The Fall of Winter

These last few days have been outstanding—perfect weather, perfectly relaxing, wonderful.

After feeling trapped in the house for the winter, it feels amazing to go outside and not worry about how many toes are going to freeze and break off. Such a welcome change.

I took this photo about a week ago. About ten in the morning while on a walk with Alex. That’s ice. Ice on the ground.

And as beautiful as I think this photo is (and I think it’s one of the best I’ve taken), I’ll be just fine if I don’t meet up with anymore for a long, long time.

Unless it’s in an iced coffee.

Stick to the Plan!

The other day, my twelve-year-old daughter pointed me to a TED Talk.

Let me just sit back here for a moment while those words sink in.

Got your head around that? Good.

Now, in truth, this situation played out a little more organically than you might infer from that first sentence. See, I’m in the habit of forcing strange—sometimes incoherent—YouTube videos on my daughter, and I decided turnabout was fair play.

“Is there anything you’d like to show me?” I asked her. And there was. And among the various videos was this gem.

So it was less my twelve-year-old kid pulling some kind of precocious, hipster/millennial act, and more that she thinks badly-drawn stick figures presented as part of a “serious” presentation are hilarious. Or at least as hilarious as the weird shit I show her on YouTube.

But I digress. You should watch that video before you read the rest of this post. If you don’t, I’ll make even less sense than I usually do.

Done? Great!

I TOTALLY HAVE THAT GODDAMNED MONKEY!!!

All day, every day, without a moment’s reprieve—the monkey even haunts my dreams.

Like the other night. I was having a dream about trying to chop down this tree in my yard when, literally in the middle of this apparently critical task, I noticed the lawn needed mowing, and dropped everything to start doing that.

I. Can’t. Stick. To. A. Plan.

Each day, I get up, and after I get a few swallows of coffee and two cigarettes in me, I take out my journal and write out what I intend to accomplish.

“I’m going to work for an hour on this novel, then work on this other thing for an hour, take a break to do this, then spend an hour on this other thing…”

I come up with what, for me at least, seems like a totally reasonable schedule—a plan of attack which will allow me to do what needs doing while leaving plenty of time to chill out, take a walk, and finish out the day feeling accomplished without also feeling mentally or physically drained.

And I can usually hold to it…for, like, maaaaaybe an hour and a half. After that, I go right off the rails, into the weeds, or whatever the hell you call it when a simple, linear set of tasks somehow turns into a infinite-dimensional tree of Other Shit with absolutely no coherence.

“Well,” you say. “Stop slacking off and just get to work.”

But no! You’d be wrong to think that “Other Shit” is code for “Slacking Off.”

I don’t just, say, start working on an article about squirrels and then go: “Eh, screw it. I’m gonna watch Netflix.”

No, instead it’s more like this…

Me: “Okay, time to work on that article. First, let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about them.”

Me, 5 Minutes Later: “Huh. The Latin name for the squirrel family is ‘sciuridae,’ from the Greek ‘σκίουρος’ or ‘skiouros,’ meaning ‘shadow-tailed.’ Should I mention that?”

Me, 10 Minutes Later: “It’s kinda bullshit that I can’t see ‘σκίουρος’ and know you pronounce it ‘skiouros.’ I mean, back in the 1800s wasn’t every ‘man of learning’ expected to know both Greek and Latin?”

Me, 60 Minutes Later: “Okay, so this app sucks. Should I just spring for Rosetta Stone? What does Amazon have for books on Greek?”

And on and on and on.

It’s always like this.

Today, I planned to get right to working on my novel, then work on a poem I’ve been tinkering with for a few days (and I’ll write about that in another post), then take care of a few bits of what I call “odds and ends writing,” like taking some notes for a tabletop RPG I run on the weekends.

So how’d that go? Well, for starters, I hadn’t planned to write this blog post, yet here we are!

Stupid monkey.

Wherein I’ve Started To Take Pictures

A couple updates ago, I mentioned that I’ve been a bit busy, and not just with that science-fiction novel I keep vague-blogging about. Things like what, you ask?

Things like photography.

Broken Carbon
Broken Carbon – A self-important self-portrait.

I’ve had a good DSLR camera for more than a year now, but haven’t done a thing with it. I really only bought the damn thing as an excuse to get out more during the summer—the theory being that the allure of snapping wildlife photos would make me more inclined to leave my house—but that working about as well as expected, so the camera’s sat on a shelf this whole time.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I decided that owning an expensive camera, and not knowing anything about photography, was kind of like owning an expensive guitar, but not knowing how to play even one song by the Ramones.

(I came to this realization partly because I’ve been learning more about art and art history lately, but that’s a topic for another post.)

So, I started doing some research. Skimming the camera’s manual, watching a couple of YouTube videos on the basics of photography, reading some blog posts filled with made-up words like “f-stop” and “histogram.” All the things one does to pick up a new skill in this our digital age.

The result? Well, I can’t speak for what you might think of the self-portrait above, but I’m happy with it—and the handful of the couple hundred other photos I’ve shot since finally using this camera as something more than a bookend.

And holy hell, this is sort of fun!

Even considering how often I get absolutely lost in the maze of ISOs, apertures, shutter speeds, focal lengths, and the seemingly bottomless rabbit hole of concepts and numbers I’m still only slightly convinced I know anything about. Learning how to compose a semi-decent shot, learning how light works, learning which sorts of subjects I’m interested in—it’s all kind of awesome.

That last one’s especially thrilling for me, since I’ve only ever really considered photography from the more “journalistic” side, rather than the “creative” side. That is, I’ve always looked at photography as a way to record reality as it is. It doesn’t have to be about presenting what’s there in all its literal glory, and instead can be about pretty much whatever the hell you want.

You don’t have to take a photograph—you can make one.

That’s probably obvious to people who aren’t me, and who actually learned to appreciate the visual arts before age forty, but you know what? Better late than never.