Category Archives: 2020

The Feracious Potential of Autumn

I went for a walk today. This would not normally be notable, except that it was only the second time Iā€™d been out on a walk on my own during the pandemic, and the first time since S went home to visit her parents.

It was a nice night. The perfect, slightly chilled temperature of late summer/early autumn, a light breeze bringing smells of something delicious, something burning, just cool enough to make you think of goosebumps.

People always talk about the potential, the bountiful feelings of spring, but I think that the fall speaks to me even more strongly. Iā€™m not sure how much of it is that the heat of summer has finally broken[1], how much of it is that it signifies going back to school, the creativity and freedom/safety of end-of-summer music camp[2]. Conversely, it signals the end of summer, the world now feels like there is a deadline, that time is moving forward, and that things must be done before it is too late[3].

Whatever the reason, walking outside just now, I feel full of potential, and Iā€™m looking forward to expressing more of it.

Saturn & Jupiter, sandwiched between the terrible streetlight pollution in my neighbourhood.
Saturn & Jupiter, peeping out from behind the terrible streetlight pollution in my neighbourhood.

Photograph taken 2020-08-18:
https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/canada/toronto

[1] Interestingly, I grew up in a room that was directly over the furnace, so I think that I have a little more heat tolerance/expectation/less blood circulation to my extremities[1a] than many others do. However, when it gets much above 23, I can feel my mental efficiency going down. I can still function, I’m still in emotional control of myself, but creativity, of the ‘sitting down creating something'[1b] type is greatly curtailed. My guess is that there’s something about the brain overheating, or energy being used elsewhere in the body (it does take some energy to ensure homeostasis during sweating). But back to cogitation and heat tolerance. It is known that the human brain uses about 20-25% of the body’s energy budget, and “As a metabolically demanding organ with intense heat production, the functional activity, and energy efficiency of the human brain is exquisitely sensitive to fluctuations in temperature”. My understanding of this is that one of the reasons scalp wounds bleed so profusely is that much of the purpose of blood flow to and around the brain is thermal regulation, basically keeping your brain cool so that it can keep thinking efficiently.

[1a] Also, tall people problems.

[1b] Not the ‘react with witty remarks’ type, that is pretty hard-coded, and seems to activate upon waking, and is almost impossible to turn off.

[1c] I was going to make a comment here about how the heart & brain make more ATP per glucose than other parts of the body (38 instead of 36, or 36 instead of 34), but it seems that science has moved on since I was in school, and I could not find a source for different cell types or organs generating different amounts of ATP, and also it seems that due to leaky mitochondiral membranes and other factors, human (eukaryote) metabolism is thought to generate only about 30 ATP molecules per glucose molecule[1d].

[1d] 29.85, at last count.

[2] Music camp holds a very special place in my heart. Similar to High Hrothgar, it is a peaceful place, very disconnected from the troubles of this world. For a number of years, I spent the last two weeks of summer at National Music Camp, playing music for five hours a day, spending time with old and new friends, spending time outside. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of walking from place to place, and hearing the drifting sounds of people practicing and making music being a completely normal and natural thing. One could use the percentage of our time we spend making music as a metric for quality of life, and as an indictment of our modern society.

[3] Similar to squirrels saving for winter, like the one earlier this week that perched on the chair six feet from me and noisily and ostentatiously ate a carrot.

Note: I tried a few different titles before I settled on ‘feracious’, meaning ‘producing in abundance; fertile, fruitful‘. ‘Subtle’ is not quite right, as it’s more of a quiet power, and ‘flowering’ or ‘flourishing’ are really more spring or summer words, respectively.

2020: Processing How We Got Here I

It’s now been 11 weeks since we went into social isolation, somewhere between 12 and 13 weeks since S said “Perhaps we should stock up a little.” Since then, (our part of) the world has been upended, time has lost all meaning, even while the season has turned. Looking back at pictures that I took back then[1], there was snow on the ground, and today it was sunny and 19C.

But like I said, time has lost all meaning. It’s been difficult a couple of times the last couple of weeks remembering which day of the week it is, even taking into account a working-from-home[2] schedule. I keep coming back to ‘time has lost all meaning’. I’m one of those people for whom it’s easy to lose an hour[3], if I get into something, or get distracted by something. I can even lose weeks because I’m in the barely-slept now. But this is very different.

Some of you know that a main reason that I started blogging was because I was afraid of life passing me by, of the fear of looking back and not having anything tangible to show for all the time I had spent on this world. I successfully wrote every day for 7 months, and even after I fell off the wagon after falling sick, I was still able to gather myself and write intermittently. In fact, I was in the process of restarting a regular cadence[4]…then all of this happened.

How does one write a long series of in-depth articles about a phone strategy game that no one has heard of or cares about, when there’s a global pandemic that is the only thing on everyone’s mind? Is that even a remotely responsible thing to do? It took me a while to understand that I needed to write about this experience instead, and first, as a way of processing everything that I was feeling and experiencing. Some people say it’s important to document along the way, to help you (and others) understand later what it truly felt like. All I can say is that the allostatic load has been so high, that it took me this long to find the mental space to do this. But back to our story…

There was a flurry of activity, reading up every bit of information on Covid[5], preparing ourselves, seeing my mom one last time, going out to see friends one last time…then on March 9th, I went to the office for the last time, and then…waiting…waiting…waiting for people to take this seriously enough.

On the 11th, I shared this article “Why you must act now“. We had spent the previous week in a ‘hair-on-fire’ state, S had her last day in the office on the 6th, I told my team at work that same day to bring everything home that they needed for an extended stay.

So, we were personally ready (we thought) for this exponential threat that was coming at us, I was telling the people I knew that it was coming, and they seemed to be aware of the danger, but we weren’t seeing it in a bunch of the people as we walked around, and we weren’t seeing it in the media. The previous Thursday (March 12th), Doug Ford was saying that school would be closed for two weeks after March break, but still saying that people should ‘enjoy themselves’ over March Break. Later that day, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau self-isolated (and eventually tested positive). I think this ended up being a good thing, as it put a human face on the pandemic, and perhaps helped convince people that everyone was susceptible (and perhaps put more of the fear into the politicians).[6]

This is getting long, so I think I will stop here, somewhere in the second week of March. We’re safely isolated and stocked up, (we think)[7] we know what this will feel like, some politicians (in Canada at least) are juuust starting to say the right things, but people are still getting ready to go for March Break, and we’re hunkering down for the long waiting period of ‘turning the ship’ of convincing tens of millions of people to change this seriously and change their behaviour.

Thank you for reading this. This feels cathartic in a good way, and really important to help me process this. šŸ™‚

[1] In the ‘Before Times’.

[2] I have a lot of words to say here, but fundamentally, I feel so lucky and blessed to have a job/career that allows this easily.

[3] Or five.

[4] Huge thanks to L here, who suggested meeting up in a local cafe, where I got a lot of good writing notes in, that will be interesting posts some day, hopefully soon. šŸ™‚

[5] I feel uncomfortable saying the word ‘Covid’. I’m not sure why. It may be that I have very strong and complex feelings about the word, and I assume others do too, and I very much want a specific and understood[5a] reaction to each word that I use, and words that are this loaded make me apprehensive.

[5a] To the extent that a human can ever be said to understand another human…

[6] This also eventually gave us this magical song: Justin Trudeau sings ‘Speaking Moistly’
(Original clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slK5IY_GJzI )

[7] Ha ha ha so wrong… šŸ™