Last year I kept notes about the seasons in a way that I’ve never done. I took a break from worrying about writing and editing my book, and I read voraciously, painted almost every day, and wrote essays and poems. I did not share much in this space because posting here involves getting in front of a screen, and that’s how I make a living. During my time off-the-clock, I’ve stepped away from the socials (more so than in previous years) and I’ve written more by hand than I have in decades.
I thought I’d share a few of the results from this not-so-great-sorta-meh-sorta-shitty year of 2022, and whatever else comes to mind. As I do.
I learned about Nijushi-Sekki, a Japanese belief in 72 micro-seasons. I read about this practice of naming small seasons, and I decided to create my own in 2022 using the calendar my bank sends me. When I started, I was slowly unfurling from the deepest depression I have ever experienced, and I was very aware that I was not who I was or who I wanted to be, but I also had to accept that there was very little I could do but live through this. (Thanks for the motto about me and my doll parts, Courtney Love).
I was successful recording my micro-seasons for nine months of the year because I also used that calendar for hiking and biking plans.
My 2022 Nijushi-Sekki:
Season of the wind and rain and long shadows
Season of the blustery wind and fire-colored sunsets
Season of the rainbows and longer light
Season of afternoon shadows after work
Seasons of days and days of fog
Season of sunsets returning
Season of spring buds arriving early
Seasons of bright, bright sun
Season of my birthday, daffodils, and crocus
Season of the light getting later
Season of menopause research and acceptance and frogs on the interurban trail
Season of spring blooms and buds and grass
Season of not always needing a coat and grassy glorious hills and canyons of Tieton
Season of ferns unfurling
Season of daffodils coming in full bright yellow
Season of magic Skagit tulip glory
Season of azaleas, greening of trees
Season of Elroy’s birthday and rainy days
Season of mellower days of staring into space
Season of breast soreness, fatigue, and my 10th boss in 9 years
Season of being really fucking irritated, walking a lot, and buying new blinds
Season of long walks
Season of summer planning wishing staring at maps
Season of backpacking, camping
Season of zero mood swings and not crying
Season of long road rides
Seasons of the Enchanted Valley and losing count of waterfalls
Season of the North Cascades reading books in the tent while it pours down rain
Season of North Cascades, wifi working in the van, Fragrance Lake sunsets
Season of North Cascades and finally hiking Thunder Knob
Season of The Floors Fiasco and bald eagles hunting
Season of The North Cascades with proper river shoes, wildflowers
Season of North Cascades, knee injury on C___ Creek.
And then that’s it.
Nothing after that. I missed the entire fall and the end of the year. Typing this now see I lost the thread of looking outward during a few seasons. We also had a horrific “Fire Season” (as we now say when we spend days inside with some of the worst air quality on the planet). I plan to do this same recording in 2023, and I want to be aware of and pay attention to the changes in nature and recording beauty even when/if things shift for me personally and professionally. This year, I will only record the beautiful things as a gift to my December 2023 self.
Injury Season: Note to Self
The next time I am injured, I need to be a little more disciplined during the recovery time. I strained a ligament in my knee when a river bank gave out and I caught myself on a root sticking out of the dirt. My arm caught the root, so I didn’t fall into a river, but my leg stayed in place while the rest of my body twisted and my knee made a popping sound. I had a similar experience (same knee) snowboarding 15 years ago, and it healed in a few weeks. This time around it took almost three months. This broke down palace I call my body was my greatest challenge in 2022. I was in great shape heading into the cyclocross racing season (for me), and then my knee decided we were having a different autumn. Fitness is a fickle friend who leaves quickly without a proper plan of return. Part of aging, I am realizing, is that when the threads become frayed, it takes longer to mend back together. Prior to that injury, I had one of the best summers of backpacking that I’ve had in years and I’m going to make it a priority of the summer for as long as I can carry gear into the woods. I am very thankful I didn’t need surgery and/or a helicopter/stretcher ride out of the backcountry.
