Appreciation and Concern
I've lumbered into the my basement studio, coffee in hand, to steal some time and do some proofreading on a project and maybe plan out an illustration. As I settled into the beaten wingback I do most of my writing from I found myself reflecting more on the day.
Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the US. Something spiritually intended for reflection on your blessings and dedicating time to spend around family and friends. Cynically it tends to revolve around capitalism, consumerism, and gluttony.
It is so very difficult to write a word these days and not sound "preachy." Maybe it's just my ears.
It's possible I'm hopelessly "preachy." but you know how to close a browser window if you want. Still, I will endeavor to embody my better self.
The standard tone I hear in the world right now is sadness and pity. Both valid in 2020, I'm not interested in taking the losses of this year away from anyone. I mourn them alongside of you. The loss of incomes and the possible struggle to find food or shelter. The loss of loved ones, stolen both through death by an insidious disease or through estranged feelings from deep disagreements over uber-polarized and insulated worldviews. The loss of time around loved ones. The loss of many basic life distractions that help a difficult day or week seem better.
I miss going to a movie and a drink with my wife on date night. An excuse to enjoy time with each other, distracting us from the continual mountain of things that logjam the homefront. I really, really miss that.
I miss visiting my parents and hugging my mom. I miss my brother and my sisters. Just typing those words pulls enough emotion to make me tear.
I know it's been a long year and for many it's been worse than I've had it. All in all, at this moment I feel fortunate. I feel like there's a cliff ahead I hope to avoid, but at this moment and this day I'm taking a chance to take stock not speculate on the future. A chance to write about the things I appreciate, because it's important to remember those things exist and celebrate them.
Because, as The Man said with perfect resolve: So It Goes.
I appreciate Nick Gibbs and Quercus Magazine. This is an exceptional and quirky publication out of the UK, inspired by John Brown (of Welch Stick Chair fame). I'd had a couple experiences that made me decide my previous goal of writing for every woodworking magazine ever was over. I wasn't cut out for it, even questioning writing about woodworking at all. On a flattering recommendation Nick reached out to me to write as he was launching the first issue and I did my level best to chase him off with a stick. He gently persisted and before I knew it I was back to thinking about sawdust and words, but with a couple extra scooby snacks.
My relationship with books is similar to normal people's relationship with other normal people. Nick has encouraged me to write reviews, not of new books, fresh to the market, but of books I have developed a personal relationship with over the years. I don't see them as reviews as much as I see the article as a homage and writing about what the book means to me. It's a chance to do the personal kind of writing I enjoy and the real hook for me is getting to do an illustration to accompany the article.
The fun little caveat, I'm not sure even the Quercus team realizes, is I actually was a part of issue 01. Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Tool Works had an article about tensioning backsaws and it featured illustrations I'd done. Things work like they're supposed to I guess.
I appreciate a long project to work on. I've been pounding away on a book. Not about woodworking. A fantasy fiction novel. Up until recently I've been shooting at a goal of 1000 words a day 4 days a week, when I'm not at the hospital. The last three weeks have been distracted with a side project related to the next thing on this list, but that's nearing self-publication ready and I will be back to the novel after that. Its good to feel like I'm putting a character down I've held in my head for almost a quarter of a century.
I'm appreciate Dungeons and Dragons. Yes the Satanic Panic Role Playing Game I've been an enthusiast for since the mid 80's when my cousin showed me the first edition AD&D books at out public library and I felt like someone had written an owners manual for my imagination. The game has seen a resurgence in popularity in the last few years and new players are popping up like wandering monsters in the Mines of Phandelver. There are lots of ways to play online and groups will meet through a Zoom call and use a mixture of internet and tabletop resources to write a story together. The campaign I've GM'd for 2+ years has made the responsible social distanced transition as well as the campaign I've played in for a year and a half. I've also joined up with an awesome crew that runs a one-shot games every Tuesday. I feel like a pig in shit with all the fun and good people I've gotten to know this way.
Don't get me wrong. There is no substitute for playing the game in person, around a table. I'm too old to feel different. but online is also super convenient, and all the fun and people I like are still there. It helps me feel less insulated.
I appreciate two television shows. For a man who watches very little TV, that's saying a lot. First is the Star Wars "The Mandalorian" for so many reasons, Of course The Child is iconic, but I feel like the writing and filming is very brave, taking chances like the original trilogy, and most of them pay off. It hits me right in all the feels and returns me to that nostalgic caring wonder I need while wowing me with something new.
