends with a lot of people at the church and sometimes went there on special occasions. I have the same kind of memories of that place as I do of my own relatives down South. Food and music were the backdrops to fun times, and to this day I still prefer the southern food I grew up with that which was available only in black churches, Sunday family picnics, and anything cooked at Mammaw and Pappaw’s holler, be it fried chicken, applesauce cake, shucky beans, cornbread, and the many other perfectly delectable things my mammaw, mom, and aunts used to make. Oh, and genuine banana pudding, with vanilla wafers. Oh, and any kind of collard, turnip, or mustard greens. Like Dad, Jimmy Carter was both an engineer and a poet, so my young life had that guidance, along with big meals where we’d debate at the table and where family gatherings had us elbow to elbow, smothered in laughter, while lightly roasting each other, all along with serious discussion, of course.

Jimmy Carter seems like a genuinely good-hearted person to me, kind of like my dad. Both could be serious. Both loved music. Both really loved gospel. Both had a fun side to them. And both broke barriers in whatever white, conservative places they eventually lived. But I had no idea how involved Jimmy Carter was with various musicians, even ones like Charlie Daniels, who was a staunch Republican. Jimmy had and has a way of bringing people together who would normally stay away from each other. He said in the documentary that music was a great way to join people together, a commonality that could bring good times and peace. Jimmy was great friends with Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, Willie Nelson, Dizzy Gillespie, and so many others. The effect he had on everyone, and they on him, was amazing. As I watched the documentary, I thought, wow, that sure was a different life back then. Things were never perfect with the world, but his presidency had some real integrity, and the good he’s done since is miles above what most leaders since him have accomplished. I guess back then, I was innocent too, being so young. I look at the world around me now and don’t go to church anymore, nor do I care to. I am jaded by the step religion took in the United States in the past few decades as well as the fact I agree with Dan Rather, when he said once, “In science I trust.” But there’s a sort of peace I get when thinking about people like my dad, who passed away in 2009, and Jimmy Carter. In the documentary, at a White House concert in the 1970s, Jimmy got on stage with Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach, and sang the “Salt Peanuts” part to the song. That took me to another stage of my life, quite some time after Jimmy Carter was president, to the late 1990s and early 2000s when I was really into bebop and jazz, when I lived in California. I would listen for hours to Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Wes Montgomery, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Sarah Vaughan and others. I guess that’s not all bebop, some came later, some earlier. I even got to see Charlie Mingus at a park in Lake Forest once.

So, yeah, the documentary brought back a lot of memories and a sort of peaceful feeling as I sit in a world getting weirder and weirder. Dad and I even got to see Jimmy Carter when he came to Purdue University (both our alma maters) once. I left feeling energized.

As that Season Comes Upon Us

I recently rejoined the workforce after our big move to Halifax, Covid-19, and a receding job market made job-hunting tough. I am now being paid to write, imagine that, and the job is great so far. It’s a contract job that goes until July, after