The point of this post isn’t necessarily about pumpkin ale but about my usual theme: life revolving around the seasons. However, I did find pumpkin ale on sale already at the local liquor store, which was a surprise. Last year I didn’t find any until …
There’s no one magic moment in life that turns everything around–that makes everything 100% good. But today the inauguration of the 46th president and vice-president of the United States makes great strides toward light, hope, and good. Today decries the past four years of hatred …
This morning I took transit to work since it has been super cold and somewhat snowy and there are still icy patches here and there on the roads. At one point the train passed a forest, and it was just in an instance my mind went away from reality as I got caught up in imagination–the forest was dark and cold and just coming to bare light beneath a slowly bluing sky, where a dark silky indigo hovered above while in the forest itself stood tall bare trees with snow heaving to their lower trunks, but only for an instance. I had wanted it to go on forever, which no forest does now. Then I was back in the world of high rises twinkling with lights under the ancient and near black sky. I went back to reading on my Kindle, which happens to be The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan.
The year has been bittersweet so far. I don’t like to post very private things here, but of course some things are super sweet. The move to Halifax is getting real. We have a broker, a realtor, and I’ve put in my notice at work and have 30 more working days after today. We’ve begun giving away clothes and doing some deep “spring” cleaning. We have an auction date set and a tentative timeline and appointment to ship our car out there. This busyness is also why I have been quieter on social media and on the blog. Meanwhile, the cold winter settles and creaks around the house. At first the new year came in with warmer temperatures and a ton of rain. I thought we’d flood. I hadn’t even had a dry day to go sweep out the multiple leaves gathered on the back deck. Looking out the door reminds me of lost ruins. Then the snows came, and now it is so cold it reminds me of when I lived in Chicago.
The bitter side: my family is experiencing a profound loss that came as a surprise on Christmas day. Separate from that is the health of my one living parent, and it seems like it may be similar to a repeat of what we went through with Dad. Then if I pan out to the world, Australia is burning. Climate change isn’t just a future thing. It’s already here, and we are living through it, and people in the mainstream are generally just tired of talking about it or are in some kind of denial and don’t talk about it. My colleagues out in Australia, who I’ve worked with for a while now in the literary world, and who run Stormbird Press (an affiliate that’s acquiring several of my old books from Moon Willow), posted the other day on Facebook:
It is with great sadness that I share the fate of Stormbird Press. The office building, Margi and Geoff Prideaux’s home (the founders of Stormbird who have spent almost three decades working on the front lines of wildlife conservation) and their large property which has served as an important wildlife habitat has been lost to the fires ravaging Kangaroo Island.
Margi and Geoff as well as all Stormbird staff are exhausted but safe. After weeks of helping to fight fires across the island they are now recovering in the homes of friends and community members or evacuation centres. All are humbled by the strength of community support. They join the CFS, farmers, the Army, the Red Cross and a host of veterinarians and wildlife carers and conservation groups who are working tirelessly to protect properties and livelihoods, most importantly keep people safe, and help injured wildlife.
The fire season is not over. This is the new normal—unpredictable and unprecedented fires, floods, heatwaves and devastating species loss.
A huge thank you to our fantastic fire fighters and the hundreds of farm fire units fighting the flames every day. These are the warriors who are actually facing our climate emergency while our leaders continue to flounder.
From deep within our hearts—thank you.
I also heard recently that my friend John Atcheson was killed in a car accident. You can read more at Common Dreams. When I began the site about eco-fiction, I read John’s book A Being Darkly Wise. I really fell in love with the story. It was set in British Columbia, and John had such a rich background, including with the government in the EPA, and was both outspoken and passionate about the environment and our place in it. He was so knowledgeable. Our first interview was in the fall of 2014, and I reiterated some of that conversation in a climate change author spotlight in 2017, this time talking about newer books in the series, a new nonfiction book he’d just published, and kind of the normal political stuff around Trump. I’d decided to do a second edition of Winds of Change this fall, and I will dedicate it to him. He’d also contributed a short story that, among other stories in the anthology, received high kudos from English professors at the University of Minnesota who used these stories in a book about teaching writing about climate change. They also used the stories in their own classes.
