Sunday, May 24, 2020

Op-Ed in The Washington Post


I have an Op-Ed in The Washington Post today, arguing for my favorite thing--the right to roam. If you're interested in learning more about the subject, check out my book, This Land Is Our Land.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Essay on pandemic life

Illustration by Astrid Jaekel
[I've written an essay for the Wigtown Book Festival on my pandemic experience, where I've found myself marooned in North Carolina, living among preppers, doomers, and survivalists. Here's a few paragraphs, or just read it in full on the website.]

I’m an American who lives in Scotland and who got stuck in America because of the pandemic. 
I was on a short speaking tour at high schools and colleges in North Carolina when America was locking down and my flight home got canceled. It just so happened that I used to live in North Carolina and that I had a friend here, so I suggested to my wife that we head to my pal David’s home in a half-rural, half-wild part of the state in the forested foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. I knew it would be the perfect spot to hunker down. 
David lives in Stokes County, near the Virginia border, about an hour from the mid-sized cities of Greensboro and Winston-Salem. Here, there are about three “No Trespassing” signs per capita, the median age looks like it’s about 67, and one-syllable curse words are drawn out into raspy haikus. Imagine rolling country roads, woods colored every shade of green, clay-red soil soon to sprout rows of cabbage heads, and farmer-tanned arms dangling out the windows of well-polished pickups. It’s thoroughly Southern, Christian, and conservative. In 2016, 76 percent of Stokes voters voted for Trump. 
On a dead-end gravel road, David has five acres of land. He moved out here about thirteen years ago to live out his retirement in a small, steep-roofed Gothic revival cottage that he built, which he calls “Acorn Abbey.” 
Acorn Abbey has the feel of a monastery, if a heretical one. Books have been written here (including all three of mine), periods of silence are voluntarily observed, and the names of Augustine and St. Patrick are frequently mentioned, but only with contempt. There are teetering towers of books, a Rodgers organ that booms Bach and show tunes, and a vegetable garden and orchard. [Keep reading.]

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

More depopulation panic


In his latest column, NYT's Ross Douthat sounds the alarm about the travesty of reduced human fertility rates. I'm not sure why so many pundits are sounding alarms over the world population, which is 7.8 billion people, a number that's increased by roughly 800 percent in the last 200 years and which is projected to rise to 11.2 billion by 2100. Many of these billions of people consume at unsustainable rates. (Americans, per capita, consume four times the amount of the earth's carrying capacity, according to an estimate.) Yet Douthat worries that this “global fertility crisis" will result in "ever-slower growth." He writes that in this "age of stagnation" "growth prospects will dim." And even though we produce an additional 83 million people every year, Douthat quotes someone who worries that our population will "gradually vanis[h]."

What fascinates me about these depopulation critics is just how anthropocentric their thinking is. Why not try to imagine how positive human depopulation will be for the millions of other species that we share this planet with: the wild plants, the non-domesticated animals, and the bugs, as well as ecosystems and the climate? Instead, Douthat seems most concerned about the state of countries' GDPs.

Douthat does include a throwaway paragraph about the supposed environmental benefits of depopulation, but he seems to believe that we need to maintain population levels to "innovate" our way out of the climate crisis, which seems absurd to me as most of these 8 billion people are working on farms, in factories, and in retail. They’re not in labs inventing more effective photovoltaic solar panels. He also insinuates that depopulation proponents are extreme misanthropes, who want an earth without people. I don't think that's the case at all: my vision of a depopulated earth involves a sustainable population of humans, who have little concern for their country's GDP, and who thrive on a planet that's given a chance to heal and rejuvenate.

