Saturday, July 31, 2010

Annual Benchmarking

One of the unexpected highlights of visiting the same place annually for decades is that you get a snapshot, year to year, of changes and growth. Thus, we notice the buried power lines and redone houses around us, and we notice the changes in ourselves. For me, still grappling with the overall changes--and often as not still feeling like an alien in my own life--this year’s snapshot has been particularly informative.

While my inner critic (okay, okay, my inner criticS) are still heavily judgmental about how much video I watch these days, slowly it’s become clear to me that’s in part a way of responding to my still-gimped fiction-reading ability. Whether my brain wants or is able to follow narrative in writing, something in my being longs for stories and character development. The video we’ve been watching, I think, works at filling that need.

It’s still odd, very odd, to have watched more video in the PBS (post brain surgery) era than in all the pervious eras combined, but it begins to make a bit more sense when viewed in that light. And, as the other (very tiny) defender voice says, 42 minutes every few days or so is still not all that much video, which when fetched via iTunes or on DVD (at home) is pretty time-effective compared to the broadcast versions. (Michael and I tried watching one of the shows the girls recommended in its broadcast version earlier this year, and still cannot stomach the commercials, we found, in common with our selves of 20-odd years ago when we dropped cable the year Kearney was born--that and the outrageous price then of $20/month). On vacation, I’ve even been letting myself watch two episodes some days, especially if I managed to do any useful writing (hat tip to you, Doug, and your reward theories) and you should hear the inner critics on those days.

Since one of my goals continues to be “fewer, nicer things,” and I’m particularly poor at being able to get rid of things, it’s always nice to inhabit the much more stripped-down and compressed life here, where there’s little choice. There isn’t room for much more than we have here, so if something comes in, other things have to go out. As always, as we anticipate returning to regular life, we hope that the practice here will carry over and we’ll continue to be able to pare down our regular lives more. Too bad we both come by our pack-rattery honestly: when we cleaned out Michael’s dad’s house, he had more rubber bands than anyone you’ve ever met, including us. His, of course, were organized and stored in an ingenious way, compared to Michael’s stash.

We had some overnight company this year again for a few nights, and there’s nothing like having someone stay with you--or staying with them--to learn about others. I suppose you could say we’re kind of set in our ways (I hear you laughing, K), and the approaches of other people are always eye-opening. One of the things we do particularly well together is to adventure, including navigating, for which Michael has an amazing in-built sense (and, of course, he always looks it up in advance) and also a willingness to problem-solve and listen to my map-reading as we go. We provided maps and directions to a really magnificent set of gardens to our visitors, who programmed the address into their GPS and then never got there. We were astonished at the reliance on the GPS when, after all, we’d also provided a map. Apparently, the GPS being fuddled, they gave up. And the signage here, once you get the hang of it, is particularly useful and helpful, especially for cultural attractions... It made me remember the year we rented a car with GPS that provided directions that made no sense to Michael, so we ignored them, going the path he thought was better--only to have it recalculate after we’d not taken several of the “immediate U-turn”s it commanded, and cut almost four hours off the travel time it had been estimating. In our family, that’s known as “doing it our own selves,” and I’d say we’re all, in our own ways, verging on militant about it.

As always, we are taking deep satisfaction from improvements large and small in the time we’ve been here. It’s another thing we do, improving things, and on this small canvas, in a compressed time period, it’s particularly visible. It’s nice to be reminded of that, as we go back to a number of larger endeavors. Now, if only this book would write itself, or the book fairy would deliver it, more completed, some night while I sleep. The failures of the book fairy explain the long gaps in posting here, that and being somewhat out of time in our alternate life here. Back to the book.... Cheers to all, and please do keep letting us know how you are and sending us your thoughts. We’re always glad to be connected and get word back from you.

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