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Field Notes, vol 11

January 5, 2014

field notes
I intended to write this hours ago, watching the early morning sun from my window. And yet, despite going to bed a bit before midnight last night, I slept until past 4 pm today, and it’s the twilight that keeps me company now. My body, in the grips of a flare up and perhaps something more, needed the sleep, and I can’t begrudge it those lost hours. This is not how I meant to ring in the new year: my flare up started on New Year’s Day, and thus my usual cleaning and tidying rituals have had to wait. It’s too difficult holding my hands up above my head to dismantle a garland, and besides my balance isn’t terribly trustworthy right now. The little everyday dreams I’d meant to put into place by now have had to wait as well.

A few years ago, I would have been upset, felt betrayed by my body, restless in my inability to complete simple tasks. But now, I’ve been through the mourning, and am settled quite nicely in acceptance, even contentment. I’m growing up.
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So even though this week has not gone as I expected, I will still write and share my thoughts on another new year, one full of promise. There a few points in a year’s cycle that seem to me to naturally encourage reflection, and this is one of them. What I share aren’t resolutions, in the go-getter goal setting sense, anyway. But it turns out resolution is a word with many meanings, including “the act or process of resolving or separating into constituent or elementary parts” and, musically speaking, “the progression of a dissonant tone or chord to a consonant tone or chord” and even a literary one: “the part of a literary work in which the complications of the plot are resolved or simplified.” I certainly break my life into separate parts to decide which areas need adjusting, and then put them back together again, hopefully in a more consonant way. And I have a sense of simplifying to a few overarching themes, for the year at least. So perhaps they are resolutions after all.
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I’d like my life to have more:

  • fresh air
  • talking with family & friends, both online and off
  • handcrafts
  • patience
  • blogging
  • walking
  • teaching Thistle tricks
  • photography
  • gentleness
  • music (violin lessons will soon commence)
  • baking
  • languages
  • activism
  • knowledge of the natural world
  • grace;

and I’d like to have less:

  • consumption
  • guilt
  • time-wasting
  • fear
  • judging
  • complaining
  • borrowing trouble.

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My life is not typical, but like everyone else’s it has its benefits and downsides. Time is my primary gift, and I would like to value it a little more. I would also like 2014 to be a year of creating (as opposed to consuming): I have found that the more I create, the more satisfied I become, and the easier it is to place smaller, meaner thoughts in context. I do not think judging is always bad; my judgement is what has made me so committed to social justice. Yet negative thoughts can build into a cycle, and the best way I know to break that cycle is to remember that (almost) everyone is doing the best they can, according to what they feel is right.

One of my best friends recently wrote about choosing one word for the year, and I found myself enchanted with the idea. The obvious word would be create, and yet I shied away from it. My thesaurus search for synonyms proved fruitless too. Until I began to just reflect, and came up with making. I like that present progressive tense, without the overtones of the imperative, and creating might have done just as well. But making, with its Saxon roots, somehow seemed sturdier, humbler, and just right for me. In this upcoming year, I’ll be making all kinds of things, from the banal to the life changing, inviting metaphors of yarn and needles and knitting the slim strands into a sturdy, enveloping whole. There will be moments of struggle, I’m sure, dropped stitches that seem impossible to fix. At those moments, I hope I remember why I chose to begin anyway. At least I’ll be able to reread these thoughts.
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It’s now pitch black outside my window, and I haven’t even gotten to bookish things. I’m a bit superstitious, and for my first read of the year, I decided to go with an author I knew I could depend on. I ended up choosing Ana Castillo’s Peel My Love Like an Onion, which was just a perfect novel for me, particularly now: full of love and humour and struggle and lots of reflections by an emotionally strong but physically disabled woman. I adored every moment of it, and it definitely got the year off to a good start. I also ended up finishing an entire audiobook, Sally Gardener’s fairy story I, Coriander. It was a reread for me, and kept me good company as I lay in bed, playing with knitting and my Christmas gift yarn, deciding what kind of sweater it wished to be. Just last night, I finished my first nonfiction read of the year, although I’d begun it in the last days of 2013: How the Light Gets In by Pat Schneider. It’s an essay collection by a poet, now in her 70s, that I requested from the library after reading “The Patience of Ordinary Things,” a quietly beautiful poem of hers I encourage you to read as well. It was a graceful, if challenging book, to which Schneider brought a stunning degree of emotional honesty. I feel richer and wiser for having read it.

