This post is a little off topic and not exactly related to gardening. Please indulge me as I go off on a completely decadent, shoe-gazing tangent for a moment. Ignoring is also an option. Please also note that I wrote the bulk of this before my birthday last week so the tense is a bit off. One of my goals way back when was to stop spreading myself around and to bring more into this site, even if it doesn’t always fit neatly into the “GARDENING” package. I do try to stay on topic most days.
It’s my birthday this week and it’s got me on the subject of how I want to spend the year until my next birthday rolls around. 37 is feeling like a big one for me. Like I am poised for a lot of change that I can’t yet determine. When I was younger, I imagined that 33 would be my best year, ever: an ideal age. I imagined that by 33 I would be, “…kicking so much ass!” What that said for the years after 33, I do not know. I only managed to get that far in my imaginings. Back then, my version of kicking ass meant feeling comfortable with myself, feeling accomplished in my work, and not putting up with or eating anymore shit. That is how Gayla at Age 33 looked to me. And then 33 rolled around and it was the year of the TV show that went wrong and other perceived failures, and I spent the remainder of the year carrying around a lot of anger and feeling generally AWKWARD. So 33 wasn’t all that to be sure.
Last year I turned 36. I suddenly felt OLD. It was like I had stepped over an invisible line and whoa, what the hell just happened there? I now have a prominent streak of grey hair on my left side, which I’m really not complaining about. I like it enough as far as grey hair goes. It’s just that sudden physical changes are a bit freaky. I lost a lot of friends at a young age so I became aware of the very real possibility of death and dying earlier than most. But last year I suddenly became more conscious of my mortality in a physical way. That said, I don’t mean for this to be a diatribe on growing older. For the most part I like getting older and look forward to what’s yet to come. I very much appreciate everything that experience has taught me, for better and for worse. I like the person I am now a hell of a lot more than the person I was at 25. Or 30. Or at 33, come to think of it.
I am much closer to achieving that ideal I imagined I’d reach at 33. But it’s a slightly shifted ideal, one that has changed as I have changed and my desires and expectations have matured. I enjoy things more. I find more joy in little details and in the work I do. I’m much less afraid and much more able to see what scares me and push against it effectively. Or still be kind of screwed up about certain things and be okay with that, knowing I’ll figure it out eventually. Or not. Because I’m also a bit more comfortable with my fallibility. I am more conscious of my needs and better able to say no to the things I need to say no to. And saying no doesn’t feel so much like I’m strapping on a pair of boots and going to war as a result. Because I’m also more comfortable with the fact that some people won’t like it when I do. I’m mostly okay with being perceived as a “bitch” sometimes. I hate the subtext behind that word. Being able to say no when I need to has also opened up the possibility for saying yes more often, too. At 36, going on 37 (now going on 38. yikes), I do feel more at ease with myself and accomplished. And I do believe that I am in fact eating far less shit.
All of this to say that my pal Karen recently celebrated a birthday. And on her blog she talks about making this the Year That She Becomes A Woman of a Certain Age. I was very inspired by the post and the way she has defined her goals for the year. Several years ago, when I kept a photoblog that was also more or less a journal, I wrote a list of “Things I Want to Do Before I Die”. It was a vague list as I did not expect that I would accomplish all of those things in my lifetime. It was more or less a guide post for what I might like to do and a kick in the pants to make some of them happen. Inspired by Karen (again), I thought I would resurrect that list and continue it here, the week of my 37th birthday. Some items from the old list have made it to this one and a few have even been accomplished. I did not include anything too personal, because I do believe in keeping some aspects of my life private, and I very much doubt you’d care to know regardless.
Not surprisingly, a good many of the items on my list have to do with travel, food, and PLANTS.
- Take the train across Canada stopping in small towns to take pictures. I so want to see the grasslands.
- Visit the Prairies (and walk through some tall grass): This was inspired by the film Days of Heaven, one of my favourite films of all time.
- Visit Point Pelee: And see the cold hardy opuntia. I am weirdly obsessed with this.
- Road trip through West Texas: Another obsession is scrubby desert landscapes. This is in part a result of the landscapes seen in the film No Country for Old Men.
- Learn how to make a steel drum.
