I started a piece, intended to be a retrospective of 2015 and a look forward to 2016, at the end of November. However, around the end of December, during final edits, I slowed, paused, and then stopped, not long before I was going to queue for posting.
I had planned to share this almost-finished piece, as is customary across the world of the blog, on or around New Year, the turning of our Western/Gregorian calendrical year. But then I didn’t.
Why was this? Despite much thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure.
(All the 100 photographs I have used to illustrate this piece were taken here, in Caithness, during 2015. There is no mouseover text for this post, simply due to the issues I had with the galleries and a lack of time. If you want to see or download better quality versions of any of these photos, they are available here.)
At this time of year the internet, newspapers, radio, television, are flooded with a variant of “INSERT YEAR HERE in retrospect”. Some people list books they’ve read and admired (or not, as the case may be), others movies or television shows they loved. Many people give a month-by-month, blow-by-blow account of the year, beginning with the clock chiming midnight 365 days earlier.
I could do this. I very nearly did. I could tell you of the books I’ve read (not as many as last year, but far more pages, thanks to some of the epic tomes I’ve enjoyed — looking at you, oh-so-wonderful Robin Hobb), the films I’ve seen (Mad Max: Fury Road has to be the best of recent years, let alone solely this year and, yes, I did like The Force Awakens, really liked it), or the places I’ve visited (the first year of my life spent entirely within the borders of Scotland).
I could talk about my personal life, what has changed (a lot), why it changed, and how I felt about this (this dominated much of the unpublished piece).
I could talk of the natural world, of my highlights of the year (seeing a mother otter and her three nearly full-grown cubs as they came towards me, unsure as to what I was, making a series of fascinating calls, hisses and squeaks, before passing below the footbridge I crouched upon, less than six feet from me, was perhaps the highlight last year. Only to be added to this year by reacquainting myself with two of the same cubs, now without their mother or sibling, who I swear recognised Orlando and me. I can now do a pretty decent line in otter-squeak — accurate enough to make them swim closer to check on me. The blonde leucistic sparrow was also something special. I will be publishing something about recent nature observations soon, focusing on talking to animals and birds. At least that’s the plan).
I could talk about words and things I’ve crafted (things have been, and are being, finished now, after too long of being designated WIP. Some have already been sent off to various places, awaiting response. This will be the Year of Selling More Things) or things I have learnt (Saturday the 16th of January 2016 marked 100 days learning Spanish, for example).
I could talk about me and what lies beneath my skin, about my mind, body, and all the things I have been introducing as habit, to equip me with the right tools to go forward, mentally and physically at my peak (still a work in progress, but I’ve made significant gains and improvements here).
There’s a pretty standard routine many recommend, whereby the individual writes out a list or description of where they see themselves in a year, in five years, and at the end of their life — whenever that may be. They write down the things they want to do, to achieve, places they want to visit and tasks they set themselves — not exactly a ‘bucket list’, per se, more a map and guidebook to your future. This is something I have done for many years.
This project offers many things of note. Last year I found the most arresting point to be the study of what has stayed on the “life” list, compared to what I have decided is no longer of interest. Some entries are left there as a “one day”, others removed as no longer being desirable. By this stage of my life I have a good idea of the things I’d love to do, so the excised are now very few and far between. Those left on the life list, year in and year out, never graduating to the five year list — these are the things I am finally concentrating upon, bumping forward to the next stage.
Sometimes in life we need to pause, to reassess, ask big questions — and delve deep within ourselves for answers. At other times we need to switch off entirely, reboot our systems. Last year, for me, was a fairly even split between these.
By slowing down, thinking and, sometimes, not thinking — whether this is called daydreaming, meditation, self-examination or any other term — we can move forward more efficiently, whilst also ensuring we do not lose sight of who we actually are, who we want to be, and what is important in the world (hint — it ain’t money. I am a rich man, with barely a penny to my name).
I have a lot to do this year, a lot to fit in. One step shall lead unto another, as is the way. As I sit writing this, watching snow fall outside my window, I feel a thrill at this prospect. It is the same thrill I get when I walk a woodland path and realise that the turning I have chosen leads to wondrous places, to the deep magic of nature.
Over the next few weeks I will talk more about my plans and ideas, as I started to do last year. Talk of travel and my urge to hear voices surrounding me, unable to understand a word. Talk of places far and near, all the many environments and ‘scapes — be they land or sea — that I wish to experience before I die. Talk of the projects I need to finish (not want to finish — those are a different list). Talk of how I define personal success. Timescales. What help I will need going forward. What tools I will need to carry — whether physical or mental. I intend to examine how I got here, how I have reached this point, who helped me, who I must thank.
More prosaically, I also need to update and streamline this site, replace some parts, enhance others. I want the site to load faster, I want people to quickly find whatever they seek. Change is afoot.
As it is for me. Change is a good thing, it is how we evolve — and if we do not evolve, we become stagnant, slow, susceptible to rot and decay. I will grow, bend in the wind and give in to it — blow, scattered, across the face of the earth, yet also rooted. This delicious dichotomy of scales — of belonging in a small place and a larger whole, of being surrounded by family and friends, or strangers — this is something I will explore here.
I am not setting a timetable for blog posting, yet. I intend to increase my posting level at a point in the near future, but it is not a habit quite ready for introduction. In fact, in a coming post I intend to list other places you may be interested in — the blogs, sites, and people I always read, those who use the internet for things of beauty, of wonder, of magic, of teaching and learning and sharing. After all, the internet is not just a collection of adverts, or misery, or agenda. It is a tool that, like the knife, or the axe, can be used to carve beauty, or twisted to harm. Often it seems that the latter overwhelms the former — the wrong seemingly blanketing the right. Yet this is not true, there are good people out there — and they do great things, without shouting, without standing on a pinnacle screaming “Look at me!”. These people are worth sharing when we find them — add our quiet voice to theirs, until the murmur becomes a peaceful roar.
And peaceful roar is a good place to leave this post. It neatly encapsulates what I hope to achieve, both here and in whatever days I have left.