Now it’s certainly time for me to close this post. I wrote it as much for myself than anyone else, and yet as I begin my eighth year of blogging here, I suspect the blog is once again evolving. There will still be lots of bookishness, but the form of that bookishness might change a little. We shall see.
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32 Comments leave one →
  1. January 5, 2014 8:06 pm

    Good luck with the year ahead – I know all about working through and with the pain (and your body…). I hope your year of ‘making’ is… productive ;)

  2. aartichapati permalink
    January 5, 2014 8:16 pm

    This is a beautiful post, Eva. I hope the new year brings you what you crave and need most. And if your move is still in the works, I hope it brings you new friends and new experiences.

    • January 6, 2014 11:35 pm

      The move’s still on Aarti & thnx for your good wishes. :) I hope the post didn’t sound needy or desperate, which are words that spring to mind when I read the word ‘crave’! I’m pretty happy with life as it is, except I want more of certain things and less of others. Yep, the move will be a dramatic change in one sense, but in another I’m moving in order to make it easier to keep doing the things I’m already doing that I love. Does that make sense?

      • aartichapati permalink
        January 12, 2014 10:18 am

        Oh, you did not sound needy or desperate at all! I meant crave in a sense that – you want it so much that you are going to go out and get it.

      • January 12, 2014 10:27 am

        Oh good! :)

  3. January 5, 2014 8:42 pm

    Eva, readers can feel your thoughtful process of making this very post. I too find that with making comes a lessening of anxieties, or looking outward for validation. It centres me, and I find it’s necessary. I wish you a peaceful and wonder-filled year ahead doing the same.

    • January 6, 2014 11:35 pm

      Mel, I definitely think blogging falls under the ‘making’ umbrella! I love the way you described making as a kind of centering: what a wonderful image and one I also experience.

  4. January 5, 2014 8:49 pm

    I am sorry this year is off to a rocky start for you, Eva, but it sounds like you have a great attitude about it. I hope to see you around more in 2014. Take care of yourself!

    • January 6, 2014 11:36 pm

      Thnx Kelly! You will see me around more this year, I’m going to make sure of it. :)

  5. queenofthepark permalink
    January 5, 2014 9:34 pm

    Such an inspirational post Eva!
    I particularly valued your analysis of that word resolution. So challenging and helpful
    May this new year be truly rewarding for you. And violin lessons as well! Excellent!!

    • January 6, 2014 11:36 pm

      Thank you! I was intrigued when I began looking up definitions of resolution.

  6. January 5, 2014 9:37 pm

    what a lovely post this is. All the best to you always.

    • January 6, 2014 11:37 pm

      And to you as well Amy! I feel like, with the bloggers who have been around for awhile now, we’ve all kind of grown up together. :)

  7. January 6, 2014 1:25 am

    Beautiful post, Eva! I loved the musical definition of ‘resolution’ that you have quoted – “the progression of a dissonant tone or chord to a consonant tone or chord”. I hope you have more of all the things that you want, this year (and less of all the things that you don’t want). Thanks for telling us about Pat Schneider’s poem ‘The Patience of Ordinary Things’. I just read it and it is very beautiful. I think I am going to take a printout of it and put it near my desk so that I can keep reading it through the day. Hope you enjoy the violin classes. I will look forward to reading some music / violin posts of yours alongwith the regular bookish ones :) Hope you are feeling better now and you are enjoying the first days of the new year. Happy reading!

    PS : I just ordered ‘The Hakawati’ :) I can’t wait to read it.

    • January 6, 2014 11:38 pm

      Isn’t the poem lovely? I want to memorise it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be good enough at the violin to do posts about it, but I’m sure it’ll come up in my field notes! Hope you enjoy Hakawati even half as much as I did. :)

      • Vishy permalink
        January 7, 2014 12:37 am

        The poem is so beautiful, Eva! I posted it on Facebook and I mentioned you too, and it is getting a lot of ‘likes’ and many friends have commented on it. One of them compared it with Neruda too. Have you read Neruda’s ‘Odes to Common Things’? Pat Schneider’s poem made me think of that book. But I liked Schneider’s poem more. I can’t wait to read ‘The Hakawati’ :) I will look forward to reading your field notes with your impressions on learning to play the violin.

      • January 8, 2014 12:01 am

        I’m glad your friends like it too! I hadn’t read that Neruda poem, thanks for telling me about it. :) I love his poem about hand knit socks though!

        I actually played the violin for awhile as a child but haven’t touched it in 13 years now. And I’ve never played a full sized one before! I hope a bit of it comes back to me at least so I don’t have to start at ground zero.

