Currently reading: Cibola Burn by James S.A. Carey 📚
I wasn’t looking forward to returning to work today, but my favorite little 1st grader ran up to me and gave me a big big big hug as soon as she saw me. And now I feel great!
I’ve been sore every day for the past week, but the last few days have been more painful than normal. I’m on week two of T25: Beta, and on Saturday, I did my first Apple Fitness+ workout. It was a 20 minute HIIT workout with Bakari, then I did two mindful cooldowns with Jessica. Fitness+ is really slick and well-produced, and the trainers are very charismatic and personable. My Beachbody On Demand subscription doesn’t end until October, though, so I’ll enjoy my three month trial of Fitness+ and evaluate it later.
I have to remember that I’m not as young as I used to be. I can’t keep pushing myself so hard and expect to bounce back like I used to. That’s how I hurt myself last time! Slow down and remember that this isn’t a race.
Anton Troianovski in the New York Times:
It was a siege. It was a mob. It was anarchy. Or, as the Italian newspaper La Stampa put it in its front-page headline Thursday, “Once upon a time, there was America.”
Only 13 more days.
I bought my first capo and tried it out for the first time yesterday. Intellectually I knew what a capo was for, but it wasn’t until I clamped it down and played a few chords that I truly understood what it did. It’s incredible! I’m eager to learn new songs with it now.
I filled seven notebooks in 2020. This week, I scanned and processed them on my computer.
I filled the first four in the first four months. It took me eight months to fill the last three. This was the effect of Covid-19 on my life last year. It couldn’t be more clear.
Currently reading: Against Everything by Mark Greif 📚
Woke up early to run some errands and was awarded with a beautiful sunrise. I used Apple ProRAW and my god, what an incredible tool to have when I’m out and about with just my iPhone. I was able to bring out the pinks and the shadows in a way I couldn’t before.
My favorite 1st grader ran up to me and gave me a hug. She wore a black jacket, and she placed her arm beside mine and said, “We’re wearing the same color.”
I looked at her and said, “Black is cool.”
“Yeah,” she said. “Black is my second favorite color.”
“What’s your first favorite?”
“Your favorite colors are black and white?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Those are my dad’s favorite colors.
Books and music. What else do I need?
My daily routine, as of today, so I can remember it later:
Wake at 5am Meditate for 15 minutes Journal in my notebook Study Japanese Practice my guitar for 30 minutes Read my book Lunch, the first meal of my day Go through Genki I and add what I can into Anki Workout and close my rings Dinner, the second and last meal of the day Sleep for 8-9 hours
Currently reading: Normal People by Sally Rooney 📚
Like McCarthy, Rooney doesn’t use quotation marks for dialogue. I like that. Simplify the English language to just periods, commas, and question marks, and maybe an exclamation point here and there.
A sketch I did a few years ago. I want to start drawing again, but I keep finding excuses not to. I stopped because I had plateaued and I grew frustrated with each new sketch. Unlike with writing, I always asked myself what to draw, and I just didn’t know. Just draw, I guess.
Finished Normal People by Sally Rooney, and I’m really not one for reviews, but my god, what a well-written and unbelievably beautiful book. It’s one of those rare books that filled me with so much inspiration with each page I read. Highly recommended.
I dropped my camera on Tuesday, and now it won’t hold any of the settings. Each time I turn it on, it’s reset to factory settings. I took photos yesterday but the date was reset to 1/1/2000, and they were all shot in jpeg. So, unfortunately, I might have to pause my blog for a bit until I figure this out. I might have to buy a new camera, which, cool, but also, not cool.
School has been a mess. The teachers are infuriating, but I’m happy to see the students back. I went home livid and exhausted, and I’ve been questioning my employment status. But I took a look at the shots of the moon I took in the morning, and I felt calm and excited. This new camera has centered me. I love it so much. At least I have this to fall back to when things are tough.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse whereby one is manipulated by someone else into doubting their own sanity. It comes from the 1944 film Gaslight where a man psychologically manipulates his wife into believing that she is going insane. I came across it by watching hours of Among Us streams, and I thought it was the perfect word for the reality we are all currently living in. Gaslighting and doomscrolling: two words I wish I never learned in 2020.