[If there's a weakness in my argument, it's that I'm being flippant about the difficulties to be faced by older generations. I just can't seem to summon the sympathy because the health of the earth and the good of the species seem immeasurably more important than the comforts of one generation in their twilight years.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Movie Reviews: "The Two Popes" and "Thunder Road"



During the first 45 minutes of The Two Popes, I thought I was watching a classic-to-be. That should have been the whole movie: two great actors, whether in a sunny garden or a marbled chamber, trading quips and confessions and building their unlikely friendship. It was as if another director directed the second half of the movie, when the film resorted to extensive expository flashbacks that build up to Pope Francis’s heroic and crowd-pleasing anointment. The flashbacks (which would have been effective if used sparingly) seemed to want to add complexity to Francis (this could have been just-as-well achieved during their garden conversations), but it all feels cheap in the end, as the movie veers toward what seems like hagiography, at best, or a Vatican-endorsed PR job, at worst.

I have nicer things to say about Thunder Road, which was highlighted by a very weird performance by Jim Cummings, who somehow manages to make tragedy-induced anguish feel both real and funny. I usually think rage-induced rants and screaming matches are usually desperate ways for filmmakers to manufacture “high drama,” and while Thunder Road has its share of these, they always seemed fresh, even a bit subversive. It’s an unfair universe where someone like Adam Driver (who’s in his own meltdown movie) will likely get a nomination for Marriage Story while Jim Cummings will likely be ignored. My main criticism is that the daughter character, and the supporting cast in general, couldn’t keep up with Cummings.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Best Books I Read in 2019

[I only read 21 books in 2019, my lowest total in the fifteen years I've counted the books I've read. But, of these few, I was lucky to have selected several books that were great enough to make this list.]


American Nations by Colin Woodard (2011)

Colin Woodard’s, American Nations, is one of the best books on American history I’ve ever read. It urges you to think of America less as Democrat vs. Republican, urban vs. rural, or liberal vs. conservative. Rather, America, he argues, is made up of eleven distinct nations, including “Yankeedom,” the “Deep South,” “New France,” and “El Norte.”

“First Nation is a highly communalistic society. Most tribal land in the far north is owned in common under a form of title that prevents it from ever being sold to an individual or exploited in such a way that diminishes its value to future generations. In Greenland there is no private property at all: everyone is allowed to responsibly use the people’s shared land, but it is thought the height of absurdity that any one person should “own” it, which would be comparable to someone’s asserting ownership of the wind. Inuit—whether dwelling in Labrador, Nunavut, Greenland, or Alaska—still hunt, fish, and gather a substantial amount of their food, and all of those “home foods” and the implements associated with them are generally regarded as common property as well. If a hunter kills a seal, it’s handed over to whoever needs it. Villages have communal freezers that anyone can access—free of charge or accounting—because food cannot belong to one person. If the tribe engages in an industrial enterprise, the proceeds belong to everyone… Communalistic, environmentally minded, and female-dominated, the people of First Nation will have a very different approach to the global challenges of the twenty-first century from that of the other nations of the continent and the world. And starting in Greenland, First Nation is building a series of nation-states of its own, giving North America’s indigenous peoples a chance to show the rest of the world how they would blend postmodern life with premodern folkways.”



Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013)

Braiding Sweetgrass should be considered to be a part of the essential environmental-writing canon, alongside Walden, A Sand County Almanac, and Silent Spring. In an era of cynicism for our species, Kimmerer encourages us to imagine a future in which humans can play a leading role in developing a more sustainable way of being and promoting an ecologically prosperous worldwide ecosystem. 

"What I mean of course is that our human relationship with strawberries is transformed by our choice of perspective. It is human perception that makes the world a gift. When we view the world this way, strawberries and humans alike are transformed. The relationship of gratitude and reciprocity thus developed can increase the evolutionary fitness of both plant and animal. A species and a culture that treat the natural world with respect and reciprocity will surely pass on genes to ensuing generations with a higher frequency than the people who destroy it. The stories we choose to shape our behaviors have adaptive consequences."




The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt (2018)

Haidt's previous work put me off a bit, so I went into this one cautiously. However, I enjoyed this quite a bit, as Haidt and his co-author do a really good job with reporting crazy events that happen on college campuses and explaining why they happened. I think it really helps that he has a co-writer for this book, as the book just seems centered and well balanced and with none of the radical centrism that seemed to imbue his previous work.

