Notes from the Basement: March

Evening and huzzah, goda människor, from a basement out here in central Minnesota.

I hope this missive finds you all safe, sound, hearty, and hale. Nearly bedtime around these parts, but I wanted to hop and post something before hitting the rack.

I’m listening to Flux by Robert Turman. Some kind soul threw the whole album up on YouTube. Beautiful and eerie soundscapes…calls to mind an old wreck of a barge or tugboat listlessly drifting to the extent of its mooring lines, before returning to gently bump against the dock. It’s a great mind cleanser. Noise to shut out the noise, if that makes any sense.

Image result for robert turman flux

Work’s been interesting.

Two Sundays ago, the Ides of March, Governor Walz put a social distancing plan into place for Minnesota. Students were excused from school for two weeks, so that teachers had the chance to figure out an entirely different approach to teaching. Teachers drove into work last week and began working through the process of planning for remote or distance learning. Face to face interactions began to dry up as the week wagged on. Folks started experimenting with Google Hangouts and Zoom.

There were (and still are) a lot of uncertainties, a fair amount of stress and anxiety, but also I’ve seen people come together in collaboration, supporting one another and engaging in creative problem solving and design thinking to provide robust and equitable curriculum, crafting messages and videos of kindness and support for the students at home who may be struggling with the uncertainty of their situations; in other words, ever since the Ides of March, folks have been Apollo 13’ing the heck out of a scenario that wasn’t planned for.

As of Friday the school district decided to go completely, and I’ve been working from home since then. And while there’s always concern about the virus and its implications floating in the back of my mind, there are elements I’ve really been enjoying with this shift. I don’t have a commute, which has afforded me a little extra sleep in the morning as well as the opportunity to have breakfast with my family. I’ve been eating oatmeal more frequently for breakfast, and just started cooking with steel cut oats that past two days. I’m digging these, because they almost give more of a porridge consistency. I’ve also been knocking back a glass of V8 every morning in an attempt to squeeze in an extra serving of vegetables.

In between tasks and video conferences, I can talk with Audrey and spend time with my children kids. This afternoon I went on a bike ride with my girls. I’m not sure how long this practice of social distancing is going to last, but I feel in these early days, I’m developing a good system.

I’m off beer for the duration of Lent, and while there’ve been times in the last week and a half where I felt a cold beer might’ve been a nice capper on a stressful day, I’m not missing it too much. I’ve also been cutting down on my coffee intake to try and preclude the jitter jolts and sour stomach. I’ll have one to two cups at the front of my day, then switch over to tea. Oolong’s kind of been my jam as of late.

Writing is moving forward though often at a snail’s pace. Still working on the department store Santa novella. I’m about 19,000 words into a first draft, and think I may be close to finishing. Currently, it’s a hot mess. Half is written in third-person omniscient, but recently I’ve switched to first person. The story’s moving a little better now, but this does mean having to go back and make the necessary adjustments.

In addition to the novella, I’ve continued jotting notes for short story ideas, odd scraps of song lyrics, and the beginnings of a tabletop rpg I can play with my girls. So I’m kind of being productive, just not to the degree some part of me feels I should be.

Books: I’m still working my way through The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. Audrey got this one for me for Christmas, but before I could make much headway, I consistently had library holds come sweeping in. Once I cleared the decks, though, I began churning through Shannon’s epic fantasy. It’s a solid and sweeping yarn with myriad diverse and powerful women whose narratives Shannon braids together with aplomb.

Image result for the priory of the orange tree

I also started reading Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer. Not too far into this one yet, but I’m digging what I’ve read so far. Completely different approach to a craft book. In the introduction, Vandermeer writes:

Wonderbook functions as a general guide to the art and craft of fiction first and foremost, but it is also meant to be a kind of cabinet of curiosities that stimulates your imagination. This book reflects my belief that an organic approach to writing should be coupled with systematic practice and testing to improve your fiction (xi).

Vandermeer, Jeff. Wonderbook. Abrams Image. New York. 2013
Image result for wonderbook cover

There’s much going on between the pages of this one, and I’m afraid I won’t have the time to digest it all before I have to return it to the library, which means this is one I’ll just have to buy.

Alright, folks. I best call it a night. Another day of working remotely awaits me, and I can hear The Priory of the Orange Tree calling my name.

Take care of yourselves and each other. Be well.



PS–Don’t let the knuckleheads of the world put you in the doldrums.

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