The past couple of days have been rough. I’ve been battling a debilitating back pain that has forced me off my feet and has made sleep a struggle. But I woke up today to the first snowfall of the season, and I just had to get out of my home and go for a walk.
Beautiful sunrise yesterday morning. Also, the iPhone 12 Pro takes beautiful photos.
Last night I dreamt I lost my camera bag in a shuttle after landing in LA, but I was having too much fun with new friends to care about it then. I woke up with my bag but without my new friends. What a cold and dreary day life after a dream can be.
I am very happy my succulents haven’t died yet. I also love these pots.
I dreamt of an old friend last night, one I haven’t seen for a very long time. I ran to her the moment I saw her. We hugged deeply and lovingly for as long as we could. I woke up feeling good, a rare feeling I will try to concentrate on today.
I had my very first physical therapy appointment today, and all in all, I’m unimpressed. I think I feel good enough to start working out again which both excites me and terrifies me. My next appointment is in two weeks, but all I could think about is going back outside with my camera.
I didn’t sleep well last night. I lied in bed and scrolled through Instagram, double tapping on all the pretty pictures I saw. I pulled up a recent picture of an ex and wondered where things went wrong. I shouldn’t be astonished at my own predictability, but I am.
Did my first intense workout today since hurting my back three weeks ago. I’m finally starting to feel like my old self again. But I know I’m only at the base of the mountain, and I have quite the journey ahead. All I can do is to keep going. So let’s go.
I woke up a few hours after going to bed anxious about the election results. Trump declared victory and the whole country forgot that these results could take weeks to process. I hoped we would be nearer to the end than we are, but I feel the fool for hoping anything.
Amazing that I shot this nine days ago, and the weather today was in the low 60s. Montana has the best (as in weirdest) weather, and I love it.
I read once that Leonardo da Vinci had the best posture. As a kid, I would try to walk as tall as I could but my head always seemed to stoop forward. Whenever I pass by my reflection, I notice my posture and I try to straighten it just a bit more. But it’s never enough.
New haul. Excited!
There are many things I find puzzling but nothing more so than rural Americans. What’s up with their championship belt-sized belt buckles?
I love it when it rains.
I wonder how many balloons get inflated every election season and how many bring more sorrow than joy.
I felt like the whole world bounded together in unity yesterday, and I felt so good joy-scrolling instead of doomscrolling for the first time in four years.
I spent some time tweaking a few aspects of my website that make me love my blog that much more. I wish I knew more about CSS and whatnot, but I’m happy with the result as of today.
The best times of my life are when I let go and go with the flow rather than forcing things to go a certain way. This year has taught me that more than any other. Just let go and ride the wave.
Ever since I was a kid I’ve wondered what it would be like to be elderly, to be lying on my death bed and looking back on my life. Would I be proud of the life I’ve lived? How can I live life now to make that last day special?
Instead of trying to figure out what to say next, I need to learn patience and the beauty of silence.
Currently reading: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow 📚
Coming from California, I never had to worry about not wearing enough warm clothes. Living in Montana, I’ve learned the value of a warm jacket and some tough boots.
If I had to guess the ratio of caffeine to blood coursing through my body, I’d say it’s about 50/50.
What a beautiful sunrise this morning.
Following Friday the 13th, Saturday the 14th doesn’t sound very spooky at all. It sounds anodyne in comparison.
Before COVID, I had dreams of traveling the world and living life to the fullest. Today, I don’t want those dreams to be dreams anymore. After COVID, I’m going to travel far away and actually live my life to the fullest because that’s all I got, isn’t it?
I feel like the art I love creating the most is the art of capturing a memory. I journal to remember my day. I photograph to remember a place or a person or a thing. I draw (sometimes) to remember how the world is designed and how it works (I need to draw more).