"Safetyism is the cult of safety—an obsession with eliminating threats (both real and imagined) to the point at which people become unwilling to make reasonable trade-offs demanded by other practical and moral concerns. Safetyism deprives young people of the experiences that their antifragile minds need, thereby making them more fragile, anxious, and prone to seeing themselves as victims."


Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall (2015)

Prisoners of Geography is a fine introduction to modern-day geopolitics, which I was terribly in need of. The overall thesis is that so much of geopolitics comes down to simple geography. The good soils, waterways, and climate of France, Germany, and England, for instance, help to explain their consistent hold on power. The U.S, is not going to decline, as we always feel inclined to say, because we are in just about the most fortunate geographic position a country could ask for. Brazil will never be a major international power, despite its size, because of its jungles, poor soil, and un-ideal waterways. Russia is about to make a big play in the arctic to obtain fossil fuels. This is made possible partly because of technology (ice-breaking ships) and largely because of increasingly navigable waterways due to climate change. The great powers of China and India have long been at peace largely because they're separated by the Himalayas, and the Chinese occupation of Tibet was carried out largely to ensure this. Africa is a mess for a hundred reasons (colonial legacies for starters), but geography may be the central. 


The Problem with Everything by Meghan Daum (2019)

Meghan Daum is one of my favorite memoir writers and her latest is very good. It’s a memoir/manifesto/cultural critique of our modern culture wars, in which she defiantly flicks away creeping ideological groupthink and casts a critical eye on 21st Century moral panics, on what she calls “fourth wave feminism,” and on how younger generations have seemingly abandoned toughness as a character quality.

“But something was different back then. I shared a planet with those elders. We occupied the same universe. We breathed the same air. I had the great gift of being able to look up to my elders because it was possible to be like them. We may have been of different generations, with different problems and preoccupations and ideas about what constituted paying a lot of rent, but we still all grew up holding books in our hands. We called our friends from pay phones and negotiated sexual situations without technological assistance and registered opinions without being smacked down on social media moments later. We made mistakes in private and, in turn, respected the privacy of others in their mistakes. The same cannot be said for the relationship between my generation and those that are coming up behind us. Young people don’t want to be us because they’re not even the same species as us. Even if they did want to be us, the proposition would be absurd, like a human trying to emulate an orangutan. The world has changed so much between my time and theirs that someone just ten years younger might as well belong to a different geological epoch. In this epoch, there are no pay phones for calling friends at the spur of the moment. The contact highs from walking down the street have been replaced by dopamine hits from Instagram likes. To a young person, someone like me is not so much an elder as an extinction. Is it any wonder, then, that older generations’ contributions to the conversation are, at best, a kind of verbal meteor shower, the flickering, nattering remains of planets that haven’t existed for eons?”



Sabrina by Nick Drnaso (2018)

Nick Drnaso's Sabrina is the most 2019 book you could possibly read. It's about conspiracy theory culture, suburban malaise, and how the truth has become something to be reshaped and marketed for consumption. It's cynical about our country, but there's a whiff of optimism in how the characters operate, person-to-person. Though atomized, fragmented, and mostly connected by screens and usernames, you can sense that these characters are dying to connect, help, and be helped. This was my first graphic novel and I couldn't put it down.



Against the Grain by James C. Scott (2017)

This is a very readable history of both barbarians (who, unburdened by taxes, were typically semi-nomadic pastoralists living outside of the state) and all those early farmers, who tended to live much more miserably than their hunter-gatherer forebears.

