Deciding what Big Years to do over my sixties is obviously of paramount importance. In May I decided to drop one planned such year, a Tough Hiking Big Year during which I might do the Tour du Mont Blanc, say, or the Western Arthurs, or some other famous slog. I figured I was done with masochistic challenges to self.
Last weekend we climbed the North West Spur up to Mount Feathertop, Victoria’s second highest peak. Once this hike would have had me sweating but confident. Now, underdone and less strong, the 1,000-metre ascent slammed my quads and, most weirdly, had me huffing and stopping. It was as if I were beginning pack carrying over again. At the end of two days, I was spent.
But here’s the mystifying aftermath: something in that unenjoyable battle sparked an ember. Isn’t this, after all, glorious? Doesn’t a physical test that gets you into remote, beautiful locations offer profundity. Should I reconsider the May decision? The jury is out.
Last year I listened to an album each and every day. Every 3 days, I stopped and jotted down some notes and a rating (archived on a Pinterest board). At the end of the year, and into the early part of this year, I bemoaned the fact that, while pleasant, that intense effort didn’t restore my love of music. I was listening no more frequently than back in 2016! Well, the strangest things happen . . . suddenly, nearly a year later, my rock mojo is back. At home, on the street, at work in a café, gorgeous modern music plays. It’s a tonic and an inspiration!
Ha! I was delighted to see that one of my heroes, artist and creativity inspirer, Austin Kleon, recently posted about “My year with Thoreau,” his daily reading of the abridged journal of Henry David Thoreau. By any other name, I call that a Big Year, and his post makes it clear it was a fruitful one. Take a look!
(Image from his post)
Call 2018 a well-meant mistake. Too many Big Years, full of strictures . . . failure of the most important ones. It’s one thing to acknowledge defeat, it’s another to move on. Right now, I need, deep inside, the knowledge of that daily call to discipline and action. Right now is a busy time but I have some ideas . . .
Doesn’t this brilliant photograph capture our anomie in this brutal universe? How do you cope? I tilt for the moon with my Big Years.
(Photo by eric anada from Pexels)
No details because the idea is only 10% formed but this The Eastern Curlew: The Extraordinary Life of a Migratory Bird by noted Melbourne ornithologist Harry Saddler has leapt out at me with the force of a bullet train. Saddler has apparently (based on Amazon’s blurb and Tim Flannery’s excellent October 13 review in The Weekend Australian Review) travelled, low budget and low key, to “see” the amazing Eastern Curlew in its environs. Can’t wait to read it . . .
In an opinion piece in the New York Times (Sep. 29), Tim Wu rues the modern dampener of the quests for “success” and “excellence” on the basic act of having a hobby.
Lost here is the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it.
I’d go further: why not be really crappy at something and seek to gradually get a little bit better, even if you never become at all “good at it”? Most of my Big Years are exactly that, doing something every day and doing it badly. I’m a lousy birdwatcher and hey, no one I know jogs any slower than I do!
(Photo from that NYT article. Thanks to Jocelyn Glei‘s wonderful podcast and newsletter for bringing this to my attention.)
Do you ever suddenly dip into hopeless gloom at five o’clock in the afternoon? For no good reason you can fathom, your energy dies and you survive the hours until sleep with a sense of hopelessness and dread. This happens to me maybe once a quarter and I’ve observed something even stranger: the next morning I rise from bed buoyant and cheerful. It’s as if one extreme state is accompanied by the other. Can I explain it? No, and I’m not sure I want to.
Urgency grips the geek. 100 days! Can he do it? So what if he does?
I’ve reassessed progress and prospects. The picture over the four Big Years isn’t pretty but each has lifted me for the better. Over the next week or so, I’ll reshape the four pushes towards December 31. Call me excited!
In my experience it doesn’t take much to unscramble one’s determination. Over the last week I’ve been plumbing the dizzy heights and mired depths of self publishing (Deadly Investment, my first crime novel, approaches!). Commissioning professionals to assemble the book’s bits and pieces, trying to think in sales mode, planning detailed steps, all the while struggling with a leg injury . . . I lapsed. I was laboring hard but all my Big Years momentarily faltered. I got up early but wasn’t drafting my big book (1,000 Big Year). Some hiking, biking, and gym kept me from ossifying but my exercise targets slumped (Freshness Big Year). I even missed a couple of Headspace days (Stillness Big Year). I did keep up the Tractor Big Year research into publishing (in fact that’s all I did). I drank wine and ate chocolate.
Yesterday the usual “why falter” gloom set in but today I’m reassembling my life. Back on track soon . . .