2020.09.15

This post was first written for my newsletter. Follow the link to subscribe.

Today is Tuesday, and I said at the beginning of the season that I wanted to write my newsletter on the Saturdays before the farmers market. Today is September 15th, and I said at the beginning of the month that I wanted to write at least 4 letters. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve started writing here. Just now, I deleted what I started writing last Saturday.

A newsletter is different than a blog, but because Substack is public by default, it feels more like a blog than most other email services. It’s the reason I hesitated when I first started writing here. I already have a blog. I’ve had many blogs, all the way back to 2002, when I started my first on Blogspot. This is just another way for me to write in public.

The biggest difference for me is how I feel like every letter has to be “a good one.” On a blog, I’ll write short little things, most shorter than a tweet (an old 140-character tweet, even). When I stopped posting on Twitter, I started writing those top-of-mind thoughts in list form on my blog. I miss writing those blog posts. Since my last letter on August 31st, I’ve written about The Beatles and Ringo Starr, about the wildfires and the smoke, about the basil pesto I made, about how my market plans have changed since the beginning of the season.

You probably noticed I didn’t send any of those letters. I should have, right? I want to write you more often, but then I worry I’m writing you too much. I worry that everyone secretly wants me to shut up. I worry that nobody really cares.

But even more than all of that, I worry that I’ve stopped caring, too. I worry I’m not a writer anymore.

My dream of being a writer is also my first memory. I’ve told this story a dozen times or more. My dad had an Atari, the kind of computer that didn’t come with a monitor—you had to use your TV set. He wrote a very basic program (though I don’t know if it was a BASIC program) called Jessica’s Alphabet. When you pressed a letter key on the keyboard, that letter appeared and filled the entire screen. I was already telling stories when I directed playtime with my younger brother and all our stuffed animals. But now I was writing. I have always ever after been writing.

In 2020, not so much.

I wasn’t sure I should register for Canzine this year. They’re doing it online, of course, but except for the instructional zines to go with my sourdough starter and homemade sea salt, I haven’t made anything else that would qualify. I wrote a bunch of blog posts at the beginning of the quarantine, and then the farmers market prompted me to write these more news-y posts that I’ve been calling “letters,” because I’m still an incurable penpal. I suppose some of these could be a zine.

My market season ends on October 11th, and Canzine runs from October 24th to the 26nd, which just felt like serendipity. Nearly a fortnight in between to prepare some zines, to switch from summer baking to winter writing.

Except, because it’s online, vendors have to get their digital assets uploaded early, and that deadline is today. (Technically, I should have until the 20th because I registered so late.) Today, I’m asking myself: am I a writer or a baker? Do I make bread or zines? Or have I been fooling myself all these years, and I’m really just a teacher, like my tax forms say.

But also, why not both? All? Every single one?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote about being excited for more people to discover my joy of cooking and baking at home, of exploring how they can do more for themselves. I have a lot of privilege as an able-bodied person, and some of the more physical tasks of homemaking aren’t available to everyone. It’s my responsibility to ensure that my sustainable future is accessible for all to enjoy. Because I don’t want us to go back to “normal.” I don’t want life to be the same as it was.

I’m ready for the next evolution, even if it requires a revolution to get there.

Here on the west coast, we’re dealing with forest fires. Like hurricanes over the southern Atlantic, forest fires have become a normal part of life for us. White Rock is a coastal city, so the fires rarely get close enough to endanger me directly; however, smoke in the air is routine. The smoke blocking the sky and sun today (AQI 189) isn’t even from the interior of BC. This smoke has travelled all the way from Oregon, and while it’s an annoyance up here that I’m doing my best to avoid, it’s a literal health hazard for my friends who live in and around Portland.

Are you ready for that revolution yet?

I’ve been ready. A friend asked if I have major life changes planned as a result of 2020. And my answer is no, but only because the future I imagine post-2020 is the future I’ve always wanted. Community, but smaller, closer. Mine looks like a tiny piece of land in the mountains; a house, but not too big; a place to cook; time to write; workshops and retreats where we all share our obscure skills. This summer at the farmers market has taught me so much, and this pandemic is a moment for change. We’re watching the results of every bad decision we’ve made over the last 100 years because not enough of us were paying attention before.

My friend asked, what’s holding you back? My answer used to always be money. I made $11,000 last year, and I need to pay rent and eat. But this year, because of the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit, the government is paying me $2,000 a month, and my rent is only $850. I have nearly a down payment saved up. This moment is catastrophic for so many, and I’m the most financially stable I’ve ever been in my life. (If you are also dealing with this unexpected abundance, pass it along. Being able to contribute to the people and ideals I love and support has been fulfilling for me.)

But where 2020 has been good for my constant anxiety about money, it’s also been a very lonely year for me. What’s holding me back from my future isn’t money anymore; it’s people. I learned a lot doing the market this summer, and the number one lesson: I can’t do this by myself. I thought I could. I thought if I had passed my drivers test, I would’ve been able to handle the markets alone. I’ve done many zinefests alone! I prefer to do most things by myself (that’s what happens when you’ve been single for 39 years).

I thought I could do quarantine because I’m already alone. I don’t want to be alone anymore (Anyone else scrolling dating apps even though in-person dates are basically prohibited?)

But my conviction is stronger than ever. I’m not letting this future go. That tiny house in the mountains is going to happen. Just look how far I’ve come; I’m closer than ever before. I’ll just have to keep writing about it until someone else falls in love with my dream, too. Now there’s a good idea for a 2020 zine.

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