The other will sound odd, but it's the 1980's wonderchild, The A-Team. A show I remembered fondly in my youth, though more as a pop culture touchstone than anything specific about the show. One of the people I play D&D with convinced me to start recording a "Rewatch" Podcast revolving around the show with her and another person I now consider a friend. I'd never heard of the concept before but it's simple. We all watch the show, episode by episode, in order, and then get together (virtually) to talk about the episode. It's been a million pounds of fun and pushed me out of my confort zone into new areas - and the show - it's aged with the times, but its fun. a lot of fun.
We've finished recording season one of the show. "Heroes 4 Hire: An A-Team Rewatch Podcast" and it's in the editor's capable hands as we speak. I'll announce it here when it gets released. It's not high art, but it is a lot of fun to record.
I appreciate the revival of vinyl records allowing me to get albums I love by bands I grew up listening to. I fought this obvious Derek Dog Whistle for a while, but I'm happy I gave up my resistance. I like when things "FEEL SPECIAL." This probably explains my leanings towards hand tool woodworking. Putting a record on is a thoughtful, special experience that carries a reverence to it. It has made me assess which albums I've encountered that mean the most to me because they feel like more of an investment than buying a CD ever did and for certain more special than downloading an MP3 or worse - streaming the music.
Those things have their place and I'm thankful to those outlets too, but putting on a record is a meaningful, deliberate act that just adds to the enjoyment of the music. A moment of mindfulness and being in the moment connected to music that speaks to so much of me. How did I fight this for so long?
I appreciate the Harry Dresden Novels by Jim Butcher. I know they're not a new thing, there are 17 books in the series so far and a bunch more tie-ins. I had heard about them but only started this year and slowly, I'm solidly in the middle of book 3. Elevator pitch: it asks what if a Noir Private Eye were a Wizard investigating the Paranormal based in modern day Chicago. Though there are 17 book and more to come, each book is a complete thought, a complete story, and that concept is beautiful. It makes the series seem easier to tackle because each book is a satisfying nugget all it's own.
I've enjoyed the story and the characters a lot, I've also enjoyed dissecting them for the craft involved and learning so much there too.
Last, and back to reality, I am thankful, very thankful, that myself and everyone I hold in my inner circle is, at the moment, healthy and interested in doing the right thing by maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, and trying to be a part of taking care of themselves and their neighbors (both friends and strangers)
This pandemic is not a joke, it's not a hoax, it's not just another flu. I watch the ramifications and consequences of it every weekend working at the hospital, and I work in the Operating Rooms, a step removed from the real heartbreak and chaos.
You cannot count deaths in statistics. Everyone of those is somebody to someone. A mother, a father, a grandparent, an individual who means the world to someone. Who's loss devastates someone's heart and mind. Who could have been the life changing spark to another and now the spark is extinguished. Statistics aren't dying and suffering from this disease. People are.
And the fact that some chose to believe this is fake, or natural, or only affects someone else, or whatever other dissemination is required to excuse not skipping the Sturgis Rally for ONE YEAR. To not do whatever possible to help slow or stop the spread because "I don't like wearing a mask." or worse, believing it's a ginned up conspiracy, when a mind boggling number of people have died sooner than they had to. The lack of care, respect, and simple fucking compassion for a fellow human being that's required in being wilfully defiant amazes me. If you could change the world for ONE PERSON with a simple act of kindness would you? If you think your answer is "yes" then ask yourself why this is so difficult?
Be honest, there's no use in lying to yourself. Walk through the "Five Whys" You might be surprised at the unvarnished answer.
I don't like quarantining myself from my family for a few days after a "low risk" exposure at work. I don't like sleeping on an air mattress in this basement studio instead of in bed next to my wife. But my elderly Mother In Law lives with us, and every other day my wife's immunocompromised and developmentally disabled sister comes to our house, and I don't want to live with the regret of being the possible vector that hurts them.
I don't want the regret. See, it can still be about selfishness, it just requires a bit of empathy.
And I understand some will want to confront me, to email or message or comment with an "enlightened view" of how I'm wrong, but I can promise you I am not. I've read and heard and internalized it all, from all sides of the dodecahedron, and in the end I see with open eyes what we are doing to each other in the spirit of selfishness, and it breaks my heart.
But for this moment. Today. I am thankful. Even for you.
I guess it ended preachy after all. So It Goes.
Ratione et Passionis
Derek Olson - Oldwolf