Kitchens and Living Rooms

Once upon a time — and we’re talking some time ago; I was living in Scotland at the time, and this year marks two decades since I moved to the U.S. — I prided myself on enjoying the dour autumns and winters that surrounded me every year.

The seasons would slip from summer into something colder, darker, and more permanently overcast, and I would find myself thinking, finally, this is what I’ve been waiting for for so long. I have a particularly vivid memory of walking along the street where I was born, the leaves all off the trees, turning the branches into some kind of gothic silhouette against a particularly grey, cloud-filled sky, and feeling as if this was the ideal environment for me at that point in my life. There was something beautiful about it, beyond simply whatever adolescent or post-adolescent angst I happened to be living through at that moment.

Even after I moved to the U.S., I found myself enjoying the colder, more overcast weather when it arrived. When I first lived in San Francisco, it was in an apartment that basically straddled the line between the foggy side of the city and the sunny side; if I looked out the living room window, everything was grey, but out the kitchen window, there was sunshine and warmth. I spent a lot of time looking out of the living room window, feeling particularly at home.

With this in mind, of course Portland, Oregon was a fine place to move to. The weather here reminds me of Scotland at many times each year, and it’s arguably one of the reasons why I love the city as much as I do. Each fall arrives and brings with it darkness and a coldness that feels seasonal and appropriate. You know what time of the year it is, based on what’s out the window, no matter when you look.

I mention all of this, of course, because the past week has brought with it more sun than we’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve been surprised by just how much it’s lightened my mood and made things feel more possible by implication. Perhaps this is me aging, or simply a sign that even the most weather curmudgeon of us all needs a little bit of solar power every now and then; either way, there’s something to be said for seeing your shadow after so long of it being a faint blur.

All Possibilities

My writing rhythm is off.

That’s been the case for the last couple of weeks, since returning from the holiday break — I almost wrote “that’s been the case all year,” but that felt misleading, even if it would have been factually correct. Nonetheless, I’ve been off since returning to the holidays, finding it unusually hard to sit down and concentrate on one particular thing instead of finding multiple different things to think about and distract me.

Partially, this comes from trying to keep multiple balls in the air for the newsletter, so as to allow for me to hit the self-imposed “two a week, one of which has some original reporting” deadline that I gave myself, before realizing how time consuming and overwhelming that actually is to work under. (I really should have started smaller; alas.) Every day now starts with emails and checking in on stories and trying to make sure things are moving along in relatively timely manners on multiple things, even as I try not to get too upset by the multiple things that run aground despite the best intentions of all involved.

(This week alone, for example, three things that were in process might have fallen off the docket for various reasons; none of that is really anyone’s fault per se, but each one means that I’ll need to come up with a replacement story and pretty quickly, considering.)

And so, by the time I get around to actually writing anything, I’m already scattered and in a frame of mind that almost refuses to concentrate on the task at hand — something made all the more difficult by needing to break that concentration when it does happen to take the dog outside to pee, or to deal with any number of other outside interruptions that happen every day. As a result, I’m writing less, and failing to find my rhythm.

Maybe that’s next week’s problem.

All Apologies

I admit, it wasn’t my intention to have all of last week’s posts here be almost entirely image-based. I had a vague idea that I’d be able to write about what was happening for me professionally — the launch of my comics journo newsletter Comics FYI — in such a way that would be both informative for anyone reading and an exorcism of the anxiety I was feeling surrounding the whole enterprise. Circumstances, however, had an entirely different plan for me, as it turned out.

Before the week began, I had a rough idea of how I expected it to go. There were a number of things to accomplish outside of work — none of them particularly important beyond some paperwork and a couple of outstanding emails that had to be followed up on — but I felt laser-focused on the newsletter that I knew I’d be sending out Wednesday morning. That was what the week was all about (to the point where I wasn’t entirely sure what the following Friday’s newsletter would be, which was only a mild worry at the start of the week; by the end, it was a significantly greater one). As it happened, my entire plan for the week was utterly gone by midweek.

Part of the problem, I think, is that I was in entirely the wrong mindset for the whole thing. I’d gone into the week thinking, oh, it’s the first week back after the holidays, everyone is going to be relatively lowkey, which was very much not the case — especially when it came to bad news that streamed in to attack so many people around me. It felt as if we were all entering a battle without realizing it, or preparing adequately, and we all paid the price — even if that price was merely feeling battered, bruised, and exhausted at the end of each day.

All of which is a long way of saying, “my brain was too scrambled to write last week. I’m sorry, I’ll try harder this week.” But even then — who knows if that will do any good, given what may lie ahead?