2022 in Review: Blogging and a Bit More

2022 was a pretty quiet year in my blogging life until the last few weeks. I lost my writing mojo in 2020 when the world went dark, other than the writing I needed to do for work, and only this fall and winter did I start making an effort to write again. 

We still have a global pandemic and people still die from COVID-19 and its Greek-numbered variants. I've been vaxxed, vaxxed again, boosted, boosted, variant-boosted, and I still mask in crowds, stores, and mass-transit settings. The number of people doing the same has dwindled; sometimes I'm the only person wearing a mask. 

I'm fortunate to have a job that lets me telework 100%. I do travel a bit, eat occasionally in restaurants, shop in stores (masked), and occasionally have a social life with people I know are vaccinated and maintaining precautions. We kept up the grocery online order/pick-up habit because dang, that's lower stress than going into a store full of lots of people coughing, especially this time of year with the "tripledemic" in the news (COVID-19, flu, respiratory syncytial virus, with that last one usually only producing mild cold-like symptoms but breaking out much more seriously this year, especially in children). 

I haven't had COVID-19 yet that I know of. (I do have my suspicions about a few days of feeling under the weather during which I kept testing negative after attending a big conference and receiving a lot of texts and emails from people I'd talked with saying they had tested positive.) Nor have I had the flu, a cold, or any other contagious respiratory illness. Masks are awesome.

You would think that with all this non-social time on my hands I would have done more writing. It's been more like "what do we binge next?" at our house, to be honest, plus a lot of books read. At any rate, here's 2022's short list:

In May I tried to plan ahead for a special round-number birthday celebration: Counting up the Years. This was a lot of fun, coming up with things I could do that don't all cost money; instead they cost the far more rare and precious elements of time and attention. 

As part of my job, I get to coordinate with the office of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on the proclamation for Bike Month. I wrote Bike Everywhere Month Rolls in May for the WSDOT Blog to share that—especially happy to do that in the year in which the Washington state legislature passed the historic Move Ahead Washington package with record-breaking levels of investment in active transportation and public transportation and dedicated future funding from a new carbon tax. That same package included a directive to WSDOT, where I work, to apply Complete Streets principles on all our projects, which is game-changing in a way that adds to the value of those new investments.

Both my long list of fun ideas and my bike riding took a turn for the worse September 1 when this happened: Broken Wrist, Dang It! No Riding for a While.

Revisiting my bike blog revealed I had a problem numbering in the tens of thousands that required drastic action in subscriber management: So long, spammers (with apologies to real people). [Honestly, this one isn't worth reading; noting it only in the spirit of full disclosure of lessons learned.]

I was delighted to write State Active Transportation Plan receives multiple awards for the WSDOT Blog. The plan my team worked on starting in late 2018 got slowed by the pandemic, and became final toward the end of December 2021. Over the course of 2022 the plan won state, regional, and national awards. And for an extra dose of woohoo, the new Move Ahead Washington transportation investment package wrote the plan into state law as a resource for identifying gaps in walk/bike/roll networks to prioritize for investment.

In November when things got weird with Twitter, its potential demise looming, I grabbed the archive of the many faces of Tiggs in The Kitten Chronicles, Year OneThe Kitten Chronicles, Year Two, and The Kitten Chronicles, Year Three. I share a picture or funny story every so often, adding to a thread I started the day we brought him home. He can be a real poophead sometimes—ask me about the holes he's eaten into a lot of good merino wool clothing—but he's also brought joy.

Now I was on a roll and Twitter was still there to inspire a bike blog post: What’s in a Name? Acoustic or Analog, Regular or Traditional Bicycle*. (But just in case, I started up a Mastodon account, @BarbChamberlain@toot.community.)

I rolled right into wanting to do something to reflect on the National Day of Mourning (labeled Thanksgiving on the federal holiday calendar) and Native American Heritage Day and compiled a post I've had in the back of my mind for a couple of years now: “We Are Still Here”: Indigenous-focused Bicycle Programs.

I treat that long four-day weekend (since I get those days off) as a chance to do cooking that takes time, although I don't try to get an entire fancy meal on the table in one fell swoop. Thus I dove into Vegan Cranberry Caramelized Red Onion Orange Chutney Recipe Experimentation.

My morning routine includes reading poetry. Along the way I've encountered more than one poem that somehow involves bicycles. Hence, “I think/therefore/I ride.” A Bike Rack of Bicycle Poems. Like the Kitten Chronicles, that started as a Twitter thread. I invited suggestions, which yielded some of the poems in my post, and I'm continuing the thread so I expect another post in the future. I started a second thread of transportation poems and that's likely to result in a post as well.

Watching TV with my sweetie, a reference to the Internet of Things sparked some wordplay. We agreed that An Alphabet of Things seemed possible, and a while later I put it together with some of our thoughts and only one bit of research (to find the X word).

As the year drew to a close, I marked the winter solstice during my morning poetry-reading time, which led to Winter Solstice Readings.

