After the Storm

Exactly one week ago, almost to the hour of me writing these words, I finally tested positive for COVID-19. By all accounts and on a severity scale of one to ten (one being no symptoms and ten being the most severe fatal variety) I would rank my infection experience at a 4 or maybe at most a 5.

There were a few hours in the middle where I considered asking my wife to take me into the hospital, but that feeling was short-lived and a good-night-sleep later I was back to slouching it off on the couch and sick-napping through a Netflix marathon.

This morning I feel almost normal.

I mention here for two reasons.

First, I feel like I need to explain why I haven’t posted in over a week. (Answer: I was sick.)

But second, this was a blog (and now blossoming project) that was conceived out of the rippled effects of this global pandemic. I can’t say for certain, but I doubt you’d be reading any of these past three-hundred and twenty-five posts if it were not for COVID-19. That pandemic provided both the space and motivation for me to start a little more self-evaluation and personal reflection and refocusing of priorities… and all those fancy things that make one take stock and dive into a new hobby, or reinvigorate an old one… even if it was just me stanning on cast iron cooking and raving about trail running adventure.

Living through the pandemic, which we’ve all done in some shape or another, has likely left an indelible mark on each of us, the scale and scope of which will only be understood in time.

For me, living through the pandemic in the first year of that event was marked not actually by a personal infection but rather by being on the front lines of my job, putting in erratic twelve hour days, burning out, being crushed emotionally and physically by the effort and the decisions and the reactions and the uncertainty of it all. I pounded a stake into the metaphorical sand and anchored myself to words and ideas and a reinvented self that I projected outwards through this space. It may have seemed trivial to those who were reading, but this was me tethering myself back into reality and hand-over-hand pulling myself back towards normal.

None of it is over. Many others have their own COVID stories to conclude, but I realize that by living through the actual infection, even a mild version I’ve kind of put a pin in my pandemic adventure, at least the first volume of it:

Learning about the pandemic, going through lockdowns and panic and societal shift. Working from home to avoid catching the damn virus. Mountains of PPE, masks of every shape and colour. Three vaccinations. Symptoms and tests and dozens of negatives, false alarms. The slow toe back into the new reality of post-COVID life, work and play. Demasking and lowering defences and then finally getting the damn virus and taking it on the chin for seven full days of fever and cough and headaches and utter fatigue, until…

Reaching healthy?

And in the blur of that two-and-half-years-long story, learning a lot about my own self, what I believe in, cherish, value… and how I want to write the sequel to it all.

The storm has passed. At least, my storm has, and I’m just pausing here for a deep breath — literal and metaphorically — as I look around and ponder where next.

Meta Monday & the Attack of the Creative Heart

I have a luxury that, I would guess, many people who post stuff online don’t have.

I don’t need to generate an income from this.

I’m lucky. I can blog without ads. I can post without sponsored content. Dabble in new media without penalty for failure. I can pay my hosting bills with my real job. This is a hobby. A pasttime. An indulgence.

That means that after a year and a half of writing, five hundred and seven days of effort and three hundred and eighteen posts in — and though there about thirty or so readers who I get to hear from now and then — the fact that I don’t have a million subscribers (and probably never will) nor viral content on this site doesn’t really concern me too much. It’s like we’re doing a small, initimate theatre show here: just a few of us in a cozy room with me up on stage doing my thing, and that’s kinda how I like it.

On the flip side, I have a kid who cruelly laughs at the small number beside by social stats because so-and-so teenage youtuber has eight million subscribers or such-and-such streamer in his early twenties on twitch has thirty million subs and a gazillion bucks and ”geeze, dad, you’re barely even…”

On another flip side, I’m what some of you might call a “Creative Soul” or “Artistic” or (as I like to fashion it) “Inspired to Make Stuff” and, as I mentioned, blessed with the luxury of time and resources to do so.

I’ve often written on the sidelines of this project that I have a lot of reasons to write and to continue writing. It’s cheaper than therapy, for one. But also it drives this cycle of writing about the stuff I do and so doing stuff to have something to write about about, and so on and so on and so on.

I’ve also mentioned previously on this blog times and efforts when I’ve dabbled in other projects adjacent (and not so much adjacent) to this project. (Did you know I play classical violin in a local orchestra, for example??) I like the whole Cast Iron Guy project because I get to write about things I enjoy doing, foods I like cooking, and places I like exploring, and thus I do, cook, and explore more so that I have things to write about. The aforementioned cycle works out great for me.

That said, I have other stuff I work on, and other channels I like to work in.

I used to do a lot of photography.

I used to draw a web comic.

I used to dabble in video editing.

I used to write novels (though I never did publish one!)

