[Assorted recollections of the past year in my neck of the woods, from the annual Winter Solstice newsletter mailed out to friends and family.]
I’ve definitely completed the process of gradually settling in as manager of the midtown public library where I was transferred a few years ago when its previous manager abruptly resigned. (A county-wide hiring freeze prevented library administrators from filling the vacancy through a promotion instead of a transfer.) I’ve definitely come to appreciate the smaller scale – size-wise, staff-wise, and stress-wise – of my current workplace compared to the branch where I’d worked so productively for nine years before arriving where I work now.
Meanwhile, the county’s (largely self-inflicted) budget woes periodically spill over into my work life in the form of (hiring-freeze-created) staffing shortages at other branches that we’re obliged to help out with, and in alarming annual cuts to the budget for buying library materials. Staff shortages are so much worse at other branches, however, that I still consider myself relatively lucky to be where I’ve landed for what looks like the final stretch of my long and interesting library career. Somehow, I find time to post fairly regularly to the booklover-supporting blog I started a few years ago. (If you’re a booklover yourself, please take a gander.) I also enjoy meeting once a month with several other librarians and archivists exploring ways to convince local GLBTQ folks – especially us older ones – to donate their journals, letters, photos, etc. to one of several local GLBTQ archives.
Apart from those projects and the rather minimal amount of collection-improvement that our miniscule materials budget (and generous donations) allow me to do, 2013 looks to be a bleak year for my library system. Our library director departed last summer and will not likely be replaced until sometime next spring; there are numerous crucial management (as well as other) vacancies throughout the system; and on the near horizon are even deeper budget cuts, as well as probable cuts in the hours our libraries can afford to be open. This is a situation many U.S. public library systems face – but one that only recently has come to affect Atlanta. Still, I feel lucky to work with genial, hard-working library colleagues, and if I don’t exactly love going into work each day, I don’t totally dread it either. The fact that most days Atlanta’s weather permits me to use my motor scooter for my five-mile commute continues to be a much-enjoyed work-related bonus.
Two longstanding personal travel fantasies became realities this past May! I joined a group of friends to spend a week in Ireland, followed by a week in England living aboard a rented narrowboat exploring one of that country’s scenic canals. I recommend both experiences to anyone who’s contemplated attempting either of those things. For those of you with access to Facebook, I’ve posted there a heap o’ photographs of both those adventures. (You’ll find a brief narrative of this glorious vacation at an earlier blog posting – where you can also find an account of an accident I had with my motor scooter last April. An accident that, thank goodness, wasn’t serious enough to jeopardize my overseas travel plans with road trip and narrowboat co-navigators Nancy, Kris, and Roger.)
Except for short trips last spring and again last month to see my friend Terry in DC, plus a single weekend in Asheville in April to meet a sweet guy I’d met online early this year, my out-of-town travels in 2012 were confined to the mountains of North Georgia. At least one weekend every month, I’m able to get away to a cabin in Blue Ridge, Georgia (about two hours north of Atlanta) that I co-own with some friends. The cabin is an affordable, comfortable, and not-too-remote spot for welcome breaks from household chores, computer screens, and Atlanta’s sprawl. Even after thirteen years of these periodic visits to the cabin, I still get excited about the prospect of heading up there again (especially when friends are able to join me), and I am always reluctant to leave. The radical change of scenery and routine, the slower pace, and the amazing quietness there – what a blessing this place has been and continues to be! My periodic cabin trips also ensure that I get to frequently visit and gallivant with my sister Gayle, who lives a mere half-hour up the highway from our cabin.
This past fall, the cabin-owners finally got around to screening in our cabin’s large deck, so come springtime 2013 I’ll be relocating my hammock (a new set of deck stairs interferes with my previous perch) and looking forward to lingering longer – and to eating more evening meals – out on our now-mosquito-free deck!
My mom had a mild stroke in late August. Fortunately, she was able to return home after only a few days in the hospital, and has been gradually recovering. Even before her stroke, Marge’s children were concerned that she prefers to stay in her current suburban-size Atlanta house instead of moving into a smaller, safer, more manageable place – perhaps closer to her great-grand-kids, who live in small towns in north Georgia. Marge says she’s just not yet ready to give up her familiar (and mortgage-free) surroundings, so we spent another year worrying and she continued coping with big house- and big yard-owning chores and depriving herself of more frequent interaction with her great-grandbabies. Who, by the way, are not exactly babies any longer: this past March my nephew (Marge’s oldest great-grandchild) Kaelan turned a very-hard-to-wrap-my-brain-around 12 years old, and the two granddaughters, Shea and Natalee, are now both in school.
My brother Mike and his wife Inice, who have lived in Oregon for most of their now-grown-up-daughter Erin’s life, had planned to visit Georgia during Thanksgiving this year, but instead Mike ended up spending most of November in, of all places, Uganda, where he helped Erin film a documentary about the aftermath of the civil war there.
I continue to enjoy living in my tiny cottage on its little postage stamp-sized lot in what I consider to be one of Atlanta’s most congenial neighborhoods (Candler Park). Lately, I’ve grown increasingly grateful for the fact that my little house – and my little yard – ARE so little, as I can’t imagine – even after I do finally retire from my full-time job – trying take care of a house or a yard that were any larger!
- My friend Charles who several years ago built the beautiful built-in bookshelves in my living room found someone I hired to fabricate for my dining room a gorgeous built-in corner cabinet (that matches Charles’ shelves).
- I somehow managed to wedge into my minuscule abode two additional pieces of furniture: a wing-back chair for the sun porch, a second chest-of-drawers for the guest room.