Hike to the Boiling LakeBut I’d love to do it again. The Valley of Desolation was the best place I have ever been, hands down.
- Go to the Arctic: I want to see Tundra plants and find out what a full day of light feels like. Do not want to do this during the winter and all-day night.
- Write a kid’s book.
- Meet & photograph Jamaica Kincaid in her garden.
- Meet & photograph Lynda Barry
- Meet & photograph Nigel Slater
- Meet & photograph bell hooks
- I’m now adding Dionne Brand to this list. Her book, “In Another Place, Not Here” is blowing my mind. But then I think, what will I say to these people whose work I admire? Who have changed my life by writing about theirs (even if it is fictionalized). A most likely scenario: I get teary and tongue tied, followed by embarrassment and ending in humiliation. Perhaps this is a nice fantasy more than anything.
- Drivers’ license: I’m part-way there! Of course, I wait until this little thing called Peak Oil… That said, I don’t plan to buy a car.
- A good pair of red boots to wear.
- Go back to Oaxaca
- See a floating market in Vietnam. [Update: In 2011 I visited one in Thailand, but it was a sort of fake one built specifically for tourists.]
Make a little cottage/outdoor work shed. This coming from someone who doesn’t even have a backyard.I have a backyard now and it came with a little shed so I don’t actually have to build one. Not right yet, anyway.
- See a leatherback sea turtle: When I was a kid I wanted to be a Marine Biologist specializing in this specific sea turtle. I decided long ago that it wasn’t for me, but I am still fascinated by the largest and most endangered sea turtle in the world.
Eat fresh cacao
- Have my own cacao tree. And then I could make my own coco sticks. That would be awesome. This of course means I have to have a house and some land in the tropics. Oh dear.
Get a food dehydrator.I did this, although it passed by in a rather uneventful way.
- Make a solar cooker. Been talking about doing this for years.
Go on a botanical tour in another country.[Update: Thailand 2011.]
- Attend the Chelsea Garden Show. I don’t know though. Everyone speaks so highly of it but then I wonder if this is just what garden people are supposed to do. Is it for me? I guess I have no way to know…
- Give a garden tour (I have an idea in mind).
- Scuba dive.
- Make tamales.
- Grow a garden in another climate. I really want to have that experience.
- Live in another country for a time.
- Live with an ocean view (I did this for 3 weeks in Dominica, but it doesn’t quite count). I could see the ocean from my porch but it wasn’t exactly accessible.
- Turkey! The country. If I told you where this obsession comes from, you’d laugh at me.
House, fruits trees, chickens, garden. But then I think I’m not cut out for the country. Not permanently, anyways. I mean, I can’t even drive a car!
- Live in a home that has really good light.
- Write a memoir-type book.
Make a cozy and inspiring workspace.[Update: The one I have now isn't too shabby.]
- I LOVE MARKETS! Visit markets/farmers’ markets/fish markets/roadside stands in 50 cities – So far: 1. Austin, Texas, USA 2. Oaxaca, Mexico 3. Puerto Escondido, Mexico 4. Toronto, Canada 5. Vancouver, BC, Canada 6. Columbus, Ohio, USA 7. Portland, Oregon, USA 8. Roseau, Dominica 9. Oistens, Barbados 10. Niagara (area), On, Canada… I think there have been others in smaller towns over the years. 11. Chiang Mai, Thailand 12. San Diego, USA
- More printmaking: I miss it.
- Make a photo book.
- Have another gallery show: It’s been too long.
- Find my biological father: This is a rather loaded and private topic (although I’ve said before that I come from a long line of “out children” and I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of it), but I put it in a public space in case he comes across it (and is still alive) and wants to make contact. He knows my name and that I exist, but I don’t know his. Have I just set myself up to receive email from a bunch of freaks claiming to be my “daddy”? Probably.
- Find my half sibling/s.
- Learn to play piano.
- Make my own garden pots on a pottery wheel.
- Milk a goat.
- Take a month long trip WITHOUT email as a responsibility…. 2 weeks… 1 week… 3 days?! Okay, 1 day? GAH!
- Go on a RETREAT.
