Today was Labor Day in the USA. It used to mean the end of summer vacation, but since schools have been converted into state paid babysitting for the last 20 plus years or so, Summer vacation typically peters out in about mid-August for most people these days. When I was a kid, summer Vacation began with Memorial Day and ended on Labor Day, giving us around 100 or so day of summer. Of course where I grew up, this also meant these were the only relatively snow free days of the year. Give or take a week or two either way.
I used to dread snow, because it meant being trapped in the mountains for any of eight months per year. We had two seasons: winter and mosquitos. I still have nightmares about needing to get out of town before the roads closed.
This year is different. The running gag seems to be that this year things can’t get much worse. Truth be told, things can always get worse, don’t fool yourself. They’ve been worse. They will be worse at some point. 2020 is not the high water mark. According to some, 12,500 years ago, most of the human inhabited world was either suddenly under water or on fire. This is definitely worse that a game show host being the President of the USA. If I have to remind you of this, then you need to check your priorities.
This year, a big chunk of Colorado is expected to get around a foot of snow. We need it. For the last week or so, ash has been falling from the skies like snow. Some of the chunks I have seen are recognizable. Pine needles, flecks of bark, wood, pine seeds. They are now reduced to ash and we have been breathing them. I’ve had a wicked sinus headache and trouble breathing for a few days now. If you think COV1D, let me remind you that it has been snowing ash for the last week here. The smoke cloud hit 45,000 ft. in altitude the other day. It has blacked out the sun and it has been dark all day here.
Already the winds have cleared out the smoke in town and you can feel the chill in the air. A good snow storm will do more to control the fire than all the fireline crews and helicopters full of slurry we can throw at it.
Spending most of my time indoors for the last week has been a good thing for my creativity and productivity. I’ve been writing like crazy, taking off only a few days. My average word count on days I have been writing has been right around 4500 words. Some days has been 6500 and others have been 4000. I’ve been able to sit down and write a chapter a day in many cases.
Today, my son came back for the week, and it being Labor Day and the worst smoke yet, we decided to buy him some new shoes for the school year, heading south to Denver just to get the hell out of the smoke and ash. I took the day off so well that after he went to bed, I didn’t even know what I wanted to work on for the book. Every other day, I have had an idea for a chapter forming in my head, but today it has been a wash. I moved plants in from outside. I took a nap. We got settled in.
In a few days, I’ll be 45. Usually this time of year I get a little maudlin. Considering the challenges 2020 has held, I won’t veer into that territory. The last year has been some of the best times of my life. Also some of the most heartbreaking at times. A year ago, my son got me sick with some crud he brought home from school. I got pneumonia, which persisted until November. I still struggle with breathing problems. I dealt with more bullshit from my day job until the writing was on the wall and layoffs were imminent. I threw my hands up in the air and stops trying to please people who would never think my effort was ever good enough.
Sometimes I wonder if the people who have left my life ever think of me. If they ever miss me the way I miss them. Hell, there are times I still think about the people I knew in elementary and high school. I can still see their faces in my memories. It’s a good thing I have been gifted with the ability to write, because I have been cursed with a long memory. In the fifteen years I was married, some of my dearest friends moved on without me. My life was complex, a world of constant conflict. In many ways it was easier to just drift apart. At least they couldn’t see my destruction and I didn’t have to hear them try to save me. When I emerged from that cave, they were all changed, and I was trying to be the man I started off as when I went down into the dark.
Maybe they don’t. Most people have short memories and shallow hearts.
In a couple days, I’ll be 45. I’ve learned how to let go of some things and how to hold on to others. Mostly I try to walk away from toxic people, situations. I have turned my focus from chasing and chasing to pushing forward. I’ve put my long memory to use and am working on building a world that others can relate to. Right now, my big fears are being a good enough dad, pushing through an entire lifetime of being told nice things are for other people, more talented, well-connected people. Not some middle-aged guy who grew up in a poor Colorado mountain town.
“Quit these pretentious things, and just punch the clock,” as Arcade Fire says. But it’s hard to do this. I cannot begin to tell you how hard this is.
I punched a clock for 20 plus years. Now I get to work on my own, set my own schedule, and maybe the payoff will be everything I ever hoped for, or complete failure. At least the choice is mine now. I would say that it’s better to learn this at 45 than it is to learn it at 65.
I might not have worked on the book today, but I wrote here, and I suppose that is worth something.