My relationship with resolutions has varied over the years. This year I'm making it both fun and easy by thinking in terms of "joy snacks" in Commitment, Bite-Sized and Tasty. To help people get rolling by bike (or some other climate-friendly mode) whether or not they're "resolution types", I rounded up my blog posts over the years that discuss forming new habits, tracking/not tracking your riding, and the nature of commitment in New Year, New Mode(s).

The last day of the year held so many simple pleasures—joy snacks:

  • went for a long walk with my sweetheart on what proved to be a sunny, beautiful day after a week of rain, to downtown Olympia for a coffee date and a stop at Peacock Vintage; 
  • rode Zelda the e-bike on my first bike ride since breaking my wrist, woohoo!; 
  • baked a delicious vegan dish, a tofu/caramelized onion/mushroom filling in a pie dish lined with thin slices of yam; 
  • sewed trim onto the hem of a coat that Tiggs had chewed a hole in, hiding the mended spot and making the coat wearable;
  • did yoga, making today one of my "triathlons" (walk 5,000 steps or more, ride my bike, and do yoga all in a day); 
  • finished this blog post; and
  • enjoyed red wine and delicious chocolate at the end of the day while relaxing on the sofa.
A very satisfying way to close out 2022 indeed.




Commitment, Bite-Sized and Tasty

This is the time of year for good intentions. Earnest intentions. Plans to be a newer, better YOU. 

All of which is pretty bogus. You're already you. If you want to start something new to become a slightly different you, an evolving you, why wait until January 1? 

On the other hand, the middle of winter may feel like a really bad time to try something new. In my part of the world the air feels cold, the sky looms grey overhead, somehow lower than in summeror is that just the fog and mist? 

I don't know about you, but I feel like starting new things in spring, when the days are getting longer and the air feels fresh, or in fall, when childhood memories of back to school shopping make me long for new pencils even though I don't like writing with pencils. 

And why oh why are resolutions always about things that feel like work? What would be wrong with resolving to do something pleasant or restful or just plain fun on some regular schedule?

On top of that the resolutions so often are about going from zero to turbo overnight. Haven't been exercising? Commit to a daily run. Been meaning to start a journal? Get a new one with a format that will stare at you accusingly if you don't write every day.

Before my round number birthday this year I started a list of enjoyable things I could do to mark that number. Then I fell and broke my wrist, and most of the items on that list evaporated as possibilities in the short run.

Fortunately, at our house we laughingly refer to having a "birthdayweekmonth" celebration, because why stop at 24 hours? 

This year I resolve to make it a BirthDayWeekMonthYear. Over the course of the year I'm going to pick some of the things from that list of enjoyable possibilities and try to get to that round number mark. That's all.

If I don't get around to taking XX long hot baths or tasting XX different kinds of chocolate in a year (or longer), I will still have had a lot of long soaks and delightful tastes. What if these pleasures becomegasp!a habit?! What if through committing to enjoyment I settle into the idea that it's okay to do something enjoyable on a regular basis? That in fact I should schedule those into my days, weeks, and months just as I do trips to the dentist and those pesky preventive health exams?

Text in playful typeface that reads "Time for some joy snacks!"
I had already started writing this when I ran across a Washington Post article by Richard Sima about research on the value of "joy snacks". They contribute to one of the ways we find meaning in our lives. In addition to having a purpose in life, feeling like our lives matter and make sense, reporter Richard Sima writes, "... valuing one’s life experiences, or experiential appreciation, is another potent way of making life feel more meaningful." 

Now, I did start keeping a daily journal a few years ago so I'm not incapable of forming habits. The power of writing things down and tracking works for me, probably thanks to those chore charts Mom used to put on the fridge with the gold stars. So another part of this commitment I'm making to myself is that I'm going to record these moments, these experiences, these joy snacks, these times when I do more of something that brings pleasure, less of something that doesn't. When I look back at a week, a month, a year, I'll remember those experiences. They'll form a part of who I am just like everything else that happens to me along the way.

My resolution: I'm going to fix myself a lot of tasty joy snacks this year. Care to join me for a snack? What's on your list?

Related Reading







































Winter Solstice Readings

Without regard for the patterns or demands of modern life, the world turns on its axis and the seasons turn with it. In a group gathering earlier this week someone referred to winter as "the dusk of the year", which is a lovely way of expressing it. Dusk is a time of transition, when things of both the light and the dark may be making their way to where they need to be for the next period of their lives.

Much of my ancestry comes from the places where Celtic people lived, and they would have gathered on this night to light fires in the darkness. On this shortest day and longest night of the year, some of you may gather with friends and family at a fire or hearth to watch flames reach upward.  If I were at an open flame, I might practice a ritual I've read of that seems fitting for this night (more so than for New Year's Eve, which bears no relationship to natural cycles, only to human record-keeping): writing things I want to let go of on pieces of paper and consigning them to the fire to let them turn to ash and float up and away.

