Jess Nickelsen: Discombobulated
August 11, 2021 - freezing



It’s been a bit like this photo lately, following the sun around the house when it appears. (To be honest at the moment we just get it in one room, because the trees along the ridgeline really block out a lot of the winter sun, something the neighbours whose trees they are don’t seem to be particularly concerned about.)

It’s cold.

Even when it’s a clear day, like today was, we’re still in a little pocket of cold that never seems to really heat up. Doesn’t seem to dry out, either. For the other 44 or so weeks of the year, it’s great: we’re tucked away from the wind. We get lots of sun. Have lovely trees and birdlife all around.

And then we get to this time of the year and start grumbling about wanting to live somewhere sunnier. Every year.

Anyway. Went for a coffee and a walk with my friend Conny, and got enough sun then, and got the blood moving. Came home and was aimless, sitting at my desk, tweaking things. Started a new notebook with a new idea for a short story, tentatively called Second Hand.” Drank more coffee. Went in to school and helped to glue gun.

The glue gunning was pretty fun; my daughter’s class has been making simple electronic circuits, lighting up a bulb from a battery. Now they are turning them into insects with light-up bottoms. They were all very friendly and chatty. Everyone seemed happy to be there and they had some really cool ideas for bugs. Some had eyes on stalks. Others had halos like Christmas angels. Interestingly they all knew what they wanted to do. They had books with plans they’d drawn in them. Pictures of their bugs. No one seemed like they were trying to copy someone else, either.

I just sat there and glued where they wanted me to. It was really relaxing. Some kids told me they were allowed to use the glue gun by themselves at home. Other kids were terrified of being burnt and wouldn’t stick their fingers in the glue to hold things in place.

People seem to talk a lot about how when they’re busy doing other things, they are able to plan out a whole lot of what they write. I don’t get that at all. Maybe occasionally if I’m out on a walk, an idea will strike me. Very rarely will I get any extra extrapolation. But when I’m doing dishes and the rest I really don’t get a lot. Just, fork is going over in that compartment there, oh, I think I can fit another bowl in if I just move that pot.

A lot of my thinking seems to happen when my fingers move, either on the keyboard or holding a pen. I wonder if that is how I’ve always been, if that is how we as a people have sort of developed, or if it’s some way of thinking that I’ve trained myself to do? It’s very strange. Half the time I have no idea what I’m going to write about when I sit down to post on the blog. I do keep lists of things I could write about, but when I sit down to do it, they all feel too forced. Too artificial. Too artificial for what, I’d like to know.

I don’t often write about it but I am extremely interested in what I called (in my university honours thesis) the interpenetration of humans and technology. How technology can become more human,” and also how we absorb technology. The thesis was the last thing I ever had to do with academia (and I’m really not too sure it’s for me), but I often do think back on that research and study. It was in the context of analysing several works of fiction, but half of the research was looking at works by Pierre Levy and N Katherine Hayle and others, and that part was a challenge for me, but also extremely interesting. Anyway, lately I’ve been thinking of looking into some of those themes in my writing.

Even basic things like the format of books, and the consequent ways we get used to receiving stories, is dependent on the technology at hand. Ebooks and reading devices have meant that there aren’t really any limitations on the length of the stories we write, or whether we are allowed to” write huge series or just a whole lot of novelettes. TVs huge resurgence has seen us take more of an interest in a serialised story, over the cut-down two-hour, three-act model, or previous episodic telly that you’d watch once a week.

Steve is reading news out loud to me from his phone as I write this in the lounge, with the new laptop on my lap. Sydney right now is in big trouble with its Covid outbreak. So many people who are infected are just walking around. So many people are gathering in huge groups to protest lockdowns.

Even here in New Zealand, on the news, people are talking about how we should be opening up” to those who have been vaccinated. But everything we read says that the Delta variant has changed all the rules. A vaccination is no guarantee of protection. And further mutations are only inevitable, as the world takes so long to roll out the initial vaccines, and countries hoard and squabble and refuse to share, and open up too soon, and worry about whether their populace will hate them (like a petulant child angry when a parent says no”). Better to be angry than dead, hey?

But it would seem that as a species we are incredibly short-sighted. We’re just not good at the long game. We can’t see past pub closures and a lack of tourists. Is it a failure of imagination? I really don’t know.

It’s cold!