"The burdens of life for nonelites in the earliest states, the subject of Chapter 3, were considerable. The first, as noted above, was drudgery. There is no doubt that, with the possible exception of flood recession (décrue) agriculture, farming was far more onerous than hunting and gathering. As Ester Boserup and others have observed, there is no reason why a forager in most environments would shift to agriculture unless forced to by population pressure or some form of coercion. A second great and unanticipated burden of agriculture was the direct epidemiological effect of concentration—not just of people but of livestock, crops, and the large suite of parasites that followed them to the domus or developed there. Diseases with which we are now familiar—measles, mumps, diphtheria, and other community acquired infections—appeared for the first time in the early states. It seems almost certain that a great many of the earliest states collapsed as a result of epidemics analogous to the Antonine plague and the plague of Justinian in the first millennium CE or the Black Death of the fourteenth century in Europe. Then there was another plague: the state plague of taxes in the form of grain, labor, and conscription over and above onerous agricultural work. How, in such circumstances, did the early state manage to assemble, hold, and augment its subject population? Some have even argued that state formation was possible only in settings where the population was hemmed in by desert, mountains, or a hostile periphery."


A Thousand Small Sanities by Adam Gopnik (2019)

Thousand Small Sanities is a history of liberalism (starting with John Stuart Mill). Gopnik proposes categories of conservatism that help us understand our moment, and he makes me proud to be a liberal. There is something in my DNA that makes me a reformer (or one who wants to make our laws and institutions more just), and this self-affirming book rang true on every page. 

"Reform our language, our pronouns, our cafeteria menus, our forms of addressing each other. Reform sexual acts so that they demand step-by-step consent. Some of this is ridiculous or can be ridiculously enforced. But our experience shows that reform is almost always necessary. On the whole, the reformers have got it right, even when no one thought they had. It is hard to recall how many even reasonable-seeming people thought slavery was tolerable. Or what a subject for laughter votes for women once was. Or how easily self-approving conservatives like William Buckley were perfectly content with perpetuating apartheid in the American South. For that matter, we only need look at the fight for marriage equality to recall how recently even liberal-minded people were suspicious of gay marriage. Now, the remaining arguments, except among hard-core resistors, are about how we fold gay marriage into a larger social blend. We may or may not be indignant about the refusal of a baker to make a cake for a gay wedding—but that we are arguing about this is in itself proof of how acceptable marriage between people of the same sex has become."



We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safron Foer (2019)

I really enjoyed Jonathan Safron Foer’s We Are the Weather, a ruminative book about climate change. His ruminations about his approach to something so enormous and devastating (climate change) is a theme that runs through my book Trespassing across America, but Foer’s thoughts are more developed. What I admire about Foer's nonfiction is just how innovative he is with style (his Eating Animals is stylistically dynamic as well). Some chapters are written in bullet points. In another chapter, he has a Socratic dialogue with himself. The gist of the book is that we have little control over climate change, but the decision we can make on a day to day basis is to finally stop eating meat.  

"Clearly, facts aren’t enough to mobilize us. But what if we can’t summon and sustain the necessary emotions? I’ve wrestled with my own responses to the planetary crisis. It feels obvious to me that I care about the fate of the planet, but if time and energy invested are expressions of caring, it’s undeniable that I care more about the fate of a specific baseball team on the planet, my childhood-hometown Washington Nationals. It feels obvious to me that I am not a climate change denier, but it is undeniable that I behave like one. I would let my kids skip school to participate in the wave at opening day of baseball season, but I do virtually nothing to resist a future in which our home city is underwater."


Best books read in 2018
Best books read in 2017
Best books read in 2016
Best books read in 2015
Best books read in 2014

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Decade in Review (and a revised Year in Review)


This is the seventh consecutive year I’ve done a “year in review.” I find them helpful and therapeutic to write, and greatly enjoyable, in subsequent years, to read. I’ve added and subtracted categories to enhance the review and to reflect my changing life (like adding "music" as a category when I began to learn the bagpipes). Feel free to subtract and add to this template to reflect the particularities of your own life. Where it's appropriate and not too personal, as you’ll see, I’ve provided examples from my own review to give you an idea. 

Below, I’m also including the template for your “decade in review.” Now, at the end of the 2010’s, is a good time to reflect on the experiences of the last decade and what you want out of the 2020’s. 

