Lockdown hell for musicians?

Osaka musicians

Self-isolation works well for me (or it should, if general societal anxiety didn’t creep in unbidden any time of the day). But what about those who create with others? I was reminded of a marvellous moment in Osaka last November. On a canal island, we sat, transported, with an “anyone can drop in” group of over a dozen musicians jamming on a jazz standard for … for seemingly forever. The session was led by a foppish stand-up bassist and a fast-fingered guitarist. Look at their joy! What of them now, holed up in tiny apartments? Will their souls shrivel up?

Lexicon Big Year: Mar 18 & 28

4 words

Mar 18: Steven Poole tells me a punctilio is a “tiny detail … a nice point of exactness.” Right now, under Covid-19 lockdown, many behaviours amount to punctilios: avoiding touching banisters, preserving four square meters, paying by card rather than case, etc. Of course the biggest lockdown requirement – isolate yourself, buster – is the exact opposite of a punctilio. My word on that day? I liked the sound of friable, although its definition – easily crumbled – doesn’t seem to match that sound.

Mar 28: Poole has a word to describe my mood yesterday morning. “To be mumpish is to be sullen and sulky.” Man, was I mumpish! And I guess I exhibited my word of the day: I acerbated, that is, I vexed and annoyed. Today was much better, thank you.

Source: A Word for Every Day of the Year by Steven Poole.

Parkrun Big Year: No Parkruns!

St Peters Parkrun

I ran in the St Peters Parkrun last Saturday. I’m accustomed to finishing in the top half of the participants, only because many walk part of the way. At Sydney Park, my heart sank when I saw how young and fit the 280 runners were. They’re a different demographic, the citizens of Newtown, near a major university. I ran steadily, that adjective denoting slowly, a tad faster than 7:00 mins/km, and I only beat 20 home. But I grinned.

That Parkrun was the tenth in 2020. I’ve missed three of them, once due to travel, once due to Extinction Rebellion, once due to smoke haze cancellation. This morning, Parkrun Australia took the sane action of suspending events as part of the Covid-19 lockdown. At least the next three events are kaput, but I’d guess more, so my Big Year resolve of running 52 events could soon be 50% under target.

I’m not feeling faster but general fitness is picking up and at last I’m getting the weight down, so I’ll honor this Big Year over the next couple of months by attempting 5 km runs on Saturdays with some speed in mind. I’ll court injury or puffed-out disappointment, but on the upside, hey, I might find myself shouting, “I’m improving!”

Lexicon Big Year: Mar 11

Mar 11

You’d think it easy to spend five minutes a day reading a quick definition of a nifty, no-longer-used word, but I’m struggling, both to find the time and to muster the motivation. I’m mostly sticking with the discipline. Some days I find myself catching up on three or four days in arrears. All well and good.

Mar 11: to ostentate is to show off. This is one of Poole’s most “straight” words, for we’re all familiar with ostentation. The word I like today is enucleate, which has any number of technical meanings revolving around removing the nucleus from an object, including surgically excising an eyeball, but which I saw in the context of a bird snipping out boles of wood from a tree.

Source: A Word for Every Day of the Year by Steven Poole.

Easing off at Parkrun

Darwin Parkrun

Nine days ago I experienced Parkrun in the soupy heat of the Wet season in Darwin. Nightcliff is a superb Parkrun by the bay but I was deep inside myself, so immersed in keeping going that I ran past my daughter and granddaughter without noticing them. I walked/ran from 4 kms, a deeply disappointing outcome (a pace of 6:56/km, nearly as slow as walking), but felt great afterwards. So a couple of days ago, back at Gardiners Creek in eastern Melbourne, for the first time this year I made myself run slowly, to plod behind runners who looked like they’d just soldier on. I ended up passing a few of them and crossed the line very content in myself. My pace of 6:52 was the slowest non-stop effort I’ve ever made but I didn’t care. Since then, I’ve felt comfortable taking a couple of days off from running, gym, or cycling, and I know I’m gradually putting on weight, but the pressure of expectations at the beginning of the year was too intense. Tomorrow I’ll renew my routines and aspire to more.

Quiet moments

Nara forest scene

My court case approaches. I find myself taking time to breathe and reflect. Here’s Sasha Sagan from “For Small Creatures Such As We: Rituals and Reflections for Finding Wonder“: ” Between those two enormous mysteries, if we’re lucky, we get eighty or one hundred years. The blink of an eye, really, in the grand scheme of things. And yet here we are. Right now. It’s easy to forget how amazing this is. Days and weeks go by and the regularity of existing eclipses the miraculousness of it. But there are certain moments when we manage to be viscerally aware of being alive. Sometimes those are very scary moments, like narrowly avoiding a car accident. Sometimes they are beautiful, like holding your newborn in your arms. And then there are the quiet moments in between, when all the joy and sorrow seem profound only to you.”

A birder reflects on Big Years

Ted Floyd re the Big Year

In his staggering, beautiful, and informative ode to birding, “How to Know the Birds: The Art and Adventure of Birding,” birder and magazine editor Ted Floyd takes a brief look at the genesis of my seventh decade of obsessive focus, the Big Year. Here’s some of what he says (p. 223): “Everyone who’s ever done a Big Year reports that the experience is, more than anything else, an occasion for introspection. Several of the most celebrated birding memoirs ever written are accounts of Big Years. Do a Big Year, and you’re practically guaranteed to discover new things about birds—and about yourself. ” Nearly halfway through my Big Decade, I can confirm that Floyd is spot on.