A Perfect Ten – 2015

Continuing my countdown to my blog’s 10th Anniversary on 27th September this year, I’m revisiting what I posted on or around that date each year.

On September 25th, 2015, I’d planned to do a bit of a postscript of the previous nine posts, which isn’t what happened, but I decided that those nine posts were worthy of their own place on my ‘Perfect Ten’ list.

2015 was many things but one thing stands head and shoulders above all else, our Road Trip.

Have you ever chosen to do something so monumentally beyond anything you’ve ever experienced before that the Universe looks out for you until you get a handle on what you’re doing?

I’ve had these things thrust on me by Life, and the actions of others, but only thrice have I dared to leap off such giant Cliffs of the Unknowable, by choice.

Cliff 1 – buying a motorcycle when I’d never, ever, been on one before. (I didn’t even have my drivers license) The only thing with two wheels I’d ever ridden on before then were bicycles. (and believe me the experience is very different!)  I had a very elegant road bicycle that got me everywhere I needed to go, but not everywhere I wanted to go.

I rode my motorcycle (everywhere) for two years – until a truck on the wrong side of the road took us out … destroyed my bike, put me in hospital for five weeks and one day, (but who’s counting) and left me with one-and-a-half knees for evermore. Had I been in a car I would’ve been killed.

I loved that bike. Like my bicycle before it (which I sent off to a good home) I gained the freedom, the space, to leave the damaged parts of my life behind, and focus on putting the remaining bits back together again – a lifelong project, I might add.

Cliff 2 – Moving from Australia to Canada via an interminably long aeroplane journey. Most of you know the story, but here it is again, briefly. Mrs Widds and I met online and as I had no ties to bind me to Australia off I flew … having only twice ever been in little ‘puddle-jumper’ planes before.

I had no idea what a trans-oceanic sixteen-hour flight, from one side of the world to the other, from one hemisphere to the other, would be like. Needless to say I survived.

Cliff 3 – Mrs Widds and I driving ten thousand kilometers across Canada, and back, towing an 8 meter (25′) travel trailer that we’d only picked up four days previously, having never towed anything before, ever, either of us.

I was the designated planner and map-reader (Mrs Widds was working in Vancouver at the time and commuting from Widder Island – an hour-plus-change in each direction) and I discovered all sorts of fun things for us to do on the way … an amethyst mine, Dinosaur Provincial Park, hyper-tourist-y jaunts in Niagara Falls … but neither of us got the hang of the intricacies of reversing our honking great (as it seemed at the time) RV into camping spaces with millimeters to spare (there was lots of room, really) until we were well on our way home.

Each of these ‘cliffs’ moved my life forward in ways that were wondrous and terrible, challenging (understatement of the millennia!) and satisfying … but, all things considered, I’d rather any cliffs that come my way in the future, be a smidge less … hmm … high.

-oOo-

And now, for all you Swingin’ hepcats out there, here’s Muggsy Spanier’s Ragtime Band, getting smooth in the AM with, ‘Relaxin’ at the Touro’ …

BREAKING NEWS! … ABBA Wins the Eurovision Song Contest, Again!

How, you might ask, did this miracle of miracles occur?

The answer is the answer to a great many things occurring in the world at the moment.

The Eurovision Song Contest is held every year with a different European country as host. This year it was going to be in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, in May, then Covid-19 happened, and that was the end of that.

Not to be deterred by this dastardly virus, the BBC decided to commission a ‘Eurovision Broadcast’, to decide which was the best Eurovision song, ever.

Here’s the bit about the selection process, but the most salient point about this whole story is that “Wateloo’ by ABBA won!

One of the best things to come out of 1974, in all it’s original glory …

Face(mask)ing Evolution

We did our first ‘lockdown’ Costco shop in early March. (we do a regular once-a-month bulk-goods shop there)

We were the only one’s in the entire place wearing masks, (and gloves – which we don’t use anymore, but use soapy cloths that are immediately washed, instead – soap breaks down the virus protein) including the staff. (there was one other bloke, however, who came in with a full gas-mask-and goggles-and-gloves combo) Those were the days when no-one knew, at least in our neck of the woods, how virulent or transmissible the virus was.

Every stare that turned our way varied between incredulous, scathing, pitying, etc. Most people studiously avoided making eye contact with the crazy plague-rumour-mongers.

To say that we felt uncomfortable was an understatement. Not only did we experience that initial ’emegherd I’m going to suffocate!!!’ sensation when wearing masks for the first time, we also were very aware of those ‘slings and arrows’ being cast our way from the other shoppers. All we knew was that we were both in the ‘at-risk’ category and weren’t going to take any chances.

Each month there were a few more mask-wearers. We’d nod politely to each other, making sure we were two meters apart at all times, while some other (unmasked) shoppers would make a point of passing by even closer than they normally would. (I mean, what kind of dipshit arsehole do you have to be to do that on purpose? – rhetorical question, I know)

‘Normal’  – there’s a word that’s never going to have the same meaning again.