I’ve been re-training my body the last few weeks, and I’ve never felt better. I gained some weight ever since I hurt my back, and I’m on the journey to burn that off. I’m meditating again with the goal of reducing my anxiety as much as I can. Slow and steady wins.
A very foggy morning.
Back to work but all I can think about is the future. Is it wise to get rid of everything and spend the rest of my life on the road?
Maybe one day the fog will lift and the answer will be as clear as day in front of me.
Is iPhone dependence similar to alcohol dependence? Because I think I’m suffering through that. I wake up eager to check my notifications and I get sad when they’re not the right ones. My mind feels like mush, and I need to simplify, simplify, simplify.
My goal for the next few months is to lose at least five pounds. I know it’s possible because I’ve done it before. But I was younger then, and my body takes longer to recover now. Health is the foundation for everything else, so let’s do it.
I love the smell after a night of deep rain. The world feels cleaner, like a shower after a long day of work.
Temperatures have hovered in the 30s for the past week, but the snow in the mountains portends a cold winter.
I hope to see everyone safely on the other side.
I’ve been iPad-only since I bought the first 9.7” iPad Pro four years ago. The 11” iPad Pro from 2018 has been my main computer for the last two years, and the Magic Keyboard has been nothing but amazing. But goddamn if the new M1 Apple laptops don’t look sexy as hell right now.
I had a really good time talking to a friend yesterday about my dreams. I told her that when I first moved to Montana, the first few years were fun. The memories of that time had completely faded away, and my lust for travel increased even more. I want to have fun again.
Our first winter snowfall came last month, but it’s been nothing but rain since. More members of our staff are in quarantine after a possible positive case among the administrative staff, and I just hope we can get through winter safely.
I spent more time today tweaking my website. I updated my home page with a brief biography and I love it. The next things on my todo list are to:
Update the colors Use new fonts Revise my bio with a bit more information I’m really enjoying this corner of the web.
Other than living within the borders of my country, state, and town, I’ve been living within my own mental borders, too. By living within my comfort zone, I’ve missed opportunities and let life flow by. One day I’ll travel again, but I can expand these other borders now.
I’ve been vegan for almost four years, but I just recently started cooking with tofu. This is a mushroom and spinach tofu scramble that I modified from this recipe. This has been my goto weekend brunch meal for the past month and when paired with a cup of black coffee? So good!
Toward the end of June, I drove down to the river and made this recording of the sounds around me. It was my attempt to expand my walls and embrace a moment where I succeeded in this goal. The summer feels so far away now, but I love that I captured a memory of it.
It’s snowing. Coming from southern California where the weather was always 70º and sunny, the snow in Montana makes me happy.
Only the K-5 students are back today. I’m glad the kids can enjoy this short week with friends and in relative safety. But we have a long winter ahead.
When I first moved to Montana, all the provisions I needed fit in two bags. Now, when I look around and see all the new stuff I’ve gathered over the years, I feel a need to declutter and simplify. But I also a feel proud of how far I’ve come. Hmm.
Some snow has melted and the weather was a bit warmer. One of the students must’ve made this snowball and set it here on the table. They all leave for Thanksgiving break tomorrow and I will miss them, but I will enjoy my extended weekend, too.
There’s a lovely young girl in first grade that loves to call me “Mar Mar.” Every time she sees me, she yells, “Mar Mar!” and runs up to me and gives me a hug. It is one of the absolute best parts of my job. I love it so much.
Before I accepted my current job, I didn’t know if I liked kids or not. But now, I can safely say I absolutely adore them. They give out hugs freely and they always want to play games. Such a lovely set of souls.
Last night I made more adjustments to my website. I’m reminded of my time in high school when I first learned HTML and Photoshop. I remember staying up all night creating a custom header image so I could post it on my old Xanga blog. Glad to see not much has changed.
Noclip’s documentary on Microsoft’s Flight Simulator is absolutely amazing. The tech required to recreate our entire planet, all the way down to the weather, gives me strong “are we living in a simulation?” vibes.
I’m thankful for silliness.
