Saturday, 1 February 2014

365 Days: the Importance of Rattling the Routine

One year ago today, after months of preparation and anticipation, Freddie came to live with us. Here he is, shortly after his arrival — a little tentative, not quite sure what the heck has just happened to his life ... but full of cheerful Freddieness, nevertheless ...

Thanks to Freddie (and, of course, the Big Move), the past year in the Heather and Paul Universe has involved the shaking up of many of our routines (everything from how we spend the first hour of the day to how we spend the winter) ... with the result that I'm not, on this particular anniversary, sitting here wondering where the hell the time went. This past year may not have gone by at the leisurely pace of a childhood summer, but it has felt, more or less, like a year — as opposed to, say, the three weeks that barely seem to pass between April meetings with our tax guy (weren't you just here, Martin?).

Is that a fox behind the stump or another dog?

Yes ... comfortable and comforting as they are, routines (dare I say ruts?) are, I think, the main culprits in the smoothing out and speeding up of time. Uncertainties, novelties, foxes on the horizon ... those are the things that give friction — good or bad — to the journey and, thus, slow down the passing of time. (Obviously I'm not saying anything new or routine-busting here!)

Of course, the older we get, the harder we have to work to find and/or create novelty. For a kid, every-freakin-thing is new. Bright green hairy moss? Wow! A mysteriously red and orange pond? Amazing! Time-stopping! But look at enough of these kinds of things, and they risk becoming a muted background that's oh-so-easy to walk right past. And, sadly, anything can become routine. Travelling to distant and exotic places ... jabbing oneself with needles and lancets ... even these can become ordinary if one does them enough.

Even this ...

So, what to do?

For all sorts of reasons — not just the speeding up of time — I dread to think that my immediate neighbourhood, pictured left, could lose its wow-factor for me.

Just being aware of the phenomenon and working against it psychologically — ie. making a point of noticing and appreciating stuff — are useful strategies, I think.

But I also think it's important — hard, but important — to do different stuff (doing encompassing being). Really different, even scary — and obviously what counts as different and scary for one person won't necessarily have the same value for another.

With that in mind, Paul plans to spend next year backpacking around Asia, while I teach a graduate creative writing seminar on poetry.

Seriously, though ... (no, there's no way in hell I will ever teach poetry writing to grad students) ... it seems the bigger challenge re. shaking up the routine may be at the day-to-day, micro-level. When doing something wow-bang just isn't practical, is it still possible to incorporate mini novelties into the day? And do those novelties make a noticeable difference?

I suspect the answer to both questions is yes ... but it ain't easy. This morning when I headed out with Freddie, I vowed to try something completely different on our walk.

(I kinda like the photo below, but there's nothing original about it — even in my own little repertoire.)

Here's what I came up with ...

Nope, not a trip back to Montreal ...

Just a visit to the zamboni dunes of Kitsilano ice rink ... but as far as Freddie was concerned it may as well have been the real Côte-des-Neiges. So I got a bit of vicarious novelty!

I also sharpened my desire to try cross-country skiing with Freddie — which would be different, and a little bit intimidating.

On that note, if anyone has any advice for snowy activities with hairy labradoodles, or accommodations near the Whistler/Callaghan nordic ski area (which features a number of dog-friendly trails), or finding novelty in the day-to-day, this blog is all ears!

Thanks a heap for stopping by!

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