2019 Year in Review: (Give your year a thematic title)

Career Accomplishments

(What were your main career accomplishments?) List 5-6. 

- Published 28 blog entries. 

- Wrote a draft book proposal for ____

- Spoke at 35 events (Spring tour: NY, PA, OH, Il, MI, IL, IA, NE, CO. Fall tour: OH, VA, PA, KS, NY, NH, MA, VT). Made roughly $___ doing this.

- Published one article: Campus Galli for Smithsonian

- Acquired WFR certification

- Made approximately $x in Walden on Wheels royalties

Life accomplishments 

(What are non-career accomplishments? Perhaps the birth of a child, or obtaining a wife/girlfriend.)

Entertainment

[How did you spend your time on entertainment? Make estimates in hours of how much time you spent playing games, watching movies and TV (write down the series you watched), listening to podcasts, etc. How many books did you read?]

Videogames

Age of Empires II has been basically the only game I played, sporadically over the year. I ceased playing all games in the fall.  

2017: 30 hours
2018: 100 hours
2019: 100 hours

Books

Read 21 books. (Would be good to list them, but I keep this info in a separate file.)

2006- 33 books read
2007- 45
2008- 47
2009- 35
2010- 41
2011- 41
2012- 31
2013- 20
2014- 24
2015- 30
2016- 31
2017- 22
2018- 25
2019- 21

TV

Catastrophe: 5 hours
High Maintenance: 5 hours
Game of Thrones: 10 hours 
Veep: 4 hours
Succession: 15 hours
Chernobyl: 5 hours
Black Mirror: 3
Escape from Donnemora: 8
Alan Partridge: 3
Comeback Season 1: 6
Louis Theroux: (about 28 episodes) 28
Misc: 15 hours

Total: 107

2014: 164 hours
2015: 85 hours
2016: 140 hours
2017: 99 hours
2018: 65 hours
2019: 107 hours

Radio

So many podcasts listened to on walks and drives, made easier with iPhone. I’m guessing 350 hours.

Movies  

I sort of rediscovered my love of film in 2019. I got a subscription at Cinema Paradiso, so I had access to a lot of indie and foreign films. I went to the theatre a handful of times. I’ve seen roughly 65, or slightly more than one a week.  (I’m able to keep track of some movies I watch because you can view your “viewing activity” on Netflix and Cinema Paradiso.)

Notables: Hail Satan?Marriage Story, The Irishman, Call Me by Your Name, Outlaw King, The Hateful EightThe King, You Were Never Really Here, Tell Me Who I Am, David Brent: Life on the Road, Dolemite Is My Name, The Laundromat, The Guilty, Mother!, Fahrenheit 11/9American Factory, RBG, The Great Hack, Moneyball, The Beguiled, Bull Durham, The Lives of OthersWhat Happened to Monday, Vaya, High Flying Bird, ROMA, Stan and Ollie, Triumph of the Will, 7-35 UP, Leaning into the Wind, Sunrise, Peterloo, Woman at War, Isle of Dogs, High Life, Local Hero, Listen to Me Marlon, Prevenge, Amour, A Field in England, Shoplifters, Border, Once upon a Time in Hollywood, Love Actually, Toy Story 4, Vice, Peanut Butter Falcon, Brexit, Black Klansman, High Flying Bird, Dave, Apollo 11, Booksmart, Mandy, Ad Astra, A Christmas Story

Travels and Living Situation

(Where did you live? Write down all the places you traveled to.)

Started year in Edinburgh flat. Spent about a week on Isle of Skye because... I went on a spring semester tour across the Midwest to Denver and then back again. Back to Edinburgh. Went on a week-long trip to Southern France in the Pyrenees. Back to Edinburgh. Went on a one-night trip to the Scottish town of Melrose. Went on a 3-week trip to Germany (southern Alps, Bad Humbug, and Gelnhausen) and London for five days. Edinburgh till Aug 1, moved to Dunbar. I soon after went on 10 day journey with David to Lewis/Harris. Then five weeks in America for NY-OH-NC-VA-New England speaking tour. Back to Dunbar. Four days in Alnwick in Northern England for.... 