It is life though. Gain and loss. The loss in our family has once again drawn many of us together and it’s been like old home time, with long conversations between us. I sometimes walk around the house talking, phone in hand, fire place on, trying to get warm, as we work this out together. Good times and bad times.
Anyway, I sit here this morning trying to fight the cold, dreaming of a summer full of cricket and bullfrog sounds in Halifax and all that lovely green that will embrace the world.
And I love it.
I’m back at work again and was so surprised yesterday to have a great talk with the dean in our school and one of the ops managers, who are supporting my academic presentations in early October for the World Summit Ecocity. This event happens every two years in a city around the world, and this year it’s being sponsored partially where I work and is, of course, happening in Vancouver. I worked hard earlier in the spring on applications to present a writer’s workshop and a paper. I was approved for both, and the program committee and dean approved my funding, so it was all solidified yesterday. I can’t relay how good it feels to have that kind of support. My workshop is here, but my paper presentation is conflicted time-wise so is being rescheduled. I’m pretty excited by it, really, because I only get a chance maybe once a year to speak in public and I like it and love meeting new people that way.
For all the crap I’ve experienced this year and last with medical things, which do seem to be clearing up now, this was really a welcome surprise. I explore and share ecofiction on my own time. I don’t get paid for it. I don’t want to get paid for it. It’s a passion, and I think some things in life just have to be free. I often feel like an underdog, which is good; it keeps me from being arrogant and snobby. But when people do have my back, I feel humbled and am grateful forever.
P.S. I am not knocking actual authors because we need their words. I mean, my dream is to write novels for a living–maybe someday. Stories are all we have.
Anyway, today, I worked on job things and later created an almost polished 19-page PowerPoint presentation for the summit. It gave me a chance to really plan out the workshop, though my abstract already had an outline, and it will help in finishing a 22-page thesis type of paper to accompany the academic presentation–which itself is only fifteen minutes long. I will be sure, in the end, to share my paper and presentation at the main Dragonfly.eco site! I’m also running a survey on social impacts of environmental fiction but will not use the data in my October report, because I want minimally 200 responses. If you are reading this, please consider helping. What it really comes down to, as far as cultural impact of fiction, is psychological–and these tests have already been done and are continually being offered. But I think I’m one of the few, if not first, to look specifically at readers’ thoughts related to all kinds of ecologically oriented fiction. I’ve had a few dozen responses so far but do want a better sample. A lot of the responses have come from older academics, mostly who are professors–which is great!–but I also really want to reach out to younger students, which is my goal for term start.
Between now and September 3, when the 22-page paper is due, I have a lot of things to do. Maybe just sitting down and writing it out will keep me focused.
- This Saturday we’re doing a southern BBQ, and I am so freaking excited by the apricot-bourbon drink I’m making, which went over really well before.
- Meanwhile, I am reorganizing Moon Willow Press because submissions are permanently closed and I’m transitioning things over to this site (so excuse the mess).
- Also, I have a new spotlight coming up at Dragonfly.eco, which I hope to have up pretty soon. I’ve already gotten a lot of content for it. It’s just a matter of putting it together.
- I have major stuff at work to do to get ready for students; it’s one of the busiest times of the year, but it’s also exciting with new faces and seeing new degree students come in.
- The weekend after this, we get ready for my mother-in-law, two of her friends, and my husband’s cousin and one or two of his friends to come visit.
- I have the whole week of August 6th off, and we’re all heading over to Salt Spring Island to tent-camp for three nights and four days. It’s just a quick ride to the ferry that heads to Salt Spring, and not too far for the camp site from there.
- The following weekend, my mother-in-law and her sister and maybe one other will be here to watch one of her nephews in an ice-skating competition.
- Back to work the week after, and I have two weeks to get ready for one of the registrations we have. During this time I’ll have to finish that paper!