  8. January 6, 2014 5:50 am

    Happy New Year Eva! And the best of luck for your resolutions, they are lovely and inspiring and I look forward to be on this side of the line, following your progress.

  9. January 6, 2014 8:53 am

    Eva, this post felt like a gift. It was beautiful and it was comforting and it was a reminder that I needed to just pause. I’ve already broken down in tears twice this morning–once because it’s another rough day with Gray and then because I realized that I’ve let the stress of the past several days overwhelm me so much that I forgot to wish someone very special to me a happy birthday. It’s been a rather rocky start to the new year here as well, though health-wise I’ve been feeling much better. I hope that your flare up is short-lived, my dear friend! Despite your true grace in handling everything that comes with a flare, despite your positive attitude and your aura of contentment about your life period, it still makes me so sad to know that you’re not feeling well (understatement, I know) physically. Love you, Eva!

    • January 6, 2014 11:38 pm

      Love you too & hope the day got better! *hugs*

  10. January 6, 2014 12:01 pm

    What a lovely and thoughtful post, especially the idea of selecting a word for the year. I hope my word for this year is change. I don’t know yet.

    • January 6, 2014 11:41 pm

      Change is a big word! I have to admit I’m a little afraid of inviting it in, or at least making it the center of the year for me. It can hang out on the periphery though. ;)

  11. January 6, 2014 9:21 pm

    I really love this post. It’s so careful and deeply felt. I like the idea of selecting one word for the year. I think my word will be “purpose”. I’ve allowed too many things to become too overwhelming and it distracts me from why I do them in the first place – the enjoyment of them.

    Glad I found your blog, I’ll be back often :)

    • January 6, 2014 11:44 pm

      Thank you for such a thoughtful comment! Purpose sounds like a lovely word & I hope it helps you to enjoy things more. I completely understand the overwhelmed feelings.

  12. January 7, 2014 7:55 am

    Dear Eva,

    Everything about this post is lovely. You have written it beautifully and I like what leatherboundpounds said above – it’s careful. I like that your goals are less specific and more reflection on what you need and want to add and what you need and want to remove.

    That yarn is beautiful and what you are making (a scarf?) is too. There is something so relaxing and calming about sitting down with materials and coming out at the end with a finished something. I don’t even always finish – in fact, I often don’t, my apartment is littered with half-crocheted projects and attempts at knitting – because that’s not even really what it’s about. It’s about moving my hands and finding beauty in the way the yarn wraps around itself and the hook again and again.

    I have seen so many posts about the one little word and I’ve been waiting for my word to find me. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and there just doesn’t seem to be one thing. Maybe it will come to me. I like the idea of making – not quite create, but something else.

    Happy New Year, happy blogging anniversary, happy Tuesday, Eva.

    • January 8, 2014 12:04 am

      Thank you Lu. I’ve read so many marvelous essay collections, they’ve inspired to me to try writing in a slightly more stylised way.

      I’m actually knitting a cardigan (my first sweater!) with the yarn, but that was a swatch to try out different stitches and see which ones worked best. The yarn is fabulous: very rustic but soft at the same time. And ethically made! Knitting & crocheting are definitely about the dance between your hands and yarn and hook/needles. It’s meditative, a bit like saying the rosary.

      I bet your word will come to you. Or perhaps you need more than one word right now. :)

  13. January 8, 2014 7:13 pm

    I miss knitting so much! I loved the ability to really create something (hopefully) beautiful with my own two hands. I LOVE the mulberry color of the yarn you’ve picked, and it looks like you’re slowly but surely putting together a cozy looking scarf. I’ve no doubt it will be lovely when you’re done, but it’s so nice to find an activity, like reading, where the process is as enjoyable as the finished product!

    • January 12, 2014 10:34 am

      Knitting’s pretty portable! I knit a sock while travelling around Ecuador. ;) Of course, finding a yarn store in Vietnam might be a challenge: I hope you’re enjoying your settled down time.

      I’m actually making it into a cardigan: that was just swatching to decide which stitch type to use. It’s a fingering weight yarn on size 2 needles, so we’ll see how long a cardigan takes me!

  14. January 8, 2014 8:53 pm

    As ever, friend, I love your posts. I love everything you say about your goals and ideals, and I wish you the best of everything in 2014. (I wish we lived in the same town! I want to do more crafts this year too because I know how to do a craft for the first time this year!)

    • January 12, 2014 10:34 am

      Oh which craft did you learn? Crafting is fabulous! I also dabble in felt stuff and cross stitch, and this year I’m also going to try to sew some clothes.

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