Forward into the Past

Of course a science fiction convention is going to be partly about time travel.

Back to the Future got a nod at the 2019 Worldcon last week with a display of the DeLorean, but part of the convention also did some going forward into the past.

The most involved piece in the masquerade ball (which is more of a series of promenades onto a stage than a ball) consisted of costumed rogues and misfits from the future entering a gazebo-like time portal to go back into the Pliocene.

Meanwhile, fans of epic fantasy, and those aspiring to write it, were treated to historians and authors talking about the middle ages on several panels.

There was a discussion of alternatives to monarchies that authors could turn to to add some variety to their stories, and another giving advice on how feudalism worked in reality and how rare it actually was. There was even a panel about a list of misconceptions about medieval times, brought to life with Medieval Myths Bingo.

My personal favorite was a presentation involving weapons often featured in fantasy novels. Because both presenters were swordsmen, they focused on writing about swordplay while demonstrating specifics with each other and willing audience participants.

It was great fun, but I would also have enjoyed learning more about daggers, spears, battle axes and crossbows. Given the enthusiasm of the crowd, these two instructors could probably have conducted a full day seminar on weapons from the past and it would have been well attended. As it was, they invited participants to join them in the hallway after the talk to handle the weapons themselves and many of us took them up on the offer.

Time itself becomes a little fuzzy at an event like this, you know,  as the real world fades away and the surreal world of of nonstop fan activities takes over. One tends to forget if it is day or night, much less what day it is.

Most of us had to laugh when we saw signs like this pop up a couple of days in, but honestly it was helpful.

The past was also present in references to beloved science fiction from long ago. Dublin’s convention center peppered the areas around the escalators with warning messages like the one to the right. It was advice no fan could ignore.

Whenever we ventured out from the convention center, a lovely harp-shaped bridge greeted us. It was a fine reminder of the two prongs of this literature we came to celebrate: the sleek beauty of tomorrow and the magic we so often associate with yesterday.

Read more about my Worldcon adventures at And the winner, she is …., at  An Irish Worldcon: I’m here! at An New Irish Experience,and at Feeling at home.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

We have Groucho Marx to thank for this witty line. It pops into my head every time I think about how time flies.

Most of my life I’ve considered time, not money, to be my most valuable resource. Maybe I should have put it second to love, or joy, but if I’m honest with myself, I didn’t. Maybe I always thought I was going to die young. Lucky for me, I’m getting a little too old to do that ….

If you cherish your minutes like I do, you tend to be busy, focused and impatient. Friends marvel at how much you get done. They also wish you’d learn to relax more.

This last year has been more intense than most, as I seized the day, the week, and the months to re-release new versions of my six novels.  I was often up at dawn (not my normal), driven to get through one more chapter. I had to make these perfect. I had to get them done.

Then, I did. And, I was exhausted.

I had expected to finish a month sooner, and had scheduled some travel to unwind after my big push. Instead, I ended up rushing off on my trip, finally catching my breath on a five-hour cross country flight that was running over three hours late. Sort of like me. I woke up somewhere on the Pacific coast and thought now what?

Now what, indeed. I ate lunch at the beach. Put my feet in the ocean. Went to a party, saw a live show and a movie, and went wine tasting. I even tried my hand at some virtual reality game involving light sabers and music.

There was pizza and french fries for dinner, lots of ice cream, and plenty of wine. Sometimes that wine was drunk in the middle of the day.

I relaxed. I enjoyed myself. I had fun.

Wow.

Should I have wasted all that time?? You bet. You see, time flies like an arrow. Best use some of it to recharge your batteries and enjoy this wonderful gift of getting to exist. As the fruit flies will tell you, there’s no reason part of it shouldn’t be fun.

One Thing a Day

I promised myself I’d find one thing a day I’d learned while I enjoyed a four-week trip around the USA. I called it my rules of the road, and it kept me paying attention to the important things, and sometimes the little things, that shaped my days.

I’m not sure there are any profound revelations on the list, but in aggregate, I get a few messages.

Curious? Here’s the list.