- Also, though, Classic Wow starts on August 26th. I am definitely working that day but am trying to get the rest of the week off so I can get ahead a little in game, but right now it is not a high priority after all. I’m excited for it. It’s a way to have fun and some downtime.
- Then, autumn. Beautiful, beautiful autumn! Or it may be super hot then, who knows.
- From then to the end of year: I have the summit on October 8, we’re leaving directly afterward for a long weekend of camping near Lake Mead with my daughter and her boyfriend, and then I am also taking a long weekend near American Thanksgiving for the usual big dinner I do for everyone.
- We usually don’t do a lot around Christmas. We do a dinner with some friends everywhere; we are all Christmas “adoptees” since our families are so far away.
- Sometime soon I also have to finish up my novel Up the River!
The featured image is just of some guy on horseback we saw when we went on a rafting-grizzly bear tour on the Atnarko River a few years ago.
People come and go. Eagles come and go. Water is always moving. On Saturday we rafted part of the Squamish River,which is the largest home in the world for bald eagle populations. It wasn’t a wild fast paddle but a slow one, which went from Squamish to the brackish waters of the tidal area, where we also saw numerous seals coming up from the ocean to feed on salmon. It is journeys like this, where I don’t want to leave the place and could stay all day, despite the cold water chilling my feet, gently puddling around my gumboots. I thought of life, of people I loved, and knew I had to give Mom a call that night because we were due for a call–hadn’t talked significantly for about a month. Rivers remind me of life, of time. Call me a nostalgic person, and I don’t care. But when I see the beauty of the world I remember what has gone before me, the love I felt growing up, and there are few people I can share these memories with outside of my mother. We aren’t stuck in the past, and we are also excited about the present and still dream of things to do tomorrow. But sometimes I do get a little sentimental, and though she was busy that night, this morning we finally talked–for almost four hours. We solved a few mysteries. Find out below.
It’s been a strange year in a few ways. Late last year I posted how my dad’s first cousin Linda didn’t look like she’d make it. She didn’t. I learned early this year of her death. She fought her entire life against racism and for equality for all and taking care of our natural world. And she was a sweet second cousin to me–making it to our southern road trip back in 2012 and joining us at Jerry’s restaurant, which was like a running tradition in our family. This was how January 2018 came in for me. You know, when people die we know it could be us next time…and life doesn’t seem so fair sometimes. Like when my husband’s cousin died suddenly during the early morning of November 1 this year of a heart attack and left behind a young wife and three children. Sometimes people are expected to die. Sometimes not.
My mother and I talk about people we’ve known, places we’ve been. Some memories are a little foggy. Like I remember a place we camped once when we were kids, and I recall one of my brothers and I finding wild grapevines out in the forest and swinging on them, pretending to be Tarzan. Back then if we camped, we usually did tent-camping, but at this place it was a cabin and had actual cots. We’d never been there before or gone after it. We were happy about the cabin shelters because there was a great thunderstorm that night. Because I was so much younger, I never remembered the name of the place, but after talking about it this morning, Mom had me convinced it was near Shades State Park, and I didn’t really believe her because we went to Shades and Turkey Run often–but only hiking, never camping. But I looked around the area nearby, and there is actually a place called Clements Canoes Outdoor Center that rents primitive cabins that are kind of in the middle of the forest, not around other cabins, and I think that might be it. One mystery solved.