Finances

Major Purchases

(What were you major material purchases over $100? You don’t need to include basics like rent and food.)

Driving lessons: $90
Joseph Banks shirts: $79 
Used bicycle: $150
Window insulation: $75
Outdoors Equipment and boots: $390
Travel: $1366 (in pounds: German 350, Cape Wrath 200, Perpignan 200, Harris/Lewis: 300)
Computer back up stuff: $273
WFR Course: $1000 

2017: $6,945
2018: $4,667
2019: $___

Monthly Bills (month/year)

Gym ($43) $215 
Car Insurance ($20) $240
NY Times ($8) $96
Dunbar rent ($338) for five months 
Council tax ($413)  for five months
Water ($67) for five months
Sewerage ($79) for five months
Phone ($22) $264 year
Electricity $257 for five months
Transport ($75) $900
Food ($438) $5256

2018 Total $2,036
2019 Total $7,883

Total between purchases and bills

2018: $6,703
2019: $____

Earnings

(How much did you earn? List previous years' numbers for this and all categories.)

No examples for obvious reasons of privacy. 

Total Savings

(What are your total savings (or debts)?)

No examples for obvious reasons of privacy.

Financial reflections

(Make some overall financial reflections about 2017.)

Despite earning more than I ever have in my life, I feel nothing but anxiety looking at all of this, largely because my salary for 2020 is almost entirely uncertain... (It goes on like this for like four paragraphs.)

Friends and family

(Write down how your friend and family relationships have evolved. Any new notable friends?)

Health

(What was your health like for 2019?)

It's been a remarkably good year for health. I think I had two small and insignificant fevers. My wrist hurt me briefly after doing too much weightlifting and I once again pulled a hamstring at the first flag football practice. That’s maybe 10 days of mild physical discomfort out of the whole year. Here in Dunbar, I attend fitness classes at a gym, and when I can manage three visits a week, a look and feel very good. I have no serious health goals for 2020. 

Dramas

(What were your fights, altercations, or existentially dramatic events of 2019?)

-My dominating drama is with the people living in my flat building… My bank, Citizens Bank, cheated me out of about $1000, and this was in the back of my mind for close to a month. It drove me crazy until I decided to forget about it. 

Adventure

(What were your adventures/notable outdoor excursions?)

I had an amazing 2-day hike in the German Alps, the second day of which was one of the longest and most refreshing of my life. I think I hiked 25+ miles in 12-14 hours of walking, and I remember my belly pretty much disappearing from just one day of walking. I spent a day walking in the Pentlands around Edinburgh. I spent a week on the Cape Wrath trail in NW Scotland, which was wonderful. That’s actually not much adventure for a full year, but it was enough to sate this need. My job as freelancer and speaker feels risky and adventurous enough.

Romance

(How’s your romantic relationship doing? If you're single, how many dates did you go on? How’s your libido?)

Exterior Forces

[What major exterior forces (things that are happening at global/national level) played a role in your well being?]

I’m displeased that the UK voted for Boris Johnson and that Brexit appears to be happening. It’s impacted us in making us feel uncertain of buying a home before a possible Brexit-related recession. But it’s otherwise had no effect. Climate change, Trump, wealth inequality…. these all couldn’t be farther from my mind. Call me a mostly unengaged citizen, or at least a mostly unfeeling one. Or a detached one, for now. 

Addictions/Vices

(How have your vices/addictions played a role in 2019? Did you control them better than in previous years, or have they gotten worse?)

I have cut out dating apps and videogames, at least during the last fourth of the year. I played one or two games of Civ which made me feel like crap. I don’t think I’ve been properly drunk this whole year, and I have no craving for alcohol or drugs. If I had to name my principal vice, it would be pointless FB feed scrolling. All in all, though, it was a pretty good year for managing vices. 