Rules of the Road (Daily learnings from a 28 day road trip)

#1. Make sure everything is well organized so you don’t have to look for things and can see if you are leaving something behind.
#2. Forgive yourself when you break rule number one and leave something important behind.
#3. If it doesn’t sound good to you, don’t order it. Don’t eat it. Don’t drink it. No matter how much your sister likes it, or how much you like your sister. Just don’t.
#4. Bloom where you are planted, even if it’s only for a day.
#5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
#6. No saying I should have. You didn’t.
#7. It’s okay if some travels make you sad. Cry.
#8: Get off the road once in awhile.
#9. When all else fails, turn to another human for help.
#10. Always bring an onion.
#11. Avoid unnecessary trouble, no matter how much that asshole deserves it.
#12. When you’re cranky, focus on something else.
#13. Don’t let a little dust stop you from doing what you want to do.
#14. Don’t let a day determine how your evening will go.
#15. Stop pretending to be meaner or more miserable than you are, just to make meaner and more miserable people like you.
#16. What rules? What road?
#17. If you get interrupted by a parade, laugh.
#18. It doesn’t have to make sense, at least not if you’re a human being.
#19. When you cross the border into another reality, cross it.
#20. Pee when you have to, you don’t know what’s around the next bend.
#21. Allow way more time than you think you need.
#22. Stop when you’re exhausted. Treat this like it’s Rule #1.
#23. They live in their reality and you live in yours. Remember this insight.
#24. When something makes no sense at all, go ahead and read the directions.
#25. Never back up more than you have to.
#26. Avoid extremely difficult days. If you can’t, do your best to see there is comfort waiting for you at the end of that day.
#27. If you didn’t learn anything special today, it’s okay. Don’t worry about it.
#28. Be grateful to have made the journey. Be grateful to have made it home.

Day 28. Grateful

This last day of my journey is going to be two days, as we opt to let some of the long drive spill over into tomorrow. It’s okay, I’m going to consider this a journey of 28 days anyway.

The final stretch is a trip through the deep south; our slightly longer route determined by the need to pick up my husband’s car at an airport in South Carolina.

We end up spending the night in town in which the only open restaurant is a fast food chicken place, and the only open grocery store is whatever they sell at the bait shop attached to the local gas station. We patch together a meal from what’s in our car.

The TV at our place has no reception, but we find something to watch in the collection of old VHS movies that are provided.  (The Client, with Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. It’s not bad and it speeds the evening along.)

The next day, as I finally drive up the road to my own house, my last rule of the road, #28, is clear. Be grateful to have made the journey. Be grateful to have made it home.

I’ve been listening to my playlist of “25 songs with home in the title” ever since I dropped my husband off to get his car. When the list is done, Gabrielle Aplin’s Home is the one I play twice. Make that three times.

I don’t see the video until after I’m in the house and finishing this blog. It has such a creepy start that I almost don’t post it, but I watch it a few more times and it wins me over. Besides, so much of the country she travels through looks like where I’ve just been.

I could swear I passed the guy in the yellow truck at least once in my travels. In fact, I might have stayed at his Airbnb. Or maybe I saw him at Burning Man. At any rate, the video resonates with my journey, and her song leaves me smiling … because I’m finally home.

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful

 

Day 23. What’s Your Reality?

I’ve spent several days at Burning Man, which I think we can all agree is a world unto itself. Now that I’m back in what burners call the default world, I seem to be hyper aware of the fact that none of us live in quite the same reality as each other.

We choose different forms of entertainment, and of news. We spend time with different sorts of people. We treat our bodies differently with our food, our rest and our recreation. Our surroundings, which we have some ability to choose, vary radically. It may be amazing that any of us agree as much as we do.

The point is really brought home today when I go visit my husband’s brother and his wife at their ranch. I admire these two a great deal. Years ago they made a choice to live off of the grid, growing or raising most of their own food, hauling in their own water, generating their own solar power. Their food is pure, their bodies work hard.

The vision has morphed somewhat, allowing more modernization and convenience, but they still live a harsh and solitary life in a stunning location. Today’s big news is that they have found a way to have hot running water. They’ve both just taken their first shower at home at the turn of a knob since they began this life about a decade ago. They are quite pleased.

For all that I find their place beautiful, and their choices admirable, I realize that I’m glad I don’t live their life. I enjoy hot showers and baths, among many other creature comforts.

Then I realize, I don’t have to be them, any more than they have to be me. I choose my reality, more or less, just as they’ve chosen theirs.

Isn’t that nice?

But as we visit with each other, it’s helpful to remember that we communicate across a membrane; they in their world and me in mine. While it may be less obvious once I’m back in the town where I live, I vow to remember this insight. Rule 23. It’s a good one for the road and off.

As to the odds of each of us getting to end up in the reality that truly suits us? I think Jimmy Cliff had it all figured out years ago …

 

Day 22. Stop, or Else …

I should have reconsidered my plan to follow-up 6 nights camping at Burning Man with two long days of driving. Last night I woke up twice in the night thinking the place was filling up with dust. An inch or more of the flaky grey coating on everything gave the room the look of something out of a horror movie, until I turned on the lights and saw there was no dust at all.