Scientific evidence slowly revealed more of the nature of the beast.

The global infection rates climbed, as did the global death-toll. (over 16 million people are confirmed to have been infected world-wide as of midnight last night – PDT)

Almost every government on the planet dropped the ball, big time, and most, to their credit, eventually, picked it up again.

Last month about a third of all the shoppers in Costco were wearing masks. Everyone looked uncomfortable – the wearers of masks and the un-wearers of masks.

But, a change was in the air.

The long-term reality of this plague sinking in, I suspect.

I felt a knot of tension in my gut that reared its head every time I went into a shop or enclosed public space, unravel, just a little bit.

Yesterday’s shop was, interesting.

About half the shoppers wore masks. I didn’t spot anyone wearing it under their nose, or chin.

We mask-wearers have learned to ‘eye-read’.

We smiled at each other, a camaraderie of shared responsibility, not just for ourselves but for the unknown health-status of others.

It was a good feeling.

I looked into the eyes of those who weren’t wearing masks. As best I could anyway, because this time no-one was making eye-contact, at all. Their brows were furrowed in a sort of defiant desperation.

Peer pressure, whether internally or externally imposed, is a fearsome thing, particularly when someone’s not ready to engage with the knowledge that they’re going to have to change their sense of their Self … It’s not just the actual wearing of a mask, it’s all the reasons why they chose not to in the first place, and how loudly they touted those reasons, and who they touted them to.

Like just about everything that sets off our flight/fight/fright knee-jerk response, reality is nowhere as universe-ending as we imagine it to be. Who knows, we may all come to appreciate learning how to ‘eye-read’.

A Perfect Ten – 2016

Continuing my countdown to my blog’s 10th Anniversary on 27th September this year, I’m revisiting what I posted on or around that date each year.

In 2016 I actually posted on the 27th of September. It was the third installment in my series about our adventures at Otter Lake.

Otter Lake was the second, and unfortunately the last (so far) of our ‘big’ adventures in our travel trailer. (the first was our epic cross-country, 10,000-kilometers-in-31-days peregrination from here to Niagara Falls and back the previous year – the archive reads chronologically from the bottom of the page to top)

There’s many sad things in this world but perhaps one of the saddest is seeing great swathes of Mother Nature decimated by the meddling of humans. In this instance I’m referring to the pine-beetle infestation that is as a result of the original forests being plundered for timber and never replanted properly. The rich bio-diversity that exists in a natural forest was replaced with a cash-crop of endless rows of pine trees.

Well, add to that diversity-desert an increase in global temperatures and the pine beetle became the apex predator in no time at all. (it’s taken decades for the penny to finally drop for them’s wot’s in charge of the forests, on both sides of the 49th parallel, to contemplate changing their business practices, but the damage has been done)

Wildfires love all that dead and dying wood, and when the wildfires are done the bare earth is washed away and mountainsides collapse.

Well done, humans.

(As we drove to Otter Lake along the Crowsnest Highway we saw attempts to mitigate this carnage by the establishment of ‘protected’ areas of bio-diverse treel-ings. (tree-lets?) If they survived predation and successive wildfires those trees should be mature enough by now (4 years later) to have grown fruitful and multiplied. I hope so)

Underneath our adventures at Otter Lake rested this sadness of the trees, which reflected in my writing at that time … which brings us full circle to today, doesn’t it?

So great are the changes to the human environment we’re living through right now, the one thing that has driven men of power since the times of Gilgamesh, the acquisition of ‘more’, (whatever their definition of ‘more’ may be) is being irrevocably, and painfully, extinguished.

The corona virus surrounds us all, whether we like it or not. The knowledge that the underpinnings of almost every society are being exposed for the anathema they are, sits with us all, whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we’re even aware of it or not, and it is what drives us now … it drives some of us to be and do better, for our Selves and others, and it drives some of us to resort to violence when asked to wear a mask.

These posts are about looking into a snapshot of my past to see if they connect to my present and have any influence on going forward.

By the time I wrote the story about Kerpy, I’d found a place of peace within the sadness of the trees, there was certainly nothing I could do about it other than to witness their lives.

My task in the present is to find a place of peace within the sadness, (and madness) of humanity, because there’s certainly nothing I can do for them other than to bear witness. Like so many of us, I’m not in a position of power to change the path humanity seems so bound and determined to follow.

What I can do, is appreciate humanity’s bio-diversity, live within my beliefs, do something really hard once in a while, love a few humans, have compassion for the majority, and hold accountable those dishonourable cowards who have shown their true colours.

CoT = EU + TP + TR

Yes!!! (cue mad scientist chuckle) I have invented Unobtanium!!!

