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 . . .
Refuse to be distracted, that’s the rule. No reflection about my future Cranes Big Year until next year at the earliest, right? Then I see this headline and my heart lurches. Dead cranes/brolgas?
Phew . . . a different kind of beast altogether.
Each midnight is a day older, right? Midnight on the day before one’s birthday is no different in that regard, right? A birthday is, in that sense, nothing especially meaningful. But I find that each birthday hits me differently. Most zip by as pleasant irritations, but I experienced reaching age 45 as traumatic, and 50 wasn’t pretty.
Age 60 might have depressed me but I launched my 60s as a decade of these geeky Big Years, so I recall three years ago as a buzz. Age 61 meant nothing and my 62nd birthday was mild fun, but just before midnight on Tuesday, I woke from deep sleep and thought, “I don’t want to be 63 tomorrow.” 63 is closer to 65 than it is to 60! I rose and moped while the world around me slept.
I haven’t been myself since. I know all the cliches about “only being as old as you think of yourself,” and “wait till you hit 70,” but platitudes never help. I didn’t expect to feel like this but now that I do, what to do? As always, I’ll write and ruminate, so you can expect to read more existential nonsense from me over the next few days.
Oh, I forgot to mention that red wine is a salve.
I don’t read many scientific journals these days. Other reading takes precedence. But holy shit, this one needs attention. Blake Foden in The Age sums up an article with a daunting title in a tier 1 journal, “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” published August 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academ of Sciences. I’ll sink into the full article.
Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead propping on my arse in a seaside holiday town, but the experience in magical Rovinj has been so wonderful that my aversion to sitting still now seems wrong. Seven nights in one place! No car (and limited drawcards near town)! Laziness but plenty of restorative exercise! A rare opportunity to review what an inspiring long trip has provoked!
So . . . I depart homeward today with many changes afoot, both in the short term and into the 2020s.
Nervous but excited.
Watching climate change truth is as difficult as wrestling with existence: you need to do it but the further you go, the greater the terror. As well as reading two fine books over this trip, I’ve forced myself to watch Season 2 of “Years of Living Dangerously.” Not fun, not fun at all, but let me commend the series to you.
A snapshot of the eight episodes is all you need. In Episode 1, David Letterman tours India, destined to ramp up disastrous coal-fired electricity, and actress Cecily Strong reveals how American utilities use all means to delay rooftop solar. Jack Black, in Episode 2, is riveting as well as entertaining while exploring Miami, a city seemingly oblivious to a future under water, while Ian Somerhalder tracks another scientist-hero, geologist/geophysicist Jeff Donnelly, in extracting deep sea cores to learn about past hurricane incidence/severity. Tom Friedman of the NYT is his usual compelling self in Episode 3, investigating the beginning of mass climate refugee movements, and Don Cheadle looks at California’s worst-in-1,200-years drought. Episode 4 is marred by Arnold Schwarzenegger pursuing a silly topic but supermodel Gisele Bundchen shines while investigating Amazon deforestation due to mankind’s meat binge.
I was especially interested in actor Ty Burrell’s Episode 5 examination of electric cars and their promise when coupled with automation and ride-sharing.; actor Brad Whitford looks at the push to compel Republicans to see climate reality. In Episode 6, Joshua Jackson reveals how the oceans are slowly but surely warming and acidifying disastrously (cue our very own Great Barrier Reef). Actress Nikki Reed lucidly looks at the carbon tax solution in #7, while journalist Aasif Mandvi digs into the vanishing of species. Episode 8 sees America Ferrera putting the immoral US coal industry under the microscope, and Sigourney Weaver mesmerises with a narrative that says China has, over the last half decade, switched towards a clean energy future commitment.