The second time it happened I knew I needed a little more decompression time.

Luckily, we are staying for three nights at this pretty Airbnb in Trinidad Colorado where we have our own 2nd floor apartment and garden below. The mountain view is more lush than Nevada, although I’m not sure what isn’t. We are not going anywhere today; relatives will come to see us.

But I wake up with no appetite for visiting or making food, and decide that doing qigong out in the garden will make a world of difference. Qigong is a form of moving meditation that involves breathing and simple exercises designed to improve ones personal energy flow. I’m sure mine could use some improving.

Only I forget to take my shoes down with me, and the garden is filled with small sharp rocks. I don’t want to go back up and get them, so I walk along the flagstone lining the little pond, trying to get over to the concrete patio.

It seems a simple thing, but one of the flagstone is unattached. It topples right off when I step on it and, although the fall is only a foot or two, I land hard.

My right toe has been sliced open and is bleeding pretty good, and my left knee throbs and is swelling fast.

“What the hell is the matter with me?” I mutter at myself.

Then I know. I’m exhausted, mentally and physically. I’ve failed to stop and rest, like I should have, which has just become rule of the road #22 and maybe should have been rule #1.

My body and mind have conspired together to get me to do something stupid so that I will ….. just ….. stop.

“Okay, I’ve stopped,” I yell in irritation, wrapping a tissue from my pocket around my toe. Soon I’ll be bandaging it up, and sitting with my other leg elevated under an ice pack.

Aren’t we humans funny creatures? We go and go and often don’t bother to stop and listen to our own needs.

Aren’t we humans lucky creatures? We’re made to find a way to take care of ourselves. Sometimes we do it the easy way. Other times, we need to make a mistake.

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful

Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …

It’s Wednesday and the temple is finally completed and open. As soon as the day begins to cool down, I head out for a little private ceremony I’ve been contemplating for weeks. I have two fine ladies to pay tribute to. One is the mother of a friend who died a few months ago, leaving these last words.

I had such a great time, y’all.

I’ve been wearing her bright orange shawl, trying to carry her spirit of joy with me here at Burning Man.

The other is my own mother, who died ten years ago. I some ways I feel like I never fully mourned her and this seems like the right time and place. I settle into a soft spot in the dust, armed with a sharpie, prepared to leave my tributes on one of the many two by fours that form this beautiful open air construction.

I leave Judy’s last words, and have moved onto crafting something for my mom, when I notice raucous music getting louder. What? This is supposed to be the one quiet place for reflection. How rude are these people?

I keep writing and let the tears flow, tears I never could summon before. It feels good but the music is getting louder and harder to ignore. I listen.

It’s jazz. New Orleans jazz to be precise, and I realize this is a funeral procession for someone else, being mourned in a way that is fitting to them. Of course it is appropriate here. My irritation dissipates, and I return to my own ceremony.

Then I notice just how big the procession is. It’s got to be hundreds of people, maybe more. They are getting closer to the temple, lead with a banner featuring a likeness I recognize. It’s of Larry Harvey, one of founders of Burning Man and friend to so many who are here.

I’m happy to let my private tears coexist with this noisy tribute. Then I realize the trajectory of this procession will take it into the temple via one of the many curved entrances, and it happens to be the one in which I’m sitting in the dust crying. I’m about to be in the way of the largest single act of mourning ever held at Burning Man.

I take a quick photo of what I’ve written so far, and crawl through a gap in the wood just in time. The music is deafening as the parade passes me and skydivers jump out of airplanes above.

Sorry about that, mom. Bad timing.

I hear her laughter in my head. She had a way of seeing the humor in the bizarre and it occurs to me she might have found this rather funny. I let myself laugh as well. What were the odds?

Her laughter mingles with mine and I think maybe it is a better tribute to her than all the tears I could shed.

I leave the friends of Larry Harvey to their celebration of his life, and head out to the deep playa to enjoy the dusk. I’ve been wanting to ride all the way out to the perimeter since I got here and this seems to be the perfect time.

I’m back to searching the day’s events to find my rules of the road. Today offers multiple options.

It’s good to go out to the edge.

Or if you find yourself in the path of a parade, either join in or get out of the way.

Both good advice, but I’m choosing if you get interrupted by a parade, laugh.

As to the song of the day, that one is easy. What else could it be?