When I was a wildland firefighter, I loved spending weeks sleeping in my tent with nothing but the essentials. Since retiring, I’ve grown used to superfluity. My dilemma is figuring out if I have the strength to get rid of what I don’t need for a life spent on the road.
One of the benefits of wearing a mask outside is the fact that it hides my face. I’m so scared of vulnerability that I hide so much of myself from the world just to feel safe. But it’s not until I take my mask off that I truly feel like myself. Vulnerability is power.
In On Photography, Susan Sontag wrote:
All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.
In The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday wrote:
Every culture has its own way of teaching the same lesson: Memento mori, the Romans would remind themselves.
I daydreamed I was learning French again, saying the basics like, je suis and je m’appelle and remembering how intoxicating it is to say je pense que tu es belle. I dream of one day walking the streets of Paris as a pedestrian with new friends and new memories. One day.
Went to the park this morning. It was 20ºF/-6ºC. Met a man who declared his love to the beauty of our town. Sometimes this place isn’t half bad.
I felt hesitant to go to the park yesterday because I’ve gone so many times before and I didn’t know if I’d find anything I hadn’t shot before. I was wrong. Beauty is everywhere—in the trees, on the ground, in people—and a consistent habit helps reinforce that truism.
I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time the last few days learning all I can about web design. From typography and CSS grids, to how Hugo works and how best to use it, I’ve fallen in love with the whole process. I like the idea of openly designing the whole thing, so here we are.
Slept about four hours last night. As I lied in bed, my thoughts wavered between past regrets and future hopes. I have to keep reminding myself that even though my past shaped who I am today, I’m not defined by it. The future is mine, and I just have to seize it.
This might sound lame to some, but I’m super proud of this: I figured out how to display my photos on my Photos page as a single column on mobile. It readjusts to three columns when in landscape, too.
I’m having a blast.
Edit: I broke it, but then I fixed it. I need a break.
Orb Weaver Spider This was the last photo I took before I dropped and broke my X-T20 camera in August. That’s when I stopped writing my daily essays and stopped taking daily photos. Because life doesn’t slow down, I shouldn’t either. So let’s keep going.
A few nights ago I slept for only four hours and I spent the next 20 hours awake. I forgot to eat and care for my body. As a result, my body gave up on me yesterday and I had to leave work early because I felt sick. I slept in and took some medicine. Now I feel better.
I feel so much better today. I guess I pushed my body past my limits. I have to remember to rest and to listen to my body.
I think it’s time I step out of my regular life and go outside again. I miss my walks.
I don’t do it everyday, but I love photography. I was feeling a bit down today, and a friend texted me randomly and told me to go outside and shoot some photos. That was all I needed. I went outside and took photos of some beautiful ice crystals. I’m glad I have great friends.
Winter is so beautiful. I just wish it wasn’t so cold!
Another winter shot. My aunt says this one reminds her of a crazed insect. Now I can’t unsee it!
“That looks like something living,” a friend of mine told me. What do you see?
July 2020 I’ve been going through old photographs and getting lost in memories. I remember the sights and sounds and feelings when I took this photograph. I had just bought my first macro lens and it helped me see the world in a whole new way.
I think it might be one of those four hours of sleep kinda night. I saw a few young students yesterday lying together on the grass and telling each other what they saw in the clouds. I remember I used to climb trees. Getting old is awful.
I slept for over nine hours last night, and I’m amazed at how better my days are when I get enough sleep. It started to snow a little bit ago. I miss the summer and its warm days, but I’m stocked on blankets and coffee at home, so I’m ready for a warm and cozy weekend.
“One day this will all end,” I wrote in July, “and the question I ask myself is whether it was worth it.”
COVID has made me confront my own mortality more than anything else I’ve ever experienced, and all I want to do is squeeze as much life as I can out of my allotted time on earth. I want to push myself until I can’t move anymore, until I can’t breathe anymore, and I wish to die with a smile on my face and a legacy worth existing, worth the blood, sweat, and tears I’ve shed and will shed.
I have another doctor’s appointment tomorrow, but this time I’m seeing a new doctor. I hope she can help me.
