My friend Kevin and his big year (though he doesn’t call it that)

Every day, sunny or apocalyptic, Kevin scans his world, takes a photograph and posts it on Flickr. He’s a whiz at composition (the photo below is his and is reproduced with permission, check out his work) and over a year his single works of art build into a large body of art. Kevin relates how a day surgery visit meant he had to set up his tripod the night before and click on the camera before he left. Often he must work hard to organize both the shooting and the uploading. A busy man, this is all he can do to keep the embers of his love of photography glowing.

A Big Year is just Kevin’s daily task restricted to one calendar year. Kevin’s daily commitment turns “should do X” into “I am an Xer.”

Long-range motivation

As of today (August 20), this blog has an exact life expectancy of 3,421 more days. The Big Decade concludes on December 31, 2025.

For some inexplicable reason, the prospect of such sustained activity fills me with energy, and my interest is doubly piqued. Does publicly journaling some aspect of life not only help underpin it (“I’m naked so I’d better behave”), but also doubly enrich life by adding reflection?

What would a Hiking Big Year look like?

Does the reluctantly photographed walker seem happy? He is and his mind inevitably ponders a hiking big year, loads and loads of walking from January 1 to December 31. Call such thinking premature, for 2017 and 2018 are most probably loaded with very different obsessions (but who can tell, part of the pleasure is in weighing momentous choices), but the mind enjoys playing with plans.

Spur-of-the-moment big years, scribbled down a year ago, incorporated not one, but two big years:

  • Long Hikes Big Year. 12 months away from home doing pilgrimage-like walks, the best known example being the Camino.
  • Tough Hikes Big Year. Target the arduous: Grand Canyon, Western Arthurs, Corsica, Tour du Mont Blanc, the canyons of Utah.

But neither of these is as yet well-formed. Neither channels everyday effort. I had this insight while day walking in Wales: the Long year should target X,000 kilometers of distance; the Tough year can target Y,000 meters of ascent.

Up high in the Dolomites later this week, how’s about I take this insight further? Such fun!

An app for Big Decade?

Do we need an app for everything? Spare me, spare me. But maybe we need one more . . .

My two 2016 big years were launched in my head based on little more than a mad impulse. I scribbled some plans in a notebook, waited for January 1, and began. The challenges have been, and very much remain, motivational: why oh why today.

But planning and monitoring were always part of my geeky attraction to the concept. I knew woolly-headed annual goals, such as “shouldn’t I try to inculcate a regular exercise habit,” would sink without a trace. Birders, my role model, know on January 1 precisely what species to aim to see, and they keep careful “I saw this” lists. How then should I organise a Big Year?

A while back, I opined that my jogging app, Strava, “is magic. I know exactly where I am in any day in relation to my big year target. Unfortunately not everything worthwhile in life is covered by an app.” Pedal Pete was onto me in a flash:

There is nothing else worthwhile in your life that cannot be recorded in Strava

So . . . is a Big Decade app worth developing? Intriguing. But no – the journey, half a year old now, seems to be more complex than any software can handle, and the unfolding journey is quite the point of the whole exercise.

Image: Visual Hunt

Record those small moments!

Maria Popova at Brain Pickings muses about “James Baldwin on the revelation that taught him how to truly see” and includes her amazing gathered observations:

“The art of seeing has to be learned,” Marguerite Duras wrote in 1984. Many legendary artists can trace their creative path to a single moment of revelation in which they were suddenly able to see the invisible dimensions of the world — for what is art, after all, if not “a dynamic contemplation” and what is the task of the artist if not to see beyond the seeming realities of the world?

For Patti Smith, that revelation was a glimpse of a swan when she was a little girl; for Virginia Woolf, a gardening epiphany; for Pablo Neruda, a hand through the fence of his childhood home; for Albert Einstein, his first encounter with a compass.

Such small items to trigger lifelong work! I can’t recall what drove me to wish to write in the first place, as a teen, nor indeed what motivated me to give up lucrative day jobs to take it up again later in life (with such dim prospects, as has been demonstrated). But I’m still vulnerable to the effect of small moments. A while ago I posted about Pedal Pete (see “What then in the presence of greatness“). If I hadn’t recorded that sequence of my thoughts, it would have been lost in the soup of mind chatter, but I did, and it still strikes me as revelatory. It says something real about people (for me, how to write characters) but also about time’s arrow (the old saw of “live for the day”). It says more but what?

Chapter 5: A day behind

My stack of index cards is virgin, untouched. After 3 writing days in Suffolk, 3 in Como, those cards are meant to be covered with plot points for Chapter 5. Why a day’s deficit? Travelling dramas and a fall haven’t helped but the main reason is the following photo. Who wouldn’t be a bit languorous under a 27-degree Italian sun?

 

 

1,151 in Como

No jogging companion. 1,151 kms. Another perfect running day but could barely move for some reason. Slow and slow and slow. Dodging gelato-licking tourists and pigeons, I tripped over a seat and fell, a bruise and some blood. 10 kms but a pace of 6:16 mins/km compared to yesterday’s 6:05. For some damned reason, I couldn’t stop grinning.