Last summer, I took a break from writing here. A year ago the push to press the publish button on the daily (which I don’t attempt anymore) seemed to conflict with taking some vacation and enjoying the outdoor weather. This summer I don’t think I’m going to take that break. I think, instead, I’m going to branch out and add depth and complexity to this Cast Iron Guy project. More stuff. More side projects. More experimentation in other media.

(On a side note, I’ve been backburnering a change of ”brand” and updating the name and general theme on this site to something that is less focused on cooking, but until I go at least two days in a row thinking that’s a good idea it’s not getting much traction even in my own head!)

Some of the things I’m working on include:

I added some galleries last year and I’m going to try and get my camera out more to enhance those over the summer. Hopefully you’ll see more photos.

I already posted about my new Youtube channel where I have a couple ideas to post videos if not regularly, then at least sporadically with some frequency, with films and clips that I think might be interesting and fun to record.

I’m toying with the idea and preliminary work of recording a simple podcast, but I haven’t completely got my head around the format and formula yet. I figure it will take a few episodes before that gels into something I really like and want to write more about.

And of course, on top of all of this, I want to get out and explore, travel, do a lot more drawing, writing, and generally enhancing of my content on this blog as it already is, including longer format articles with more focused topics, more photos and videos to accompany the posts, and overall stuff that I think could entertain those folks who already read my posts while attracting others and building a bigger community around the adventure seekers lifestyle.

It’s a creative-heart attack. I think those are healthy.

And this is hobby, pasttime and an indulgence, and I can try new things without worrying that I’m going to bankrupt myself. A year and a half on, a little more than five hundred days of Cast Iron Guy blog, it’s time to see what I can do with this whole thing.

The summer looks to be full of adventure, filming, sketching, recording, and building a collection of interesting stories to share here… and not because I have to, but because I get to.

Don’t Take Participation for Granted

You can read these words.

You have access to knowledge unknown and unfathomable to any generation before you.

You are online, connected, exploring big ideas and complex thoughts.

Explain a valuable life lesson you learned in 2021.

I restarted blogging at the beginning of 2021 after a fairly long absence from the sport. I put fingers to keys once again not because I think I have anything particularly important to say or even to add to a conversation already a billion-voices-strong, but because everyone should be able to have a space among those voices.

Everyone should at the very least be able to participate.

Equally. And if not, then equitably.

This is definitely not the case right now.

Voices are amplified because they are already louder.

Voices are lifted because they come from someone famous.

Voices go viral because they say something ridiculous, hateful, dumb, or nonsensical.

Some people like to talk about deplatforming.

Some people opt to complain about cancel culture.

Others seem to be hung up on who has the right to speak about one thing versus another thing.

We can and should have authorities on topics of importance, voices who speak with weight on certain topics or issues or policies. We should hear those voices and measure them against rational, thoughtful indicators of truth, reason, and the tools by which we measure the same.

But we should all participate in the conversation. At the very least, weigh in, converse, listen, and hear each other. Participate in two-way or a billion-way exchanges of position, idea, and respect.

This is definitely not the case right now.

You can read these words. You are participating. I am participating. We shouldn’t take that for granted. It is a gift, a responsibility, and part of being alive in this time when we all live.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.

Across the Universe

This afternoon I was driving through a snowstorm listening to a science radio show on the CBC talking about the launch of the new James Webb space telescope.

The James Webb Space Telescope is a space telescope being jointly developed by NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency. It is planned to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship astrophysics mission.

– Wikipedia

That programme got me thinking about how a couple weeks back I looked out across the evening sky while I was out for a walk and noted that three bright “stars” were lined up right there above me. I opened my astronomy app on my phone and oriented the navigation tool to point towards them above the horizon and realized that I wasn’t looking at stars, but instead very likely and as best as I could deduce, three planets neatly aligned just over the roofs of some neighbourhood houses.

Looking at the sky makes me feel pretty small in the vast scheme of things, peering out into the universe and realizing that even our one little solar system in the backwater of our one little galaxy barely registers as anything but points of light in the vast inky blackness of the multiverse.

Describe your 2021 in politics, culture, and the universe?

I point this insignificance out because I think there are those of us who feel the reality of our smallness and rareness in the vast universe and embrace it. I also think there are others who lash out against it in ways that are indecipherable to the rest of us.

Both perspectives emerge from that mist of confusion in many different forms representing many different things.

For me, it emerges as rambling blog posts, art, occasionally music, and adventures through my little corner of this tiny planet.

For others, it seems to emerge in less constructive ways. Politics, online rage, cruelty, crime, and willfully working against the general goodness that is possible in this universe.

In the upcoming year I hope you find a way to lean into even just a little more constructiveness — for yourself, for me, for all of us — as you whirl through the incomprehensible vastness of the universe, and that you continue to enjoy my attempts at the same right here as I continue to write about cooking, travel, adventure, and filling my face with delicious foods.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.