Finding direction in stormy times.

For days the rain has been heavy and steady. Air slides into the edge of the sea without making a line. White sea foam piles up at the rocky edge of our walk and even at low tide the sand is swept by high waves every few minutes. A bluff slid away up the beach because run-off has been so heavy. We try to go out for a daily walk anyway. A wave caught up with us once, wetting our running feet and splashing up the backs of our legs. We laugh about that. Even though we are careful and keep a close eye on the surf, the ocean is tricksy. We have come home rain-soaked almost every day for a couple of weeks. One day it took me two hours to get my hands warmed back up.

I keep trying to make resolutions for the coming year. What do I want to accomplish in 2021? What are reasonable promises might I make to myself?

I believe in keeping my word.

Last year about this time we decided to try giving up all seafood. It was not quite a promise, but we thought we might try for a month. We hadn’t eaten seafood more than once or twice a week, but we considered that might be too much. What was happening in the oceans prompted us to give eating fully vegetarian a try, just to see how much we’d miss the flesh.

We had no seafood at all for six months. In the summer I found a bottle of good fish sauce in the back of my pantry shelves, then we had wild sockeye for Thanksgiving dinner. We both agreed that the salmon was not the highlight of the meal and we did not and would not miss salmon.

However. The fish sauce went into a paste with onion, garlic, frozen fire-roasted red pepper and other ingredients. I flavored stirfry and pasta for several months, doling out the sauce a few spoonfuls at a time. Yesterday, I used the last of the fish sauce (not nearly enough) and what else I had on hand to make a second batch. I reordered fish sauce from the maker, not Amazon. So not fully vegetarian because little wild fishes are used in the fish sauce. (In case you’re wondering, it’s fish sauce that often gives Thai food that deep umami flavor you can’t quite place.) Maybe I will give up fish sauce in 2022?

What else? There were the forest fires across the West that made the air unbreathable even here, the careless tourists who walk too close, people we know who got sick (and did not die), the windstorm that blew down our electrical mast, some new writing published, six quilts completed, a virtual wedding, and all those shawls I wove and the gallery is closed. Sheltering since 10 March. Missing family. A divorce.

We probably meant to drink less in 2020, but that wasn’t happening. In the summer, we actually went to the liquor store and purchased alcohol. So neither of us stopped drinking, but I am keeping track and averaging less than a drink a day (about five small glasses of wine a week), so that’s okay. Probably. Could we do without alcohol entirely? Maybe. We probably won’t. We toyed with the idea, but no.

Duotrope shows I sent out 24 submissions last year, six are still pending. My acceptance rate was over 26%, which is astounding compared to previous years when I rarely broke into double digits. I went back through my records to 2006. One year my resolution was to complete at least 100 submissions. I completed one hundred twelve submissions that cost me a total of $36 and had a 7.6% acceptance rate in 2018. It is a way of keeping track of what I am up to.

Speaking of keeping track. The last fourteen weeks of 2020, I tracked exercise and meals and calories. I lost fifteen pounds. Please don’t hate me, but I mean to lose more in the next six months. We now eat only at regular mealtimes, no snacks, and yes, sometimes I am hungry. But I feel physically better, my stomach fat no longer crowds my innards, and Gary says my face is thinner. I suspect all that’s good. I am careful to take my vitamin D and bone supplement.

Better: This morning I was able to run a mile of hills during our walk while it blew a full gale. Nothing hurts. [Be still, my joyful heart! I have missed running so much!]

I also created an actual budget spreadsheet in more detail than I have ever done in the past. Income, expenses, savings. I swore off purchasing for a month last spring. Now I mean to do that again. I can buy food, sundries like TP (Gary has 60 rolls stashed under a bed), but no yarn or fabric or even books. For ten months I plan to be frugal, then we should be able to make our donations in December. We’ll see how that goes. We need a new roof and we have other home repairs we hope to complete by the summer.

In the mean time, just now I am not knitting, weaving, quilting, or revising any writing. I am reading. Resting. Sorting and planning. I will attend my alma mater’s MFA virtual residency later this week, a virtual poetry reading next week. I hope to sit in the same room with friends before the year is over. We have waited as patiently as we are able. What can I promise? I think I am safe to promise knitting, weaving, quilting, and writing.

Gary has been on hold long distance for an hour and a half to find out what’s happened to a refund for items returned last month (items that were not in any way related to what we had actually ordered). He was number three for the past thirty minutes, but just made it to number two in line on hold. [Altogether two hours and twenty minutes to speak to a very nice woman who seems to have fixed the problem.] Everything is moving a little bit slowly. Mostly, we don’t mind delays.

But there is also urgency.

For one example, we were promised 20 million people vaccinated by the end of 2020. We actually saw a little over 4 million. At this rate, it will take six years to get to herd immunity. We’re hoping Biden will find the support he needs to shave six years to six months.

Fingers crossed.

In the mean time: Why is the sky pale gray? Why do people not mean what they say? Why make promises we never mean to keep? Why why lie in wait when we might leap?

It’s always more dangerous coming back down than it is going up.

my father’s warning about hiking

Shelter as best you can. Don’t take risks. Light at the end of the tunnel sounds great, but we are still in the tunnel. Recall that Anne Frank survived almost the entire war and died just at the end. Of more than 22 million casualties in WW1, 11,000 were killed or wounded during that last morning of fighting. Gary would tell you to “keep your stick on the ice.” I will advise you to take a day at a time, playing safe until it actually is safe.

May you and yours find 2021 a better year, a more hopeful and less angry year, a year where honor matters and truth matters and love finds full and free expression, and people are allowed to do their jobs and walk the streets and shop and hug their families and sing in faith they will be treated fairly.

ADDENDUM: There was another resolution I made about 2020. I would purchase no more than 8 items of clothing during the year, and if I kept that goal, I could purchase a pieced kimono silk garment from designer Ann Williamson. I kept the first half of that pledge (7 items purchased for myself), but only bought two kimono silk face masks from Ann. Does that count?

9 thoughts on “REGROUP

  1. Jan,
    This was such a deep and gorgeous letter. I know you send these out into the world not really knowing the impact your words have or who you touch. Know that Marlena, a left-handed Panamanian-American, also writer, living in New York reads most of your letters and considers the hard earned truths you write.

    Best wishes for the New Year.

    Marlena Maduro Baraf

    At the Narrow Waist of the World: a memoir

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I appreciated the thought put into your review of months of living and learning over 2020. Much has been done/happened for you. Congratulations on your many submissions and number of acceptances. I do not submit anymore; I reconsider at times, but find it harder than I care to experience in the past few years. So-I admire your fortitude. And like that you make things by hand. Best to you and yours! (I am still thinking over your suggestion, but have plenty to manage in my life right now.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Making with my hands keeps me sane. Thank you. I completely understand not submitting. There have been many years where I considered stopping.

      My only hope is for us all is the next year is that it will be better, and that we hold on a little longer.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When the battle’s over, plays the piper
    Anne Frank’s spirit sings in an 18 year old Greta
    a woman named Garcia never stops helping her descendants
    the spirits of the salmon are honored
    a beard on Biden could be better
    Marvin will always be listening [the Bell rings]
    to the flower in the forest
    played by the piper
    who is never alone

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Karen. I appreciate your support. I thought of you.

      I started by running up a couple of steep hills on our walks (honest, it felt easier than walking them). The few hundred yards I was managing in the last couple of weeks felt wonderful. I do not expect to ever run my regular 10k again, but a mile now and again looks promising.


      1. Nice! I’ve been run/walking exclusively, about 30-40 minutes, hoping to work up to longer this year… You are an inspiration…

        Liked by 1 person

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