The New Year

I know I haven’t written since October, but—maybe it’s just a part of getting older—though I love writing about memories, current insights, and dreams, I have lost my desire for social media. Like, I don’t think the world cares about my story. Social media is all about people sharing their stories, and I am not so sure I have one that others care about. And that’s okay. I think we’re more me-me-me oriented when younger and when older it seems like a joke or something. But it’s hard to reconcile that with the fact I love to write things I hope are meaningful. So my “social” media has changed from huge places to get lost in (which are generally also run by platforms supporting discrimination, hate, and misinformation) to more intimate places that aren’t owned by oligarchs but are federated, like Mastodon, or more directly involved, like with a newsletter or Discord server that has common discourse and goals in mind. Then there’s this blog.

Since I last wrote, life was all about the coming winter solstice and holidays. The season began when I invited some coworkers over for American Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful night of traditional and non-traditional food, apple cider, and mulled wine. Plus great conversation that went to nearly midnight. Probably our highlight of actual Christmas was hanging out on Zoom with the kids and opening presents. By kids, I mean adults, each with their own baby now, though one is already a toddler. The other highlight was walking down the street to watch the local Christmas parade. We live in a small town with hardly any businesses (we shop in the next town over), but there’s a few businesses and organizations. The Christmas parade was on a cold night, and our neighborhood gathered, adults and kids alike, in places where the neighborhood streets intersected with the main town road, and that experience was quite memorable and cool. We talked with various neighbors and hung out with Zehran, who lives near us and who has been over for a couple bonfires with his partner and/or kids. People were happy and yelling as the floats or trucks went by. Then, after it was over, we all walked back up the hill to our own houses to get warm. The other highlight was a Christmas tree place five minutes down the road, where a scouts’ u-cut forest lot is open for just a few days over the course of about three weeks every December. I had never been down that road, as it’s usually blocked for scouts-only stuff, but we got a 5-foot tree that would fit in our bay window, cut it down ourselves with a saw, and adored the very scenic rolling hills covered in pines, fir, spruce, and fairly deep snow under a cold, sunny sky. The scouts were selling hot chocolate and had a bonfire going, where you could sit around on big logs. It was the kind of experience I would have when lots younger, and I really liked that activity—just another tradition, along with the local parade, that I’m sure we’ll do every year. We had not put up a tree for years, not since our cats like to climb up it and  topple it over, but now we’re down to one older cat who is too tired to climb up a tree. We also put lights on the tree, but that was the main decoration other than that just a few homemade ornaments we’d gotten from relatives over the years, some orange slices I dehydrated, and pine cones from the yard. I guess the other big project at the end of the year was buying a new EV that has longer range. We’d already paid off the Leaf a few months prior. We bought a Chevy Bolt, which will allow us to drive much further. We privately sold the Leaf and got more out of it than we would have in a trade-in.

2023 disappeared during a sober night of playing online games with our best friends from Vancouver. 2024 began the next morning cloudy, cold, and upbeat. I am not doing anything differently this year, just continuing things I have been doing anyway: more walking and consistent running, eating only the foods good for me (soup has been my thing in the colder weather), keeping up with volunteer and other work, doing a reading challenge for the new year, and planning for spring. Morgan and I used to have somewhat different gaming likes, but for a few months, and especially since the December holidays and beyond, we’ve been really enjoying Baldur’s Gate 3. We’re close to the end of Act 3; I’m playing a wood elf druid and he a half-orc barbarian. It’s a lot of fun, and the cinematography, voice acting, writing, animation, music, and everything you can think of that goes into video game quality is top-notch, surprisingly witty, and beautiful, yet also scratches the itch of actual gaming: riddles and mysteries, combat, lore, storylines, and so much more. The game is so realistic that it’s like being in a movie and interacting with things and people and landscapes. It won many awards, including game of the year in 2023.

My druid. Morgan’s barbarian behind me. This is at the end of Act 2.
Example of great NPCs like this winged elephant drinking.

I gotta say that living on the outer edges of a small town is a great, but not new, experience. It’s how I grew up. It’s pretty quiet, not a lot going on, but the neighbors are friendly and behind our house lies mostly forests and lakes. Home ownership and updates, including keeping the land up and spring gardening, keeps us pretty active, even in the winter. Together we stacked four cords of wood, since we heat with a wood stove and need to keep it stocked all winter. I usually start a fire every morning because I’m the first up. I’m also preparing for spring and have new waterproof, solar fairy lights to hang from the balcony and some growing pots for the garden this year. Last spring and summer, we tilled the garden well, but it became overrun with grass, which is really hard to weed. But it was also a strange year, with wildfires and floods. This year we’ll do a no-till method with cardboard and hay, and just let it sit from the coming spring to spring 2025. The decomposition should help, we hope. The grow pots are fabric, and I’ll just put them around the edges of our garden. I will plant beans, turnips, tomatoes, onions, and the usual herbs.

There’s also a city nearby (Halifax), where we occasionally go for a play or restaurant if we get cabin fever from the sticks. This weekend we’re going to see the symphony perform classic music from Queen, a gift from my daughter. Next month we get to see “hobbits” Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan perform in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which I am so excited about! We also have found local haunts that are in the next towns over, between us and the city, like a pub in Fall River we really enjoy or a pub in Sackville that has trivia on some nights. What can I say? Life is good, but also I recognize privilege and keep my eyes peeled to the rest of the world. I don’t tend to talk publicly about rough times that I or loved ones are going through or that I have been through in my life. So today’s times are good comparably, but I do recognize that, like Led Zeppelin sang, “good times, bad times” and “upon us all a little rain must fall”.  Life and people are complicated. I’m forever trying to find music and food or dreams and memories to hold people close; just recently, I even sent a happy birthday card to one of my childhood friends whose father is turning 100. We lived next door to them during my junior high and some of my high school years. They were some of my parents’ best friends as well. Come to think about it, my childhood friend is a couple years younger than me, and so her dad probably had kids late in life, because parents of my generation are at least a couple decades younger. But anyway, not only are we complicated and ever-changing, life is not exactly linear. A memory from thirty years ago can exist in my mind better than a memory from yesterday. I hang onto them and am eternally grateful for those in my family who stay close, show active love, and still get together, as life continues otherwise strangely and unfamiliar around me.

But also, the world itself is grave, and billions of people are desperately in need. I’m fully expecting a rise in the popularity of dictators who cry for freedoms yet have done nothing but reduce freedoms and civility and basic rights to anyone not fitting in their holier-than-thou, self-preservationist conditions of being white and straight. It caught me by surprise in 2016. Never again, man. We are literally moving backward after some (but not enough) progress. Expect the worst, be surprised by the best. In our Discord, we have weekly questions, and one week it was something like “What are you letting go of this year?” and my answer was something along the lines of letting go of the paralyzing feeling of the western world turning dangerous in extremist ideology and moving backward from progress (as in social, environmental, and other progression) we’d done thus far. I want to be less surprised, stronger, less afraid. Another question was “what is your word of the year in 2024?” Mine is shimmer. This is related to the other question. Sometimes light is hard to find. Sometimes you can find it at night or at sunset or in water, where any light at all reacts with surfaces and other things and causes this beautiful, fuzzy but shiny sort of light that mesmerizes you and inspires you.

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