Music

(Musical progress?)

I have been a horrible bagpipes student this year. Part of the problem is me being gone for months at a time and losing my routine. Part of the problem is simply my domestic set-up. I have neighbors so I can only practice at certain times of the day.

Golden and Dark Ages

(I consider a “golden age” a period of my life when I’m generally content or fulfilled or stimulated or any such combination that makes me feel like my life is being well-lived. What were your golden ages in 2019? What made it feel like a golden age? Your dark ages?)

Emotional Profile

(I’ve broken this into 3 categories: dominant emotions, occasional emotions, and my emotions that are on a long vacation.)

Dominant emotions

1. Stoic neutrality. My most common emotion is a sort of non-emotion. It’s just kind of a non-energetic nothingness as I muddle through the day, which I might feel when cooking, cleaning, working out, listening to podcasts, or when... It’s something like robotic autopilot. It isn’t exactly unpleasant, but it’s also unenjoyable, and not a desired state of being to consistently and predominantly be in.

2. Irritability and resentment. My next most common emotion is some combination of feeling annoyed, irritated, or frustrated. Perhaps I’ll feel misunderstood or unappreciated. I feel this when I see how our neighbors have left trash outside (someone threw up in our alleyway a few days ago and now someone has left a trash bag out which cats have clawed open), or when some bank or unexpected tax takes my money. I suppose there are just preconditions, that I need to explore, that make me more likely to fall into an irritable state of mind.   

3. Worry. I’d say this is a pretty regular one, but one not usually felt in its extreme form. I mostly have mild worry about money and my financial responsibilities as… I worry sometimes if I’ve built a stable enough career to confidently and comfortably fulfill the demands of…

Occasional emotions

1. Exhilaration and awe. This is a fairly rare emotion, but one that’s worth noting because I feel it semi-regularly. I certainly get exhilaration when engaged in sports (such as on my softball team) or awe when I’m on some vigorous multi-day hike.  

2. Hope and inspiration. I remember, on my Great Plains hike, I felt a continued sense of “looking forward to the rest of my life and all the things I might do.” This is something that makes sense to be felt most when you’re in a period of transition and not necessarily presently living an already set-up life. And I think it’s easier to feel this way when your unstuck. I suppose I do feel…

3. Creative fire. This, too, is mostly absent, except for when I’m pounding out a long and enjoyable Facebook post. This comes from working on a creative and intellectual project, which I haven’t had for almost two years it seems.   

My emotions that are on a long vacation

2. Relaxed reflection and contemplation. This is the emotion one feels after a hard day’s physical labor, looking out over a landscape, or when seated before a fire. Preventing me from accessing this is my demanding domestic life, the non-solitary nature of… , the absence of a relationship with my own corner of the natural world, and just the household infrastructure for moments of quiet contemplation and satisfaction.

Victories and Losses

Victories

(Write about the successes you’ve had this year, whether they have to do with career, relationships, health, sports, etc.)

Losses 

(List your failures/disappointments/and mess-ups from 2019.)

2019 Goals Review

(If you had goals and resolutions from the beginning of 2019, assess how you did with each.)

Existential themes and life narratives

(Think about your year and pick out a few main storylines. Maybe you dealt with a serious health problem, or a relationship problem, or thought a lot about what you wanted to do with your life. Spend a paragraph or so writing about each theme. Another way to ask this is to think about what things affected you emotionally the most.)

2020 Goals

(Come up with a list of 2020 goals. I usually have 5-10. Pick a few that are easily achievable. Pick a few that will be tough.)

Existential themes and life narratives

(Pick out about three themes from your year. It could be as a father to a newborn, a husband, a struggling artist, or dealing with a family member’s health problem, or your own health problem, or it could be about a spiritual quest you're on. Pick 2-3 and write a paragraph about them: where you’re at within this theme, and where you want to be.)

Summary

(Read over this year in review and summarize your year. How was it? I usually write 3-4 big paragraphs.) 