Mine! All mine!

Mine! All mine!

 … I am now and forever famous!!! … and filthy rich beyond the dreams of avarice!

Also, I may or may not have turned myself into a rodent

Also, I may or may not have turned myself into a rodent

Hah! … t’would that it were so.

Lets break down this fabulous formulae, shall we?

CoT  – Completion of Task

EU    – Energy Used

TP     – (not Toilet Paper) Time Perception, or how long we objectively estimate the task itself will take to complete, including set-up (before) and clean-up (after)

TR    – Time Resistance – when we go into resistance to doing the task (also includes, distractions, avoidance, deflecting, etc)

Here’s an example of how it works …

The other day Mrs Widds and I had to take a trip to our local landfill-and-recycling-depot. (we don’t have a council garbage service here on Widder Island, unless we pay for it, and after we did our due diligence we decided it was easier and cheaper to run our minimal amounts of garbage and slightly-less-than-minimal recycling to the depot ourselves)

All we had to do was gather the stuff together and toss it in the back of our truck. The garbage was in a single container. The recycling, I sort and bag as we go. Odd bits and bobs that don’t fit in either category were stored in the fabulous tin shed we built a couple of summers ago.

All an all it probably would’ve taken us two hours, (at the most) including the 40 minute there-and-back trip, to do, but we both dreaded that it would be an exhausting trip, and take hours, and hours, and hours, and …

It was time to put the kettle on, make tea, and discuss the matter.

We started the conversation thinking it was a matter of managing our time better, (aka, Time Perception) but that didn’t quite fit. ‘Time’ is immutable, (unless you’re moving at time-warping speeds, in ships powered by the afore-mentioned unobtainium) therefore it can’t actually be managed at all.

What ‘Time Perception is really about is how we perceive the amount of time a task will take.

This perception is influenced, (mostly) by information, (or lack of it) about the requirements of the task, how important (or not) is it to complete the task, and what our expectations are once the task is completed.

Having invented the formulae I used in the title of this post, Mrs Widds and I happily loaded up the truck, had a wonderful drive through some beautiful mountainous scenery, and rid ourselves of our accumulated garbage and recycling.

The Great Blog Post Archive Emendation

Yep, ’emendation’ is a real word! It means a ‘correction’ or a ‘change’.

As part of my idea of revisiting one post in each of the last 10 years of my blogging career, I also wanted to go through the posts and delete the deletable, and update the updateable … which I now have done.

How did it turn out, I hear you ask?

First the deletions – 165 posts are gone. There’s probably a cached version of them somewhere on the interwebz, but as far as I’m concerned the only copies of (some of) them are on my external hard-drive.

I had a tough time deleting them to start with, it’s like they were my babies and I was abandoning them, but the only ones that truly ceased to exist were things like movie trailers, or links to things that had been removed. I started in 2010, and by the time I got to the end of 2019 I was deleting without a qualm.

Then there was the updatings. I ended up doing some sort of updating to all the remaining 369 posts … mostly renewing links, revising categories, keywords, and endeavouring to make sure there were no links left to the posts I’d deleted. That could be embarrassing. (just like typos though, we can always bank on there being at least one that gets missed)

I came across a few posts that I’ll turn into short stories and … who am I kidding, I couldn’t keep a story ‘short’ if my life depended on it, (maybe if my life did indeed depend on it, maybe) so they’ll probably end up evolving into something bigger than I anticipate, but what sort of wordsmiths would we be if we didn’t occasionally bite off writerly things bigger than we could chew?

I came across some wonderful videos too, like the fabulous peanut diving ferrets … and this one, which for some twisty reason cheers me up no end when the world tries to drag me down …

A Perfect Ten – 2017

Previous years, HERE.

Because the 27th of September falls so near by Birth Day (30th Sept) I’ve noticed a trend of the nearby posts being variations on that theme. Who’da’thunk! … and while those are important to me, I’ve chosen to skip along to the nearest post that isn’t about my Birth Day.

Case in point, this one, on the 1st October 2017, in which we build our garden shed.

Storage has always been a premium here on Widder Island, because as I mentioned in the 2017 post we have a large farmhouse’s worth of equipment stored in a little two-bedroom cottage … and moreso now that we’ve shifted our ‘Wunder-Luster’ gears to focus on finding our ‘forever’ home and then travelling in our trusty travel trailer, rather than the other way around as we initially planned. Thank you Convid-19.

I’ve often thought throughout my three-score years (mostly during the second one-score of ’em anyway) that the fact that I didn’t have, nor need, many possessions to be a mark of independence.

Given my upbringing, it’s not surprising I felt that way. Permanence and security, safety and trust, were illusions that were inherently dangerous to my young self. It was best to carry as little with me as possible … a survival strategy that made for a quick getaway, when and if necessary.

