It’s a few days late, but happy new year to readers of this blog.
I wanted to finally take time to sit down and write about my best memories from 2017. I came into the year still reeling and in awe of my trip to Ireland the summer prior. This single but awesome experience really changed my life. I came back to Canada, however, to begin to realize toward the end of the year that my home country, the United States, was actually seriously considering Donald Trump as presidential material. As I watched the results coming in, on election night, and it became clear that he was going to win, I switched off the news and felt something die inside. It was, and is, inconceivable that such a disastrous mistake could ever happen. Surely, people were more intelligent than that? How could half the country want someone like that as a leader they could trust?
My first great memory of 2017 was traveling to Washington DC in January for the Woman’s March, with my husband. I’ll probably never be able to accurately convey the inspiration I felt upon seeing more people at this march than had been at the inauguration the day before. As we walked toward the march from the train station, all I could see for miles were waves and waves of people, hundreds of thousands of all ages and kinds of people, for as far as my eyes could see. It gave me some relief. Some hope that there were still plenty of people who were not going to give up. That there were so many of them lighting those candles, so to speak. As they say, democracy dies in darkness (adopted as the byline for the Washington Post after the election).
Still, as the year wore on, I realized I had no such awesome feelings about the United States anymore. I finally called Canada my real home, particularly the beautiful rainforests of British Columbia. To be sure, every place on Earth has issues. Canada is no different. On September 30 this past year, on Orange Shirt Day, I stood with other colleagues and friends outside on campus, in tears, listening to native adults who talked about how they were abused, raped, and torn from their families during Canada’s residential schools era. So no country, nor any person, is perfect. We need to learn from our mistakes. Yet, if this country voted in someone like Trump to be a prime minister (and Harper was bad, but not as bad as Trump), I would at that point consider moving somewhere else. #notmypresident.
I had to stop running for the most part in the latter part of 2017 due to a heart palpitation when standing and/or walking and running (which is not a serious ailment, according to my cardiologist, but is super annoying and scary sometimes), so I had to devise other ways of getting cardio. I started lifting light weights while horizontal and, toward the end of the year, found a lot of joy in the new rowing machines at work! Both these activities I’ll continue in the new year, hopefully with outdoor rowing instead of indoor.
In the summer of 2017 we visited family, and I got to see people I had only seen in the near past at funerals, including my dear hilariously witty southern cousins Christine and Tricia. I also reconnected with my “long lost” cousin Pam in the fall. The best thing was hiking at Turkey Run again and sitting outside in the deep Midwest summer at night–listening to crickets and watching stars and drinking red wine and various Bourbon drinks with my beloved family. Over this spring and summer, we also did several beautiful hikes and bike rides, and we took a long weekend up the Sunshine Coast, where we camped and hiked/ran sections of the Sunshine Coast Trail. I spent some time during that trip near Saltery Bay, where I read Jeff VanderMeer’s novel Borne, and kind of got my mind blown at the same time. What a great novel.
Speaking of bears (there was a flying bear named Mord in Borne), I had my second in-person encounter with a black bear this year. Only, it wasn’t while out running. It was a bear that came into the yard while I was getting ready to water my one-year-old cherry tree. It wasn’t frightened of me, and when it showed no signs of leaving, I hightailed it back inside, where I watched it for a while. It was probably a 3-year old cub, a very curious and cute fellow, actually. But at the time I was scared shitless.
My work in environmental literature has taken on new meaning for me, as I’ve decided to go forward in revising my novel Back to the Garden into a series called The Wild Mountain series. I’m revising the first novel now and writing the second. It is harder than I thought. I’ve realized that environmental fiction is still somewhat of a niche, if you think of it that way, but authors like Jeff VanderMeer are bringing it, and kind of a new “ecological weird fiction” or science fiction into the mainstream. And I love it. At the end of the year, I began a new project called Dragonfly. I have been envisioning it for quite some time. I wanted to go out of the realm of just fiction and enter into an exploration of all environmental literature, including prose and nonfiction. However, I didn’t want to spend quite the great amount of time I do at eco-fiction.com, with its huge database, monthly spotlights and interviews, etc. I had been doing the “Green Reads” site for a year by this time, which allows authors to submit samples of their work in order to freely promote their work as well as offering readers a sample of types of eco-lit out there. I transitioned this to the new Dragonfly site, to a Green Reads library. More about Dragonfly:
Ecologically oriented writers workshop, library, and resources for authors in a changing world: Dragonfly.eco is a place for writing and reading meaningful stories about our natural world, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and prose. This project combines other sites, including eco-fiction.com, to provide an online storytelling portal, which writers, academics, publishers, and readers may freely use as reference or as a way to share eco-writings. Our motto is “blowing your mind with wild words and worlds.”
