I was awed, a couple of weeks back, to spend a few moments watching Pedal Pete (aka Peter Arnott) complete yet another Everesting, one imbued with grief after the death of his niece. I watched him glide down his steep Everesting hill (he’d end up ascending and descending 150 times), not a muscle moving, a study in aerodynamic skill. He banked at the bottom, turned round. I watched him effortlessly rise up out of his seat and pump ferocious leg muscles smoothly, powerfully, as he made his way back up the road. I imagined myself doing this once, twice, three times, hey, maybe four, but could contemplate no more.
We’re besieged by images and stories of super sportspeople, to the extent that they rarely excite awe in us. Too many of us invent narratives in our heads that allow us to dismiss performance or skill that we ourselves can’t find the willpower to work towards. It’s as if we imagine that the extraordinary is, after all, ordinary.
I watched Pete and the question that surfaced startled me. In the face of such talent and dedication, what should I ask of myself? Does this sense of awe just wash over me? Or does it compel me to find something to tackle, to strive to master it?
(Photo courtesy of Brendan Edwards – check out his varied and fascinating cycling blog.)
I’ve been trying not to think much about my aim to conduct a Cranes Big Year, twelve calendar months during which I seek, see, photograph and write about all the crane species of the world across every continent. This is a very different “big year” to jogging more, or writing more productively, or devoting time to activism. The “cranes” notion is an unbidden one, coming from deep inside. In some sense, the cranes have spoken to me.
Well, a sixty-year-old needs to schedule the more physical years earlier rather than later, so I’ve been avoiding cranes. But take a look at this photo of brolgas at the Western Treatment Plant! David Adam, a member of Victorian Birders, has captured a familial scene I’ve never witnessed. As soon as I saw this shot, I knew the Cranes Big Year must be bumped up in the queue. David, thanks!
Lit Hub, the interesting website for readers, has decided to do for recent books what Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic does for films, i.e. aggregate and average public reviews. It surveys a wide range of publications, and whenever a new book gains enough critical mass for three or more reviews, Book Marks pronounces an A/B/C average rating and sums up critical responses. The Book Marks website is vibrant and attractive, and there is some benefit to being able to quickly ascertain a book’s reception. But I’m not partial to Rotten T and doubt if I’ll use this site. Just as a parcel of Amazon reviews can be superficially worth examining, but always ends up as confusing because you just don’t know where the reviewers are coming from, I believe in following individuals, critics with consistent outlooks and standards.
A few years down the track, I intend to do a Reading Big Year, reading some three or four books a week for all fifty-two weeks of the year. Should I review them all? The idea is most attractive, if scary.
Ten years. First half year. Two big years halfway through. Progress?
Jogging Big Year: big thumbs up.
Writing Big Year: big thumbs down
Sculptor and artist Anne Truitt kept a diary in the late 1960s. In Daybook: The Journal of an Artist, she writes about her stringent work habit: ” . . . during the years from 1948 to 1961 I had formed the habit of working in my studio almost every single day. Rain or shine, eager or dragging my feet, I just plain forced myself to work. . . . Something graceful and to be cherished, something delicate and sweet fell by the board with this obsession, which, in essence, still remains a mystery to me. Why am I so obsessed? I do not know.”
The purpose of this blog is to talk to myself. Of course what tends to spew out is the doubt, the angst. But a Big Year is not life, it’s just one way to focus life. Even as I’ve grown anxious about my big years over the last week or so, life has been filled with joy. Images from last week: the frisson of jogging through puddles after rain has turned to sunshine; Money Monster – a flawless, exhilarating script; Mustang – sexual oppression in Turkey tackled in this angry yet luminescent film.
My Big Decade is a geeky exercise in focus, and it involves plenty of data keeping for the sake of monitoring. Most people are relaxed and monitor nothing. At the other extreme are those within the “quantified self” movement, dedicated to (in Wiki words) “incorporate[ing] technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life.” This seems extreme even to me. But one could get fascinated . . .
Check out Steven Jonas’s article “Shannon Conners: A Lifetime of Personal Data.”