I start each day reading poetry, and this morning in addition to the sites I visit daily I went in search of winter solstice blessings, poems, and readings online and in my poetry collection. Sharing here ones I found that resonated for me with a snippet of text from some. These are excerpts only, not the entire poem or reading, and I encourage you to follow the links.

-------------------------------

Wendell Berry: "2007, VI" ["It is hard to have hope"]

Found your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.
Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground
underfoot. Be it lighted by the light that falls
freely upon it after the darkness of the nights
and the darkness of our ignorance and madness.
Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you,
which is the light of imagination. By it you see
the likeness of people in other places to yourself
in your place. It lights invariably the need for care
toward other people, other creatures, in other places
as you would ask them for care toward your place and you.

-------------------------------

Jan Richardson: Winter Solstice: Blessing for the Longest Night

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

-------------------------------

Molly Remer: A Winter Solstice Blessing

May you circle and celebrate,
may you change and grow
May that which is waiting to be unlocked
be freed.

-------------------------------

Terry Windling: On Winter Solstice, a round-up of reading, art, and animation

In the mythic sense, we practice moving from darkness into light every morning of our lives. The task now is make that movement larger, to join together to carry the entire world through the long night to the dawn.

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Spirituality & Practice: Winter Solstice readings, poems, reflections, and practices

-------------------------------

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer: Take Five

it is
after all
the longest night
and even though
tomorrow
it’s only one
more minute
of light
it is one
more
minute

-------------------------------

I'll close with a blessing by John O'Donohue. He wrote several that resonate at this time of year, when it's dark and cold in our shared hemisphere. Rather than his blessing for the solstice I'll share the first of his works I ever read.

-------------------------------

Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O’Donohue ~

-------------------------------

Wishing you warmth, and light, and the peace that comes in darkness when we curl into ourselves and rest before new effort, before walking toward the dawn.


An Alphabet of Things

The IoT--the Internet of Things--is a thing these days. The concept of things talking to other things doesn't really describe what goes on with most of the things in our house. In buying new appliances for a future kitchen remodel it was an actual struggle on our part to keep the amount of technology to a minimum because dinner shouldn't have to wait on a software update. The expense of things that can talk to other things isn't within reach for the vast majority of people on the planet, nor is their global proliferation sustainable within our resource base on the only planet we have. 

I remember seeing the photos years ago in Material World: A Global Family Portrait. Peter Menzel and other photographers took portraits of 30 statistically average families with everything they owned outside their homes. Having moved several times in the past few years this is the kind of thing that shows up in recurring nightmares for me. (He did something similar with food in Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.)

Perhaps inspired somewhat by the memory of that photobook, my own efforts to reduce the number of things I own, as well as the opportunity for some wordplay that Sweet Hubs and I came up with when we heard someone refer to IoT recently, I present herewith a more realistic Alphabet of Things. It definitely represents mixed feelings.

A composition of letters of the alphabet presented as blocks in a variety of fonts and materials.
A: The Anxiety of Things

B: The Blandness of Things

C: The Cost of Things

D: The Detritus of Things

E: The Evidence of Things

F: The Fragility of Things

G: The Gunkiness of Things

H: The Heaviness of Things

I: The Interior of Things

J: The Joy of Things

K: The Knowledge of Things

L; The Load of Things

M: The Messiness of Things

N: The Newness of Things

O: The Oldness of Things

P: The Patience of Things

Q: The Quantity of Things

R: The Rarity of Things

S: The Satisfaction of Things, or The Scarcity, depending on your circumstances

T: The Tonnage of Things

U: The Urgency of Things

V: The Value of Things

W: The Weight of Things

X: The Xenomania of Things (c'mon, X-ray was too obvious and kind of weird here, and now you get to learn a new word!)

Y: The Yoke of Things

Z: The Zest of Things

Having opened with Peter Menzel and photography that shows us the world in a different way, I have to close this with a bit about a British photographer whose works both are and are not about things, and the alphabet, and time, and paying attention to what's already there: Martin Wilson. 

I encountered him thanks to reading the poetry blog of his brother, Anthony Wilson. Anthony praised his brother's genius in a post you should read because it describes Martin's process. That led me to Martin's site where I hope to one day buy a print of one of his works, probably "Double Yellow Lines" because it's so on point for the work I do. The bonus is that Martin bikes around London to capture these images, so part of the story sometimes involves a really sweaty ride to get somewhere in time to get the lighting he wants or to avoid peak traffic that would get in the way. Go look, and be sure to click on See a Detail. Sadly, images don't appear to have alt-text. Anthony's post describes the process so I hope that gives enough of an idea of what Martin has captured.

Now, I'm off to do a closet purge or clean a drawer or empty a box in the garage or something else that enables me to say goodbye to some things. If any of this made you consider the things in your life in a new light I hope you'll come back and drop a comment about that moment of mindfulness.



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