Out of Retirement

I finished writing a new story.

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If you met yourself from the future, what would you ask your future self?
What if they wont tell you anything?

2021 Winter -> Spring

A few weeks back my physical body had just returned home after a weekend road trip to Moonta. My head was still catching up. In that moment it occurred to me with some poignancy that life, and especially winter, had a distasteful velocity that unfortunately I had no control over. The mundane pattern - sleep, breakfast, walk, work, backyard, food shopping until death eventually takes me - made it feel like I had jumped off a cliff many, many years earlier and now I was simply hurtling towards the distant yet inevitable ground. But a simple weekend away, just a chance to see and do something different, was like I'd looked up from my freefall and seen something beautiful and I thought poetically that life was just like falling knowing you were going to die, and the only thing you could really control is how much you enjoyed the experience.

When my brain did catch up to my body later that afternoon I realised that this was the premise of a song by a pop-punk rock band that had been popular during my impressionable years and that I'd essentially plagiarised the entire sentiment.

Winter into Spring 2021. A lot of time in the backyard and watching the grass grow. Disappointing strawberries. Fingerless compression gloves. Drives to the hospital. Walks to the bakery. Trello todo lists. Working out in the garage. Actual springtime weather more often than not. More time in the backyard.

Bring on Summer.

What Did I Learn From Napoleon This Wood?

image 2286 from bradism.com

The non-fiction book I finished this week was Wildwood by Roger Deakin. I remember purchasing this book through Audible back in May when I was desperately trying to use up credits so I could cancel my subscription. This was actually the same story behind me downloading Napoleon's biographic in the first place.

I'm a big fan of trees, whether it's the mulberry in my backyard or the towering redwoods of the Pacific Northwest, so the blurb of Wildwood grabbed my attention, indicating it would be full of interesting scientific and botanic non-fiction. I still remember reading Guns, Germs and Steel which taught me that broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and drumhead cabbage were all descendants of the original wild cabbage plant that grew only on the cliffs of the English coast and I thought that a whole audiobook of that kind of content would be captivating.

This was not the book I expected. It was the poetry quotes that were the first warning sign. Lyrical descriptions about wood, the feeling of wood, the jazz of driftwood, the fifth element. I like trees. Not as much as Roger Deakin likes trees. He really likes trees. There was a paragraph describing how being inside a fully wood building was so augmented by it's elemental nature that it made the taste of a single baked bean orgasmic. And a whole chapter about how satisfying it was to observe different types of moths in an English wood. I'm not judging this lifestyle. In fact, I was envious of how much time and resources Roger Deakin seemed to have available to travel and coppice and write and whittle.

The baked bean was just one example of the anecdotal rather than scientific nature of Wildwood and while it did contain a lot of interesting facts - such as the value of walnut tree burrs and the black market for the biggest of them, and how trees from cold climates make better flooring timber due to tighter grains - they were drowned out by the prep school reminiscing and the chapters about various wood-centric artists. Audiobooks are not the best medium for discussing that type of art.

And yet, perhaps it was Deakin (and the narrator's) passion for wood and woods that kept me listening, but over time the pattern of the book becomes clearer. Each chapter is an essay that starts from a seed - some aspect of wood and trees and how they shape someone's life - and often bloom into touching and interesting stories. The travels through the eastern bloc and visiting the walnut forests and the people living around them, and even tales of the Australian outback complete with handy tips on how to use crows to find your way to water (you just need to kill and salt a wallaby, then watch which direction they go after they eat the salty meat) were lovely, and sometimes fascinating although sometimes they did go on a bit. It really felt like Deakin was a man existing on a different plane; someone who understood trees and plants both scientifically as well as spiritually.

After I finished reading it I learned that he died of a brain tumour shortly after he finished writing Wildwood which was very sad because I'd just spent fourteen hours listening to his thoughts on wood, which ended on a short summary of the pollarding of an outdoor "room" of trees he'd been cultivating for twenty years, and clearly had hopes for maintaining and observing into the future. I don't know if it was done intentionally, but that last chapter was titled "Ash".

What did I learn from Roger Deakin this week? Trees are amazing, and they can bring people who are different together.

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1 (Recovery) Down

My shoulder surgeon said it would take six months to fully recover from my labrum repair and biceps tendon reattachment. My surgery was on May 19th so allowing conservatively for any impact from daylight savings I should be fully recovered from today.