Quick digression: I get asked a lot if I am going to take up mountain bike packing. I usually take a deep breath and make sure my eyes do not roll, and I simply say, no. The cynical elder in me thinks it’s a marketing fad similar to “gravel racing” that the bike industry spins up just to sell shit. I like the two activities separately, thank you. More power to you if it’s your thing, but I’ll show you a few trails with massive blowdown trees, fast water crossings, and then tell me you want to not only lift your body and your gear into the clear, but also a mountain bike. Maybe you do. Me? No fucking way. It also smacks too much of the ultra-light backpacking ethos that I find annoying. I can see bike touring someday, but I see myself riding in the (distant) slipstream of a bike mechanic (my mister) on our way to a warm bed and a dinner prepared by somebody else at the end of the day.
As I write this now, the winter hygge season has settled in, I have plans I’m looking forward to, and I have plenty of projects I’m excited about for this upcoming year. I don’t believe in resolutions, but I do keep a list of things I intend to do, and sometimes, those things get pushed to the next year. And rather than seeing incomplete intentions as a failure, I see it as a gift of hope to my future self.
Let’s pause for a real beauty about the topic of uncertainty, shall we?
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
That distant day is always on its way, right? I find the act of translation deeply fascinating. I read of a Rilke translator who said she wrestled with the word “live” in the quote above because she felt like he had a relationship with the questions he was asking about life and love. That perhaps he meant we should trust the questions as a way of living. That really stuck with me, and I now see this quote a bit differently.
As always, Maria Popova curates the best of everything which I have read and reread and reread since it was first posted in 2012 on this topic. I am very much living into that distant day. That distant season. Thank all the gods for this life.
I marked the seasons by reading the most books I’ve ever read in a year. I got up early on workdays, read on Friday nights, most of the weekends, and every minute I had a break. In short, I curled up into my shell and embraced my suffering introvert. According to The Good Reads tracking, I read 166 books. Thanks to researching watercolor illustrators and painters and reading poetry, really–shorter books, but still–I made that goal. Thank all the gods for the Bellingham Public Library.
My two absolute favorite writers of the 2022 year? Barry Lopez and Olivia Laing. I’ve hung out with the words of B. Lopez before, but I made a point to read everything by him this past year.
Favorite quote from Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World:
1] To survive what is headed our way–global climate disruption, a new pandemic, additional authoritarian governments–and to endure, we will have to stretch our imagination. We will need to trust each other, because today, it’s as if every safe place had melted into the sameness of water. We are searching for boats we forgot to build.
2] During these days we all resided at the heart of incomprehensible privilege.
Barry. Fucking slayin’ me, man. I still have one book to read before I can properly write Barry a love letter. May he rest in peace.
And speaking of love letters: Olivia Laing just grabbed a hold of me and made me think about artists, my education, and the current disaster-to-disaster moment we’re living in and she saved me this autumn as my knee healed. I have one more book of hers to read. She is now one of my favorite writers, and I copied so many of her sentences in my journal because they are pure music. Genius. Her love letters to David Bowie and Freddie Mercury made me feel like I was reading the words of a friend. Words I wish I had written. Just gorgeous. So smart. Her way of thinking and writing about art is like cool glass of water after dying of thirst in this STEM obsessed zeitgeist.
Fav quote from The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone:
Amidst the glossiness of late capitalism, we are fed the notion that all difficult feelings – depression, anxiety, loneliness, rage – are simply a consequence of unsettled chemistry, a problem to be fixed, rather than a response to structural injustice or, on the other hand, to the native texture of embodiment, of doing time, as David Wojnarowicz memorably put it, in a rented body, with all the attendant grief and frustration that entails.
Consequence of Unsettled Chemistry could be my memoir title for 2019-2022 season of peri-menopause and menopause, but that’s a story for another day. For another season. And I’ve lived through it, me and my doll parts. Hope you don’t ache the way I ache. I’m still the girl with the most cake. Okay, sorry if I lost you. Very Gen X digression there. Who knew that fucking Hole lyrics would bring me such solace?
All this thinking about seasons made me remember a few lyrics from a poet we lost too soon as the seasons roll on by. I really see no way to end this as the Wolf Moon sets and clock clicks forward. So here is the my favorite part of the song, Seasons. Poetry, that song.
Sleeping with a full moon blanket
Sand and feathers for my head
Dreams have never been the answer
And dreams have never made my bed
Dreams have never made my bed
And I’m lost, behind
The words I’ll never find
And I’m left behind
As the seasons roll on by