As we talked, she asked me once again to look on the internet or Facebook to find one of her best friends, Susan, from the Chicago area. I had tried researching before, but not for several months. Sure enough, it turns out that she died in April this year. We moved to the Chicago area when I was 13 and stayed there for nearly a decade. Mom and Dad had met some very good friends–but she called Susan her best friend. Eventually they lost touch, but around that time Susan’s husband died, and as it turned out then so did she a couple years later. I hated reading the obituary over the phone, but that mystery was solved too, and I felt sorry for Mom. She lost her parents at a fairly young age, she lost her husband, my dad, and each year we learn of more deaths from the people she knew back then. This year another of her friends from the Chicago area died too. Mom is still kicking it though. Susan was the mother of one of the members of the band Umphrey’s McGee–who one of my brothers also grew up with–who I will feature in my next song of the week soon. They were one of the bands, along with Jack Johnson, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt and Jon Cleary, Maroon 5, Philip Glass, Zac Brown Band, moe., the Bad Plus, Blitzen Trapper, Mason Jennings, John Scofield, Piers Faccini, Switchfoot, Brett Dennen, Ky-Mani Marley, Sun Kil Moon, Ben Solee, Ra Ra Riot, Spoek Mathambo, Taj Mahal, Toad the Wet Sprocket, the Drive-By Truckers, Bobby Long, The String Cheese Incident, Ki: Theory, Moondoggies, Vusi Mahlesela, Disco Biscuits, O.A.R., Ziggy Marley, Los Lobos, Dawes, Abigail Washburn, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Brandi Carlile and many more, who donated to the Patagonia Music Collective, which raises money for the environment. Umphrey’s McGee donated proceeds from “Hajimemashite” to Climate Cycle.
I listened to the song this morning after talking with Mom. I barely recognize Joel (founding member and keyboardist), as he was also young when I knew him, but I really like what he is doing and am always inspired when people like those in his band care about the planet. Hajimemashite is a greeting in Japanese but translates literally to “it’s a beginning.” A quip that also ties with “all things must pass.” Listening to the song made me think of Joel’s parents and the great friendship and love they had for our family, and how, even though they are both gone, there’s this beauty that lives on in the music their son makes. It reminded me of a moving river and the continuity of eagles and seals and salmon and all the other life that exists in that ecosystem and may continue to if we don’t ruin it.
Speaking of musicians, the first guy I ever dated was in high school, and his name was Tom. I found out quite by accident this year that he is dead. I don’t know when he died, but I guess after high school he must have gone into the army. Eventually he got married and had a son. I lost touch with him, for even though we didn’t date long, we remained great friends, but I also moved away from the Chicago area after high school. And I went on to kind of drift after college–ending up falling in love with California, the ocean, the mountains, and so on–it was never my style to stay in one place for too long, though I guess now I have found the place that is more me than any place before–the temperate rainforest of British Columbia–and having also found my soul mate and true love here, I guess it makes sense to not feel like a drifter anymore, though together my husband and I love to see new places. However, we know for sure now, having explored so many areas in the province, that there is no place like home. And as we learned over the weekend on the raft trip, the temperate rainforest of British Columbia has the largest biomass areas in the world. Yeah, give me that. Give me the biomass, and that’s my forever home.
Anyway, Tom was a guitarist in a band that I think I’ve forgotten the name of–another mystery to solve some day–and we met at our job, where a few long-lasting friends at my high school worked back then. Tom and I kind of hooked up at a party, and our dating consisted of me going to listen to his band play on the weekends. No movies. No dinners. But I liked it. We did this for a couple months before he just kind of drifted away and eventually dated another girl for about the same amount of time. I think we didn’t work out because we were like brother and sister to begin with. We talked and hung out all the time, and it was finally clear to me when I experienced my first heartbreak ever that I felt more strongly for him than he did me, but of course it was okay because we were young and stayed friends, and I also started dating others. But he was a kind and gentle soul, super skinny as we all were back then, with big blue eyes. His band played a lot of Led Zeppelin–they seemed to really like the song “Dazed and Confused” and some songs I’d never heard of before like James Gang’s “Funk 49”. I occasionally still hear that song on the radio, and always point it out to my husband as being a cool song that never seemed very mainstream. I think it actually came out on Rock Band or Guitar Hero at one point in time, and I’m like “Yes! I know this song,” while the rest of our friends had no clue about how cool it is, nor had ever heard it.
I’m rambling like the river. I think of my mother’s sweet southern voice and her love of remembering old things with me as we walk down memory lane or dream of seeing each other in the future. Time is not linear. There’s always the present moment, which like a drop of rain dissipates into a puddle and expands the water. There’s the past that never dies because it lives on in us. There’s the future that is part of today’s planning. The current just keeps moving. And sometimes we move with it; sometimes stand like sentinels at the bank, watching it.