Plus: The Ticketmaster of parks; 100 marathons in 100 days—for climate; & the end of wild camping in England?
2023 started, for me, much the same way as 2022: an eye-opening plunge into the frigid Atlantic Ocean. This is now one of my favorite New Year traditions (two years in a row makes a tradition, right?) and even though the unusually balmy weather and sunshine brought out the crowds—so much so that organizers were closing the check-in line for unregistered plungerswhen we arrived—I personally am looking forward to plunging, one day, in the snow. If it ever snows again in New York City! We are approaching a record-long period without measureable snowfall in the city. According to the New York Daily News, it’s been 50 years since the city has had no measurable snowfall before January 29, and the average first snowfall is on December 14. There were a couple flakes swirling outside my window yesterday, but even if the snow had been sticking, the accumulation would have been negligible. As the kids were singing on TikTok over the holidays, “the weather outside is warm—the planet is dying.”
This is the first time in at least three years that my New Year’s resolution hasn’t been about going outside or physical activity. Last year’s pledge to spend at least 30 minutes outside every day was kind of a disaster. In the summer it was effortless, but when the days were short and dark (like now) it felt like a chore. I was both grateful and resentful for my enforced late-night marches in the dark and cold and mostly empty Fort Greene streets all through January, February, and March. And then after I stopped tracking my time outside over the summer—not because I wasn’t spending time outside but because it was a given—and it started getting cold and dark again, I just never got back in the habit of ticking that box (a very literal box I drew into my daily planner) every day.
In spite of this semi-failure of a resolution, I briefly considered doubling down and making my goal spending an hour outside every day this year, before pivoting instead to a daily writing goal, which became, after I stole a copy of The Artist’s Way from my dad over the holiday (sorry, Dad), daily morning pages: three pages of as-close-to stream of consciousness writing as I can manage.
I feel like The Artist’s Way is just something you come upon in the world, especially if you’re any kind of writer, but I first remember reading about it in Jaime Green’s newsletter (I don’t know how I would go about finding the exact issue in her TinyLetter archives, but she wrote about morning pages here). And it was just something that I held in the back of my mind for years, as like, a thing one could do. But I think it was my successful experience with The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer which primed me to be more open to self-help books like this. And I began seeing parallels as soon as I started reading on our flight back to New York: “Flow” is mentioned, which she suggests as a kind of secular alternative to “God,” if we’re uncomfortable with attributing the source of our creativity to a specific Higher Power. And of course positive affirmations are as important to the Artist’s journey as to a would-be Marathoner’s.
Anyway, in my initial hopes and dreams for 2023, my daily writing practice could include working on Pinch of Dirt, but I ultimately decided to prioritize writing daily morning pages instead. But the real hope is that following this “spiritual path to higher creativity” will infuse all of my writing with more creativity and vitality, this newsletter included. We shall see.
I’m also doing a light “no-buy” year: no new clothes, no new shoes, no new stuff (books are a gray area—I’ve already ordered one that could be helpful for work and is not available at the library), and no new consumables (like toiletries) until I’ve run out of what I have. But this is of secondary significance after the daily morning pages, my grand experiment for the year.
Do you have any resolutions you’d like to share with the class? Drop them in the comments below.
I’ve been squirreling these away for a while now, so they might be old links, but hopefully still worth your time.
Must-read: Meet the Ticketmaster of US National Parks, a great missive by Matt Stoller, which somehow combines most of my current and past professional interests (environment, parks, access to nature, and “civic” tech). [h/t Ethan Davison]
The right to wild camp (dispersed camping without prior permission) has been lost in England, after a private landowner contested the public’s right to wild camp in Dartmoor national park, the last place in England it was legal, Helena Horton reports for The Guardian. Alexander Darwell’s lawyers argued that wild camping doesn’t qualify as “recreation,” which seems patently ridiculous to me. Dartmoor national park will appeal the decision, and activists are planning to wild camp in protest on Alexander Darwall’s estate. You can follow their campaign on Instagram here.
Related: Ben Ryder Howe reports for the New York Times on the app that reveals the plots of public land that have no public access points.
Parks Canada has announced plans to ban private vehicles on the road to Moraine Lake to ease congestion at the popular destination in Banff National Park, much to the displeasure of Alberta’s minister of forests, parks, and tourism, who asked them to reverse the ban and suggested “building a bigger parking lot,” Leyland Cecco reports for The Guardian. (Nearly 5,000 cars are regularly turned away every day due to lack of parking spaces in the summer months, so even if a parking lot expansion in the park were legal, it would have to more than quadruple the size of the current parking lot to almost meet demand.) Anyway, yes to shuttle buses, I think.
The human brain prefers naturally-occurring fractals to boxes and standard urban geometries, according to new research by University of Oreogn physicist Richard Taylor.
Related: A short documentary for the New York Times on access to nature (or rather, the lack thereof) in US prisons, directed by Merete Mueller. Very subtle, but also very sad. Worth your time.
For the Sydney Morning Herald, Barry Divola took a walk with Matt Green, the man walking every street in New York City. I’m relieved I find this prospect slightly repellant—although still admirable, if that makes sense. I don’t want to do it, but I’m glad other people, including Divola, do.
A must-read by Virginia Sole-Smith, regardless of your body size or where you perceive yourself to fall on the “works out” or “does not work out” spectrum:
When you are thin, it is much, much easier to get away with not working out. Doctors won’t lecture you about it. In fact, they probably assume you’re doing more than you maybe are. If you are a Thin Person Who Does Not Exercise, friends and family will just envy your ability to be thin without it, rather than blaming your lack of exercise for your body size. And whatever your true status as an exerciser, it is assumed that you are healthy; that you can move your body with ease and confidence; that any perceived shortcomings—tight hamstrings, say—are because you must run so much, not because the shape of your body is a problem. It doesn’t matter if you are actually running so much. If you once ran, you will run again. You are a Runner. And if you can’t run, you’ll cycle or go to cardio barre. You are a Person Who Exercises.
Still trying to work out how I feel about this guy who ran 100 marathons in as many days to protest…the climate footprint of sporting events. “I do to my body what we do to the planet,” Nicolas Vandenelsken told a reporter. I don’t know, is protesting an industry by participating in the industry for 100 days in a row the most effective form of protest?
The ends-of-the-earth are melting into the ocean, and it’s a real bummer for the tourists traveling to see it. That’s perhaps not the fairest or most accurate description of Tom Kizzia’s essay in the New York Times, but it’s not exactly wrong either.
Tip: If there is even the slightest possibility you might plunge, pre-register!! It could save you an enormous headache day-of. You can always donate for a sticker or a t-shirt when you check in to get your wristband.