It’s also placed at the new .eco domain, which is a cool divergence from .com and other worlds. The eco domains were created by a couple guys in Vancouver, who thought it up years ago while at a pub. Aren’t those really the best ideas? The founder Jacob has been very supportive of my efforts, though everything is still very new. I opened it in mid-December and then was mostly offline during the holidays. The site is a combination of the Dragonfly library, a reference area, and a writer’s workshop. The workshop is going to be the hardest thing to do, because it will rely on others to participate. So far there are about eight people, and really only a few contributing. I am calling it experimental for now because I realize writers are busy enough with social media and that having another space can be pretty daunting. If the workshop participation is low, I may just have that space as a writer’s tips area for writing about environmental issues, such as climate change. Already, I have one article up. It doesn’t have to be a fast-paced workshop of writers critiquing others’ works. It can be a slow but deep conversation as well.
My press lives on, but I have closed submissions for the time being while I complete my own writing projects, with one more book, Code Blue, by Marissa Slaven, coming out on Earth Day this year. I am still considering going back to school for a masters and have been putting together a course outline for an ecofiction course, but really don’t know if I will actually be teaching one. It would be cool to help create the course, though. Regardless, I need to slow down with other projects and finish my writing commitments.
In 2017 I finally finished a private memoir that I had begun back in 2010, after Dad died. Phew, I never thought I’d get that done. Then I printed, bound, and packaged it all together and mailed it to family members for presents this December, only to realize I’d printed the wrong version of the book (one was on my hard drive, one older version in Google Drive). So the one that went out had a lot of mistakes, which just made me laugh later! My niece Katie said, however, that it was one of the best gifts she had ever received, that it made her cry and laugh. Hopefully she wasn’t just laughing at the typos.
At the end of the year, I was so excited for the holidays. I’m not a big “Christmas” type of person, but I love winter solstice and had also decorated my house with cedar boughs, dried oranges, and pine cones–all by American Thanksgiving, when we had a house full of guests, as usual. We found out one of our friends–the same guy who did our wedding speech long ago, and who just got married himself a couple years ago–is expecting a baby this coming summer.
Into the holidays, I always look forward to time off from work. And also I began seriously considering more lifestyle changes. I got the flu around the weekend of New Year’s, and on New Year’s Eve, that afternoon, was pretty sick. So our New Year’s Eve was spent without big fanfare. But that night I did watch the documentary “What the Health,” and then–perhaps it is just the straw that broke the camel’s back–I decided to become a vegan from here on out. And so far it hasn’t really been hard, and I’m actually enjoying making up new recipes and spending more time in the kitchen trying new things out. It is really disciplinary to be a vegan. I am not worried I will crave meat or cheese (though I might crave eggs now and then), but you have to read labels constantly. Still, I think it’s just the best thing we can personally do for ourselves and for the environment. It’s probably the easiest thing we can do to make a true difference.
As the end of the year rolled around, I also found out my dad’s first cousin, who I have great memories of all my life, and who I got to see a few years ago, is on life support in an induced coma. This news brought a kind of somber end to 2017. She has been such a wonderful mentor to me and many and has done so many great things with her life. I still have a photo of her with Michelle Obama. She is constantly trying to help the poor and the needy. She stands strong for environmental, social, and economic justice. Just love her. She is a fighter, so I hope she pulls through.
Now it is already January, and after a hectic term start at work, I am starting to breathe some. The flu is gone, but not a cold I picked up around the same time. All I can say is yay, though, because it’s Friday. My husband got us both archery lessons for the new year, which we start this weekend. I have done archery a few times before and really enjoy it. Looking forward to. And so begins another year.
The featured image shows some presents I got this year, including a neat bear bag from my mother-in-law, archery lessons from my husband, and Robert Macfarlane’s Mountains of the Mind, from my brother.