- I need more comrades to share work experiences with. My day-to-day working life is very solitary. (Working on it.) [People have emailed to ask about my work situation so am editing to add that the solitary is because I spend a great deal of time writing now and I need to do that in a pretty solitary way. I am easily distracted by noise and other people. It's more that I am seeking comrades to compare war stories, etc with... people with similarly strange careers.]
- Olives on a tree in Italy. Greece is cool too. Would be especially fun to harvest them.
- And then help make olive oil!
Go on a flea market/thrift store road trip. Further proof that I really need to pass my driving test.
- Hug the Tule Tree.
- Design my own fabric.
- Try 50 new cheeses – Admittedly I have tried at least this many in my life without documentation. One can never taste enough cheeses.
Build an outdoor clothesline. with an old fashioned metal pulley. Man, I love those things.
- Fly to Las Vegas. Rent a car and drive through the Mohave Desert. More desert obsessing. More need for a driver’s license.
- Joshua Tree National Park.
Explore a proper tidal pool in Northern California.[Update: Did this in San Diego in Jan 2012 so I am counting it.]
- Buy land.
- Visit Osaka.
- More mineral baths! – I visited 3 locations in Dominica and dipped just above my knees in St. Lucia. A nice way to end a day.
- Grape stomp. I grew up in the Niagara Region (wine and fruit) and yet I’ve never done this?
- Make dandelion wine. I think about this every single spring since I first heard of it as a kid.
- Visit 25 water falls: So far 1. Niagara Falls 2. Ball’s Falls, Ontario 3. Falls in Quebec when I was a kid 3. Emerald Pool, Dominica 4. Middleham Falls, Dominica. 5. Guama, Cuba
- Teach photography to kids.
- Spend Day of the Dead in Mexico. I have to admit that I am mostly eager to see the flowers.
- Eat sushi in Japan.
- Keep bees.
- Did I mention chickens?!!!
- Jump really high on a trampoline. Possibly even flip.
Keep a fish tank again.
- While we’re at it, it would be nice to build that pond I’ve wanted since I was a kid.
- Helicopter ride.
- Grow a vanilla bean. My friend David has done this! Hand-pollinated, fermented, the whole thing.
- Find out as much as I can about my lineage – Working on it.
- Participate in a Tales from the Green Valley type project I love this shit.
- Go east to PEI. – I have never been east of Quebec City. I am a terrible Canadian.
- Go back to Cuba & catch up with some people. My trouble is once I’ve been to a place I form a bond with people or the place itself. And I want to go back again and again, yet I also want to see new places, too.
- Take a writing class with Lynda Barry. She conducted a class in Toronto when I was literally days from my manuscript deadline for the last book, and needless to say, I was not able to attend. Missed my chance and have regretted it since.
- Learn to play one song really well on the piano.
- Learn to speak a second language fluently. Probably Spanish since I seem to like it best.
- Learn to play “Famous Blue Raincoat” on the guitar. This came on spontaneously, and so I got a small travel guitar for my birthday. Thanks to Davin and Chris! To me, it seemed like being able to play something, anything, on the guitar is a life skill I should have. Of course, I did not consider the whole callus thing…. playing guitar is painful! But on a serious note, it comes as no surprise that I mentioned music twice on this list. I always enjoyed singing and performing as a kid even though I am convinced that I am tone deaf or close to it. I’m not going to give you my life story, but to explain, I was discouraged enough to spend the rest of my life believing that I did not inherit any musical abilities and should focus on the visual only. Consequently, I’ve cut myself off from a little piece of me and something that I enjoyed. Who cares if I suck at it? Can’t a person simply take some pleasure in an activity regardless of their proficiency? I say yes.
- #84 has me thinking that I would like to see Leonard Cohen perform live. I missed my chance with Nina Simone and have regretted it since.
- Visit Baltimore. Yes the city. In America. Don’t ask me to explain.
Taste Absinthe: The sad thing is, I once had enough wormwood growing to make my own.I bought a bottle of a brand called Taboo that is made in British Columbia. It was really tasty. I really like it, but wow, potent. Try the cat poo coffee. I am told you can order a cup at a restaurant in Toronto for fifty bucks. Totally crazy, but one day I’m gonna order a cup and split it with 4 friends.A friend bought me a small package for Christmas. Thanks Jen!
- More spaces reserved for…. I guess I’ll figure out what goes here next.