- I’ve enjoyed for a full year now my newish kitchen – especially the additional amount of new counter space and the old-fashioned farmer’s sink that I’d wanted as long as I’d been fantasizing about a modest kitchen re-do.
- Along the path to the front door, a low retaining wall – which I now am trying to cover with creeping fig.
- A new bench for my front yard, to complement the bench in the back yard. (Next : Build a wee stone patio for the new bench to sit upon.)
- The belated replacement outside the window of my study of three large butterfly bushes with three dwarf varieties (see allusion above to “postage stamp-sized yard”). (The new plants, like the ones they replaced, are, of course, three shades of purple.)
- A much-postponed (and therefore quite time-consuming) pruning of the two 15-year-old rose bushes that were towering so high above the arbor they were initially trained to cover that they kept blowing down the arbor with every passing windstorm.
- Two additional (if still tiny) trees (a crepe myrtle and a redbud, gifts from my neighbor Nan), both planted in the front of the house. And I somehow managed to remember to water the small (also purple) chaste tree I planted last year next to the driveway: Reader, it survived!
Some late-breaking bad news about my little nest in Candler Park: As I was typing this, the neighbor behind me – the same guy who several years ago tore down the bungalow back there and, after promising to replace it with a modern house in the same architectural style, erected there instead a hideous, towering bunker – was noisily enclosing his back yard with a “privacy fence” (aka Berlin Wall). It really changes, in a negative way, the feel of my back yard – and all his other neighbors’ back yards too. I’m hoping that planting some creeping fig and training it onto my side of his ugly fence will (eventually) give me something green to look at back there.
Some Resolutions for the New Year?
I’m usually not tempted to formulate New Year’s Resolutions for myself, but as I’ve been thinking more and more about the prospect of retiring well before my 65th birthday next July, I’ve realized that there are many, many things I hope to have more time for whenever I finally do Quit The Day Job. Among those:
- Spending more time with my friends – my local friends, friends living far away, and with the out-of-town friends who visit me – more often than a full-time job allows me to. (Ditto with any Significant Other who might materialize at some point.)
- Continuing – hopefully forever! – my weekly Tai Chi class. Cate and Harvey, the married couple (and fellow Candler Park denizens) who are my gifted teachers, are joys to be around, and I admire the skillful way they are patiently helping me to incorporate into my daily routine this graceful and meditative practice. (On the written budget I keep, I list the monthly fee for the Tai Chi classes under the “Health” heading, as I truly do believe that Tai Chi – along with a mostly-vegetarian diet – is among the healthiest, and certainly most enjoyable, self-improvement commitments I’ve ever managed to sustain.)
- Continuing my once-a-week square dance classes. Still shy in crowds – even in a familiar crowd of friendly gay people – I don’t care much for the chit-chat breaks between dancing sets, but I love, love, love the dancing itself. I’m also glad to have found a way to keep some form of dancing as part of my regular routine. Dancing’s always been one of my favorite activities, and is the only exercise I do these days.
- Continuing to show up for most of the weekly silent meditation services at the local Quaker Meetinghouse. I will also be serving another year as the Meeting’s volunteer librarian – an experience made more pleasant this past year with another Meeting attendee’s helping out with library chores.
- Continuing to attend many of the monthly potlucks of the Atlanta contingent of the Gay Spirit Visions crew. Sweet, courageous, interesting guys, every last one of them.
- Posting more frequently to my two blogs.
- Plunging into – and actually finishing! -a few dozen of the scores of house and garden projects I want to tackle. (Hello, massive contents of Calvin’s attic! Hello, shed-out-back-that-badly-needs-replacing! Hello, new herb garden!)
- Reading at least as many books next year as I’ve somehow managed to read this year. Best novel read in 2012: Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. Most elegantly-written nonfiction title: Jacques Barzun’s A Stroll with William James. Probably the most influential book for me this past year: Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Good. My 2012 reading list – plus the lists for most previous years – is posted at the permanent “Constant Reader” page of this blog. If you’re looking for some good books to read – and you have an Internet connection – you’ll find there plenty of recommended titles.
- Traveling again somewhere outside of the U.S. next year, preferably with one or more friends.
- Finally mastering how to use the various elusive features of the danged cell phone I recently purchased.
- Teaching myself to minimize the amount of time I spend thinking thoughts in what Quentin Crisp calls the “Deploring Mode” and to increase the amount of time I spend in what Cal Gough calls the “Gratitude Mode.”
Meanwhile, I am happy to report that I continue to enjoy excellent health. I fully realize how dear my friends are to me; that I’m not suffering financially or psychologically or in any other significant way; and that few people close to me have recently died or are expected to die soon. I still find myself with an intact sense of humor, in possession of my curiosity about the wider world beyond the USA. At 64 I’m relieved to notice that I still face the future with a sense of basic optimism, with an alertness to the infinite marvels of the natural world, and with an abiding appreciation of enthralling music, literature, art, and a good cup of tea. Life is Good!
Whatever disappointments, setbacks, confusion, or sorrows emerge from 2013, I hope next year will also include for each of us a generous share of delightful discoveries, fully-appreciated wonders, and pleasures large and small!
I look forward to seeing or at least hearing from most of you sometime before year’s end. For those of you who don’t live in Atlanta, I want to remind you that the U.S. Postal Service is still operational, and that if you’ve got an Internet connection, my email address is still firstname.lastname@example.org. And, hey, I’m on Facebook. I recently had my telephone “land line” disconnected, but the old phone number still works for my cell phone.
Happy Solstice, everyone!