I am not fully recovered. I did all my resting, stretching, rehab and conditioning as prescribed and by the start of October I was about 90% there. I still had pain under load pushing or raising anything. I never got to the point where I could shoot a basketball. That is, I never got to the point I was at before I had the surgery.

After cutting back my strengthening at the start of November I still made no progress, and then last week my shoulder has regressed further, to the point that I'm in pain from simply lifting my arm. Maybe the physio will have some idea when I see him on Thursday. Maybe he'll just give me another rub.

I'd been really optimistic about the operation, but this year has really reinforced how fragile my body is. Unlike mine, the hands of the clock are working efficiently and I don't really know what I'll do when all my limbs are net negatives.

I was in considerable pain on my morning walk yesterday. My shoulder was throbbing and I had a whole day of work ahead of me. I didn't know how I was going to get through it. But I wasn't depressed. I realised that I have been at this point so many times in my life - back, wrist, knee, hamstring, hamstring, hamstring, shoulder, knee, shoulder - where pain completely owns me that I've become inured to the feeling. I know that I'll grind through the resting, stretching, rehab, beer, and conditioning until I get back to the point where I can injure myself all over again. Another recovery down, onto the next one.


A moist spring, and a few buckets of Seasol, have provided a bumper mulberry crop this month. The grass, and the bottom of my shoes, is nearly pure purple.

One of the benefits of this has been observing the song spreading around the neighbourhood that there's a good feed at the end of my cul de sac. The feathered friends that visit me are typically limited to blackbirds, starlings, new holland honey eaters and spotted doves.

image 2288 from bradism.com

As the season has progressed I've seen willie wagtails, wattlebirds, house sparrows swooping in over the fence and under the canopy to shake berries loose. Every time I've felt stressed or square-eyed recently I've just had to sit outside and watch the birds fossick through the grass and fill their gullets. Often accompanied by Nash.
image 2287 from bradism.com

In the last few days I noticed what I thought were some kind of finches but were actually silvereyes - a bird I didn't even know existed! I caught a photo of one today.

image 2289 from bradism.com

A baby blackbird has also been growing up in the backyard this spring. I noticed it as a fledgling last week as it hopped out the way of me and Nash in between its parents feeding it mulberries. It did not take many days of a high sugar diet for it to balloon up bigger than its parents. I got this photo of it when it landed on the wrong side of the pergola roof on its way out for more food.

image 2290 from bradism.com

Maybe I was wrong to bemoan the backyard. Maybe the backyard is the best place in the world, and the rest of it is what I should avoid.

Two Decades Documented

Twenty years ago today I began my habit of writing my thoughts on the internet on a daily basis. Not all of it is online still, because today is not the twentieth anniversary of filtering my thoughts before I put them on the internet.

I like to think that having a journal to record life in makes me do things that I otherwise wouldn't have done, like quitting my job, overseas holidays, eating every flavour of Uncle Toby's Plus in a single bowl, and planting coriander in a giant wok.

Years before people started "Doing it for the 'gram" I was doing it for the 'ism.

In 2011, on the ten year anniversary of starting to recording my life online, I reflected on the meaning of journaling and I shared some quotes from the previous decade that provided insights to my growth as a person and how journaling had influenced my development. The following ten years have been even more significant. I became a husband, writer, dog owner, home owner, and an IT professional. I didn't really journal about any of those things. When I bought a house, got Nash, and changed jobs in the same month I posted a single entry in three months.

For my 20 year anniversary I'm going to point out some of the great puns from the past 10 years that you probably missed.

Upstairs Bathroom
Too many to count...

Pinched Off

The backyard...

image 2291 from bradism.com

It was only after the tomato plants grew over my head that I realised I had an indeterminate variety. I'd been feeding them Seasol and keeping them trussed and partly shaded and hydrated and protected by a layer of pea straw. These were some healthy, in-tune with nature tomatoes. Too healthy, it seems. Doing everything right had backfired. Long limbs are a source of weakness in plants. They need a strong trunk to be balanced. The best method? Pinch them off at the top. Only once the plant stops growing up will it dedicate its energy to the existing structure to thrive and produce healthier, heftier fruit. It's a little bit of pain for a lot of potential. Don't overthink it. Just find the top shoots, squeeze between your finger and thumb and squeeze. Don't worry if you get one wrong. The frost will kill them come winter regardless.