A fresh coat of snow has fallen and everything is white. More and more people I know are getting the virus. I hope we can make it through winter in good health. I hope.
Last month I said that I wished I knew more about CSS. Well, since then, I’ve taught myself enough to build a website I’m proud to call my own. After weeks of hard work, I think I’m finally done with my redesign. I need to stop and focus on my writing and photography again.
Today I had one of the absolute best experiences with a doctor in my life. Although she had to cut into me with no anesthetic and I have to be on antibiotics for a week, I’m happy. Finally some good feelings! Here’s a random picture of some beautiful ducks because why not!
Summer 2017 I’m writing something that made me go back and look through my old firefighting pictures. This was taken on the Liberty Fire from 2017. Over a million acres burned that year. I loved the long days and steep hikes, the crappy food and good company. I miss those days.
Fall 2013 Stuck on a nostalgia trip. This was my first “real” fire. I say “real” because this fire had a real shot of getting out of hand and harming many of us. The fire jumped the line we spent all day building and spread across our only escape route, knocking it out. Once night fell, we were lost. It was blacker than black. All we had was the light of our headlamp and the experience of our crew boss.
“Kiss the black.” When you’re building line, you’re taught to dig as close to the black as possible. The black means the burnt areas on the ground. A burnt area can’t re-burn, so it’s also the place you’re told to go if you need a safe place to go in case the fire rages out of control. You want to “kiss the black” because you want to give an active fire as little fuel as possible.
Fighting fire with fire When you can’t kiss the black, whether because the fire is on inaccessible terrain or it’s raging too wildly to send firefighters to fight it or for another reason, you do the smart thing and fight the fire with more fire. More than anything, firefighting is a team sport. On every fire I’ve ever fought, we always had helicopters flying over the fire. The pilot and co-pilot survey the fire and then relay their report to logistics; logistics drafts a plan of attack with the Incident Commander who then radios the plan to the division boss; the division boss then contacts the crew boss with the plan and their orders; the crew boss tells his crew the plan, and finally, the crew executes the plan.
“I’ll hold your hose for you.” There’s a yellow pack the veterans make most rookies wear that’s colloquially known as a piss pump. It’s a backpack that’s filled up with about 5–8 gallons of water that’s worn over the regular pack everyone must carry. Connected to it was a long nozzle that, when pumped, sprayed water. The pressure wasn’t great, but it did enough to cool some areas down.
I think the thing I’m most grateful for during my time as a firefighter are all the places and things I got to see.
From beautiful sunsets in very remote parts of Montana.
To helicopters dropping buckets of water mere feet from me and onto blazing fires.
And bison roaming the land.
I didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a firefighter, but when I moved to Montana, I was penniless and in debt. I moved to Montana to start over, to reinvent myself, and to grow up. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without that experience. I’m grateful for all of it.
Pixar’s Soul was incredible. A great movie to end the craziness that was 2020.
I finally got around to watching the new Mulan movie, and oh my, what a beautifully shot movie it was. Every frame was gorgeous. It was shot by Mandy Walker. I’ll be following her work from now on.
The movie itself was okay. A fun diversion with a very cartoonish antagonist.
Ewan McGregor in episode 7 of Long Way Round, after a couple of Russians killed a black bear, skinned it, and took its gallbladder:
It’s a wild animal living in its own habit, and no one’s got any right to shoot it with a gun. It’s disgusting.
Goddamn right. I love this man.
Writing about social media and anxiety, Emma Warnock-Parkes suggests this tip to improve attention:
Play a music track and practise listening to one instrument at a time, switching between instruments every so often.
I do this and it helps to calm me down all the time.
The Markup and The New York Times both had stories about Amazon this morning. In 2021, I hope to wean myself off Amazon, but I fear it’ll be a near impossible feat. I live in a rural town, and there are things I can only get on Amazon. But I will try to live simply in 2021.
I came across this beautiful quote by Seneca:
There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with.
At the start of 2020, a friend tried setting me up with a friend of hers. But then lockdown happened. Maybe things will change in 2021…