But, that kind of ‘independence’ relied on the stability of a whole lot of social conditions which are no longer secure (if they ever were) Thank you, again, Covid-19

However, in order to live my life the way I yearned to do, (Mrs Widds too, by-the-way. That’s one of the reasons we get on so well together) which was to live sustainably and comfortably, it would require the gathering of certain possessions. Tools and equipment to be precise.

Since we’ve been on Widder Island (8 years, at last tally) we’ve been accumulating what we needed, when things came on sale, or good quality 2nd-hand or thrift-store purchases.

By the time September 2017 came around we just didn’t have enough room for storage and live our lives at the same time.

Hence the shed.

By the end of 2019 we were ready, finally.

2020 was going to be our year … we were going to put almost everything in storage, hitch up our travel trailer and head  off into the wild blue yonder. … and, recording it on our Wunder-Lusters YouTube channel, we would seek out strange and wonderful new places, meet all sorts of strange and wonderful new people, and if we came across our ‘forever home’ that was all the better … well, we all know how that turned out don’t we? … for everyone.

T’was a bitter pill. One that I still joust with on occasions … but then what’s life without a few jousts?

I don’t know when we’ll get there now. I’d like to think we will, but, there’s a giant gap between then and now. It’s funny isn’t it? I thought this series would be a bit of a celebration of my ten years blogging on WordPress.

Going back in time is enabling me to clarify going forward … which isn’t a bad thing at all.

The Troubling Dichotomy Of The Time We Live In

Last Friday I stubbed my little toe, (well it, and the one next it, as it turns out)  and now, they and that part of my foot, has turned a lovely purple/green colour and are very, very, sore … probably some cracked, if not broken, bones.

It’s funny isn’t it, that until we do even the smallest of damage to our appendages we don’t fully appreciate just how much we need ’em.

I’m not going to get my foot x-rayed, or go anywhere near our regional hospital at the moment. For one thing there’s nothing the medical establishment can do for my tootsies that, with a modicum of common sense, I can’t do for myself … and …a local outbreak of Covid-19 was traced back to the hospital and until they get a clean bill of health, I’m staying away.

In the early days of the known outbreak, I say ‘known’ because the more time goes by the more we learn that the virus was out in the world earlier than first thought. Current estimates have it hovering somewhere around December of last year.

What were you doing in December of 2019? I bet you weren’t social-distancing, or wearing a mask, or self-isolating if you felt a bit ‘flu-y’.

Anyway … In the early days of the known outbreak, I started keeping tabs on the global confirmed numbers registered on the John’s Hopkins website. In hindsight it was a way for me to make sense of the horrific tragedy that I knew was coming even back then. I check, every night, around midnight.

The first date was the 8th March – 103,369 confirmed cases, an increase of 3,923 from the day before. (those numbers seem almost like a fairytale now don’t they?)

From there it took 23 days to reach one million. Yesterday (Monday) the total was nine million, and only 7 days before it was eight million. The average infection rate, at the moment, is about 150,000. Per day. (the actual rate of infections is probably ten times those ‘official’ figures)

When you look out your window, does the world look normal to you?

The view from my desk is still of the Summer Tree, the green grass of our front yard, (which in this humid weather we’re having right now is growing like gangbusters, and isn’t going to get mowed any time soon – see above-mentioned broken toes), and the wee lad across the way who has progressed from trotting to a flat-out run-waddle.

The global climate crisis hasn’t gone away. Once things get back to ‘normal’, pollution, sea, and temperature, levels will continue to rise, and ecosystems will continue to experience catastrophic collapses.

I can walk out to the garden and pick strawberries that are sweet and juicy, and know that in a few weeks the blueberries too will be ripe for the picking, and we’ll go ‘hedge-harvesting for blackberries along our road (my toes better be all healed up by then!) after that.

Will we experience food shortages in Autumn and Winter? Not here, perhaps, but what about countries where people are already running drastically short of food, medicine, fresh water, etc?

This dichotomy troubles me. Not all the time, that way lies madness, and no-one can hold the enormity of what we, as a species, are facing, for long and stay sane.

It troubles me because there are times I don’t give a flying fuck about the enormity of what we are facing. All I want to do is nurse my broken toes, make something nice for dinner, read a book, write some words in my next story, and forget that anything else exists … but, thankfully those times don’t last very long either

Is this denial, grief?

We strive for balance in our lives, don’t we? Balance between things, whatever they may be, that are important to us. And yet on some level we know that that balance, once achieved, is fleeting. It never lasts, then we teeter off in another direction, perhaps far, perhaps not too far at all.

So, I teeter this way and that, and thus far, I haven’t stubbed my broken toes on anything else.

And The Sad Keeps Coming – Bon Voyage, Sir Ian Holm

Can’t Talk Now, Busy Editing Previous Posts, However …

… here’s a little something I came across to brighten your day …