Sunday, April 22, 2012


It’s still spring, and that means it’s still time for spring cleaning. There’s the ongoing need to retune the brain and the expectations (a kind of psychological spring cleaning), and there’s the practical very physical problem of the office that needs a clean. That second one is what I was engaged with today.

Finally, after what seems like a month of drought, we had rain today, just an ongoing drizzle, but enough to discourage thoughts of a long bike ride or other outdoor ambitions. And so, to the office.

Unrushed, because in denial that I was doing it, I actually managed to make decisions, throw things out rather than stacking them for later, sort piles of keepers, reshelve books… It didn’t seem like a lot of result for four hours work, but the fact is, what I did get done was going to take four hours sometime, if not today then perhaps on a beautiful sunny day, so better get it over with. So went my internal dialogue.

And now, this evening, I can see surfaces; there are no dread mysteries lurking and awaiting discovery, and I feel lighter.

Truly spring is wonderful.

Also, the crabapple tree out front, tall and generous, as wide as the yard, is in white beautiful bloom; the wisteria out back is coming into leaf and has some fat flower buds on it, hurrah! And today’s rain was enough to make the garden soil dark and moist, so that I finally felt it was OK to dig with the shovel and turn the soil. I had planted rye and clover as a cover crop; they’re now turned under. In the areas where I had done no watering last week, the soil six inches down was still bone dry; the rain had only penetrated a short way. But where I had watered, somehow the rain percolated through better.

The earthworms looked happy and energetic.

Now we need more rain, regularly every other day for about two weeks, to try to catch up a little. I’m told by farmers near Toronto that the rhubarb and spinach and asparagus is all looking sad because of lack of water.

Earth Day is now, just two days after the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view and politics) 4-20, the day for promoting the legalisation of marijuana (or should I say the decriminalisation?). No arrests reported, and a good time had by all, I gather. Let’s celebrate by doing a rain dance or two, and starting to plant lettuce greens and other early seeds (some of you are way ahead of me, I know, but for those who aren’t…)

My new springing to life happened today, not in the garden but at the computer: I was putzing around with Lightbox, and started to use it to tidy up a skanned image (it started as a slide and is now skanned to be a digital image). Instead of being afraid, for the first time I just ploughed on, removing spots and dirt marks, altering the contrast etc. And when I’d done the image looked much healthier, and in fact much more like the original slide.

Slides, being material things, are always at risk of damage or tarnishing by dust or other dirt. And so enter the magic of digital processing. Presto-Chango, as a kids’ book has it, the damage and dirt are erased and the image is like new, better than new.

But the biggest wonder of all for me was to discover that I could do it and become fluent at it, lose my fear of messing up and just engage.

Why do these lessons take learning and re-learning? Every new thing is cause for anxiety of some kind. And then when, because of drink or tiredness (neither helped me this time) or just because the passage of time makes fed-upness (the thing that drove me), I just get on with trying it or doing it, whatever it is, from the new video camera, to tidying photos with Lightbox, to you name it, there’s a break-through. There’s no disaster; things go just fine.

In fact there’s a liberation, the discovery of a new skill is cause for jubikation and a feeling of freedom.

Maybe people who are afraid of cooking or baking feel this way once they try it. Or those who are afraid of driving, or bicycling in the city… We’re all prisoners to some degree of our anxieties large and small.

And so I am reporting here my liberation from the bondage of Lightroom anxiety and into the freedom to tidy up and edit my own photos, rather than having to cry “help!” to Nicole or some other young person with quick hands and confident expertise.

The transition from fearful pre-beginner to engaged learner is a magical one. I want to go on remembering that it’s always worth the pain of the anxiety, for that’s what in the end pushes me into new tasks, new challenges. It’s the not-knowing that’s an exciting (and irritating and painful) stimulus. There’s nothing special about knowing; it’s not-knowing that’s a source of richness, progress,, and insight.


AND A POSTSCRIPT: The BURMA book is getting ever-closer to being shipped off to the printer. There's a new cover design, great news, still being finalised but already a lovely leap ahead; and the photo picks are almost final. I am so grateful to be consulted through all this process; many publishers aren't nearly so considerate of their authors. Thanks, Artisan!

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