Now do your “decade in review.” Here are the categories I used, which are much the same for my year in review. 

 The 2010’s Decade in Review: (Give your decade a thematic title)


Career Accomplishments

- Published 301 blog entries.

- Conventionally published three books, and self published two. Walden on Wheels was a complete success. My other two main books are accomplishments that are dear to me, but they never took off with the reading public. 

- Spoke at roughly 100 events (bookstores, colleges, festivals). Co-presented with Bill McKibben.

- Published 19 articles. 

- Completed Duke graduate degree. 

- Have paid off royalties for WoW. Been featured on The Tonight Show, and other respectable podcasts and magazines. 

- Worked two seasons at national parks.

Entertainment
 
Books

Read 286 books. I’m reading less and less every year, but I supplement with TV and podcasts, and I can’t help but read less during a book project. 

TV

660 hours (2014-2019). We’re in the golden age of television, and I’ve watched some fantastic series like The Wire and Game of Thrones. I may put The Wire in the topmost tier, given how GoT botched its final season. Other favorites of the decade include Veep, Black Mirror, High Maintenance, and Catastrophe.

Radio

I have no idea how many hours of podcasts I’ve listened to, but it’s become a daily fixture in my life. I started listening to podcasts around 2010, with Radiolab and This American Life, and it’s since expanded to about 20 shows I regularly listen to. 

Movies  

990 hours. I have no idea how many films I’ve watched, though I estimate maybe 60 a year. 

Major Travels

- Four summer journeys to Alaska, including Ferry, Coldfoot, Deadhorse, Bettles, and Lake Clark NP (2011, 2012, 2015, 2017).

- 2012 Keystone XL hike. 

- 2013 UK trip. 

- 2016 Central America trip. 

- 2017 UK and Europe trip. 

Living Situation

- Lived in Alaska for four summers (2011, 2012, 2015, 2017).

- Lived in Acorn Abbey off and on from 2010-2017. 

- Nebraska (2014). 

- Utah briefly (2015)

- WNY (Summer 2016). 

- Scotland (2018-2020). 

Finances

Major Purchases

KXL trip + camping equipment $6000(2012)
IPad         $800 (2012) 
Canon Camera              $1000 (2012)
Mac         $1300 (2015)
2006 Honda Civic $9000 (2015)
Uilleen pipes $1500 (2016)
Canon Camera replacement $1000 (2017)
iPhone         $450 (2017)
Telephoto Lens         $800 (2017)
Suit         $440 (2017)

Earnings 

xxx

Total Savings

xxx

Friends and family

(Who are you closest friends? What friends have you made? Lost?)

Health

(Describe your health for the decade.) 

The 2010’s were a very good year for health. My body never really changed much, fluctuating from 170-180 lbs, and varying degrees of muscle mass depending on my routines and access to sports/gyms. I’d say my athleticism has about the same potential as my athletic peak (18 years old?) but my 18 year old self was certainly more athletically skilled because of the constancy of practice.

Romance

(List of girlfriends? How many sexual partners? How is your relationship/marriage?) 

Addictions/Vices

xxx

Music

In 2016, I began playing the bagpipes. I’ve slackened my practice routine in the last two years, though my goal of being a quality amateur musician still stands, and I expect to pick it back up once my life achieves some stability, out of which a routine can form.

Golden/Dark Ages

(What were the best and worst periods of the 2010’s, and why?)

Victories and Losses

Victories
Losses 

Overall decade reflections

(How did you start out materially, financially, romantically, religiously, physically, morally, etc., and how did you end up?)

Goals for 2020-2029

(List about 10 goals for the next decade.) 

Ideal vision for the 2020’s

(Write out your ideal vision for how you want the decade to play out, which I suppose is a synthesized portrait of your goals.) 

Possible problems

(Identify 3-4 possible problems that you see happening in the 2020’s. Why?)

Summary

(Summarize how the 2010’s went and what the future looks like.)