Looking Forward Rather than into the Past

I was going to do one of those “here’s my most memorable times of the past decade” posts, but decided that the future and the now is much more exciting in some ways. Oh, I did a lot of stuff in the last past decade, like writing and publishing a novel, opening Dragonfly.eco, starting a publishing company, and continuing at the college full-time–which is a lot of work. There was also the historical woman’s march in DC that we attended. I also began running and stopped running due mostly to a left foot that has running injury-related arthritis and torn ligaments. I also learned some important lessons, the most important of which is to not let people try to make you feel small and unimportant. Yes, I’ve dealt with this in the past decade, for years, but there was a positive side to it all finally–and that was a renewed determination to just overcome such challenges, let them go, and continue the work I do. To new writers like me: chin up. Rise above.

So, let’s move on. I don’t mention super personal stuff in this blog much, like motherhood and being a life partner to “Mighty Morgan”. I like to keep a lot of things personal, but my family is my biggest love. Outside of that, here are the things I’m looking forward to:

1. I guess the biggest news is our move to Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’m going out in early March to look for a house. I am already getting a few nostalgic moments here in the Vancouver area, because we have had a great life here for the past 13 years. But when we’re now out in the woods or staring across misty lakes, I remember all of our wonderful outdoor adventures–all blogged about here in the past five years or so. But Halifax is also beautiful. I love the Atlantic Ocean, maybe want to try surfing again and kayaking and hiking along the coastal and woodland trails there. I am going to love living in a more rural area, near a much smaller city. I can build another real garden. Did you know that Halifax has more bars per capita than any other North American city? I’m not a bar person, but I think that’s kinda neat and am sure I’ll partake. I’m also looking forward to the following things: thunderstorms, cricket sounds at night, actual winters, older architecture, and some of the things I’ve missed from the eastern US growing up.

2. Job. I don’t know what kind of job I’ll get when we move. I don’t necessarily have to work because of a much lower mortgage payment, but I will need to do something or I will be bored. There’s a couple universities and colleges around, so that’s always an idea. Sometimes I still toy with going back to do more graduate work so that I can teach, but although I love learning, I don’t think I’d do it unless I could have a focused supervision on something like ecological weird fiction. Lately I’ve also been interested in the nature of original fairy tales and how they mirrored culture and the natural landscape a long time ago. Other times I can see myself working in a bookstore, like organizing author events. But I’m just not sure. I think in the beginning after we move, I will have time to finish Up the River before returning to work–becoming a real writer is a dream. It’s just really hard to do with my current career, the last years of Moon Willow Press, and all the work I do at Dragonfly. Our move is going to give me some breathing room for sure.

3. Speaking of novels. I keep going back and forth about the Wild Mountain duology. I really wanted to continue that story, but now am not so sure. The second part is set in Ireland, but I don’t believe it’s the story I want to tell about Ireland. I already began a weird fiction novel set there, which I like much better. I am going to put that whole Back to the Garden sequence on hold for the moment. It was originally published six years ago now; that seems a long time to take place between a series of novels even though I updated it in 2018. I am, however, nearing completion of the first draft of Up the River, a separate novel. I like where it’s going, and it’s timely and relevant. I have several other pieces in the works. I’ve also entertained the idea of doing a children’s book or writing more short stories. Time will tell.

4. Moon Willow Press. I had a good run with the press, but closed submissions last year and also announced this year that the press is closing in 2023, when the last of the author contracts expire. I have developed an informal partnership with Stormbird Press. I’ve worked with its staff and some of its writers for years, including my contribution to their anthology Tales from the River. We are currently collaborating on a new book project. To date they have taken three books from my press and republished them, and are working on a fourth (and hopefully will be more in the future). So my time is starting to free up with publishing, leaving me more time for writing! I have moved my own novel from MWP over to my self-publishing company Dragonfly Pub. I dunno, MWP will have run 14 years as a business. That’s a good run, I think, for a niche, one-woman press. And, to date, I’ve donated a portion of book sales to reforestation, planting nearly 1,700 trees.

5. Politics. Can Donald Trump please be impeached? Or not re-elected? Can Canada build renewable energy sites and leave the bitumen in the ground? Can white nationalism and populism please dive off a high cliff and never come back? By the way, my niece posted this yesterday on Facebook. I don’t normally post memes, but I liked this one:

6. Ecological work. I’m already writing to ecology centers in Halifax, interested in getting involved in actual work. Yes, I like to write. But I like to also do. Here in Vancouver I’ve worked on and off, during the past 13  years, with Riverkeeper, Streamkeepers, and the Port Moody Ecological Society. I’ve waded through fast running creeks wearing hip boots to cut down invasive blackberries or clear debris to allow salmon and other fish through. I’ve organized beach cleanups and marched in Victoria and Vancouver to protest climate change and to promote wild salmon health. I’ve paddled the Fraser to raise awareness of First Nations’ role in speaking up for wild salmon (and subsequently had the best meal I believe I’ve ever had with wild salmon and bannock bread). I’ve taken water samples, dissected dead salmon to educate children on fish anatomy and the life cycle of salmon, and even got to meet Gord Downie and Jack Johnson when working with musicians to promote clean water. I’ve photographed beaches, taken part in tree fests, and spoken at both literary events and shoreline cleanups. I want to really continue this work in the future and am curious what the scene is like in Halifax. Here, it’s a bit hard as Vancouver’s metro area is so spread apart. Just even getting to Vancouver can take an hour or more on the train and bus.

