Where’s We At Then, Buddy? Wonders!

It’s not an anniversary, but it’s close. About mid-July 2014 my wife and son and I made our summer trip back to Canada from China, but for the first time in five years we were coming to stay. So. <Cleansing breath.> Alrighty, then. We’ve been back nearly a year. <Another breath, deeper. Shakes the tension out of his hands, drama-class style.> We’re looking at each other and thinking, This is where we are. How’re we doing? What’s up with you/me/him? Are we who we thought we were? And so on.

I study. I teach, coach, plan. Dishes, floors and laundry loads get done. The garden is weeded and I’d better pick more lettuce and funkygreens. (Note to co-habitants: belly up to the salad bar, hombres!) I am reading about: boys and young men and what might be holding them back; James Baldwin; the NBA draft and free agency; a wonderfully eccentric view of the Bible; Reading Lolita in Tehran. I’m not reading much fiction, again, but Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain and Atwood’s Maddadam are shouting at me.

I don’t write much. I’m borrowing a concept from The Year of the Flood, the second in Margaret Atwood’s vivid futureDoom trilogy. There, in a “God’s Gardeners” community, people who are lethargic, dispirited, depressed or otherwise dysfunctional are said to be in a “fallow” state, as fields are left uncultivated by wise farmers so that the soil might not be depleted. June was a fallow field for my writing, and after about mid-month I accepted that. It gave my days-ends greater contentment, which is almost always a good thing. I wrote this, however tentative and diffident it is as a spasm of seed-planting, just so that you and I know where we are. (Hello!)

Before I abandoned my writing desk, I was writing feelingly and hard (not sure how well; haven’t gone back to look), striving to better know and appreciate seven prisoners of exquisite conscience. These “friends” of the oppressed Iranian Baha’i community, a group of leaders who tried to encourage their fellow believers once all their institutions and most of their rights had been removed, are now well into the eighth year of their incredible sentences. (Maybe I went fallow then because of futility — daily, tapping my uncalloused fingers against prison walls in a strange and distant country. Or I just got lazy; as a matter of principle, I don’t believe in futility, though I practise it with astonishing persistence.) Maybe you would like to read about the “Yaran”. My personal (possibly meandering) responses to their captivity helped them become more real to me.

It’s time for a quick update, reminders, and some sense of where you are, electronically speaking: this is JamesHowden[dot]com, filled with my fairly undisciplined observations about whatever turns my finger-tapping crank at a given moment. Or, sometimes, days after that moment. So, what’s been up recently?

I haven’t been a very productive pen monkey. (Chuck Wendig grimaces in violent dismay and arse-kicking encouragement.) (And then he wondered about me, in a rudely personal and wildly public way. I am not going to quit writing, Chuckles, so there! Fallow periods restore vitality to the soul soil.) (And okay, maybe that CW blog post was not addressed only to me.)

But, man oh man. The LIST. (Regular readers have seen some of this before. Skip stuff. Let your eyes glaze over.

My “Better Read Than Never” series of asynchronous reviews is backed up all the way to John Feinstein’s The Last Amateurs, Bill McKibbens’s Enough, Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. I’m way too late on a brilliant human rights lecture by Payam Akhavan, and reflections on not living in China anymore, not to mention Ferguson or Jian Ghomeshi. I may yet write the definitive take on “Why I Suck at Meditation”, even if Maury is the only one that’s waiting. On the sporting side, I didn’t write a thing about the NBA Finals, and may not. I should write on my less-than-glorious return to basketball coaching, including a doomed summer team adventure that was going to take me close to home, son Three and an old dear friend in hospital. (Should should should.) The kids’ tournament may collapse, but now I’m going anyway.

…and don’t get me started about my stillborn books. (Thanks for not getting me started.)

Here’s what’s been going on recently here at, especially for you newbies.  If you’re a strange lurker here, WELCOME! The bits below will help explain how all this works:

In “At First Glance”, which is here and below, are seven musings on the seven Baha’i prisoners in Tehran. This is the default weblog of this site, and it’s about everything that makes me stop and write.

In the “It’s All About Sports” section, I wrote (and not recently) about the (Basketball) Madness of March, in far-off accounts of the NCAA and an in-person, LIVE! four-part extravaganza about the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s basketball championships. Reflections on athletics appear to the right in the “IAAS” playground, because ALL the games and all the excuses for sweat-stained excellence interest me. There is much more to sport than dunks and grunts and numbers.

“On Second Thought” was just the spot for a bemused meditation on ballroom dancing, an old lament about tubbiness-and-ice-cream, and my “Letter to My Son, When He Was Only One”, because: a) I should learn to dance better; b) after a year back in comfy, convenience-food Canada, I’m re-approaching a dreaded weight level; and, c) because the above-mentioned baby boy just hit 15, an important passage in my world. “On Second Thought” contains articles that are sometimes longer, usually more fussed-over and always even less time-sensitive than my stuff usually is. I let readers know in AFG (where you are now) when I’ve posted there.

Also, for those who like quotations, “He Said/She Said” is a growing compendium of wisdom, argument or fun from other minds than mine. I’ve quoted a writer, a neurologist and a basketball coach recently; I hunt meaning and inspiration everywhere.

Please note also that the so free and easy to SUBSCRIBE it’s almost sinful button is still just over there, top right.

JH [dot] com is on Twitter @JamesHowdenIII. It keeps followers up-to-date with what’s happening here, plus the usual Twitter smorgasboard of observations, pass-alongs and faves. You’re welcome. 

Thanks for looking in. Share what you like with friends, and anything you don’t like by emailing writer@JamesHowden[dot]com .

Comments (3)

  1. Paul Desailly

    As with the passing of the years, vis-a-vis the moving account about your 15-year-old son, time passes and we pass with it, James; your efforts reaching out to help the Baha’is in Iran are no more futile than David’s against Goliath. How many a noble cause taken for granted today seemed impossible to naysayers of previous generations? God doesn’t allow Nazis to go on ruling forever. Anyway, they say in the end that it’s all the blink of an eye. The only ‘things’ we take with us into the next world are our virtues and good deeds, such as they are in my case!
    Amike via.

  2. Sherri yazdani

    I haven’t been able to read fiction pretty much since high school – so thank you for introducing me to Atwood’s concept of the fallow state. It makes perfect sense to this prairie girl, who has always understood periods of low energy as a necessary part of the life cycle 🙂

  3. Karl

    I was wondering what had become of Now I know. Enjoy catching up on your reading and writing. July and August are the best time for that sort of thing.Cheers.

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