7. I’m looking forward to other volunteer projects of the literary kind, including continuing to guest post at other organizations and growing the Dragonfly.eco site even more. I guess when I first started the site in 2013, it was pretty informal and not even that planned out. I just wanted to have a place for people to find fiction about climate change. It was just a list at first, not really any articles. It has grown so much since then, expanding into the broad and elastic nature subjects that are not always related to just climate change (which is, in and of itself, huge–but the ecological world is much bigger than just the issue of climate change, so that’s what I grew into). The monthly spotlight on authors has been in existence now since October 2016, so is going into its fourth year in 2020. I plan to keep up with this spotlight forever, because there will always be new authors. The main change since I began the site was shifting the spotlight to specifically be “around the world” and to incorporate more diversity in this literature that nobody else was covering at the time. I continue as well with a childrens/teens/YA spotlight, the “Women Working in Nature and the Arts” spotlight, and other interviews.

While I haven’t really committed to any new features in 2020, some ideas are floating around my head. One is placed-based writing. Like, I guess, in going around the world with the eco/climate series, I recognize that my voice isn’t really an authority to talk about what literature occurs in other places–which is why I talk to authors from those areas, to get share their voices. But I thought it might be interesting and worthwhile to do studies of my new place in Nova Scotia and highlight local authors  or even just local wildlife there. The new place is traditionally K’jipuktuk/Mi’kmaw Territory. Another place that means a lot to me is the Appalachian area, especially of Eastern Kentucky. I spent so much time there as a child, teenager, and even some as an adult, that it really is part of where I’ve been and who I am today. I may just do a little sidebar each month on these places. Nature-based place writing is really important these days. It’s like documenting not just what wild is left in the world, but how we humans interact with it and learn from it going forward. It’s also taking note of how these places are threatened. This will involve getting out and exploring new areas, or just building a wildlife sanctuary if we have a private enough yard. I’m excited by a new marine area to play in as well. It’s just an idea churning. I may also do a regular spotlight on old fairy tales and how they formed–studying how the natural world was integral to those stories.

8. I want to find a new sport I can get into. I love running. I just miss it so much. Sometimes I still take off and run somewhere. But I’m not supposed to. Unfortunately, I have Ehlers-Danlos. It wasn’t something I knew about before a couple years ago. Anyway, impact sports are off the table. I still lift light weights and yoga-stretch and walk/hike, but I’m kinda wanting to learn to surf or find a place to swim when we move. Or just do some rowing. There’s some nearby places to kayak where we’ll live, and I love kayaking, so that may be an option in the warmer months. You can do that here too, but again, getting to the coastal areas through the gridlock traffic here is lame.

9. I’ve blogged a lot about my experiences in Eastern Kentucky and my great memories from there. My mom and I were talking recently about trying another road trip down there in the next year or two. Honestly, what keeps me from planning these things anymore is the fossil fuel required to get from one place to another. We could possibly buy a longer range electrical car and drive it down, but we’ll have to see. I’m not sure if the US has a lot of reliable chargers. It’s tough to find them up in Vancouver. They are either broken or in use all the time. But I kinda want to do this thing while Mom is still “young”. She’ll be 80 next year. After dad died, she became more like a friend than a mom, and we have excellent conversations about once a month. She really is one of my favorite people to talk with. Here’s a photo of Mom at my sister’s wedding. She’s just so damn cute:

She has an incredible memory of her earlier life, which she loves to talk about. And I love to listen. So I really can’t wait to see her again. And I hope that the South will call us back one more time together–also so I can spend nights laughing with my cousins in back yards while drinking wine and being goofy as ever. This is one of those dreams I realize is limited as Mom grows older. I wish she’d be around forever, but we all know that never happens.

10. I promise in my next blog I will not list things but write more of an actual paragraph-based essay.  There are so many more than ten things to write about, but finally, and probably most importantly, is that I cannot wait for making a new home and having our family come and visit us. We have a few needs: a wired garage since we have to plug in our car. An office space for my writing. Some wants: a kind of older character home with hardwood flooring. A wood-burning fireplace. I know it’s not environmentally great, but we’ve had one before and lit it so rarely, only a few times a year. We’ll also be installing solar panels since Nova Scotia is evidently already there and offers an off-grid or partial off-grid solar program. We also want at least a half acre of land to garden and run in. Outside of these things, we aren’t really materialistic types who want fancy this and fancy that. It’s important that the house is structurally fit, of course, and there’s nothing like lead paint, asbestos, or black mold lurking around. I want this to be a home where we will do like we did here and open it up to company, as often as possible. I am really excited for our families and friends to come and visit in the future. I’m excited for parties outside or inside when it’s cold. We’ve already met one couple in Halifax, the guy was similarly transferred from the Vancouver office, and they are super nice, offering me a place to stay when I go out in March. It’ll be, you know, home. Not just a house, but a place to live, explore, and dream.

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