Happy Solstice

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Happy Solstice

The Solstice is something I give more recognition to than Hallmark holidays and calendar events because it’s beyond anything our insignificant little species can invent or deny, an indisputable change on this spinning rock we briefly exist on.

The solstice before Christmas for me marks a time to take a break from social media until the next year. The thing is, now six months have passed and I’ve only popped up at Easter to offer a free audio book about riding in Ukraine. Like anything addictive for the first few weeks I was a bit antsy, but after Christmas the cold turkey had gone. Soon it felt perfectly normal to watch a slow part of a movie without reaching for the phone, and there was no longer the temptation to photograph my beer at the bar or a bacon sandwich, those things don’t need sharing.

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The solstice before Christmas for me marks a time to take a break from social media until the next year. The thing is, now six months have passed and I’ve only popped up at Easter to offer a free audio book about riding in Ukraine. Like anything addictive for the first few weeks I was a bit antsy, but after Christmas the cold turkey had gone. Soon it felt perfectly normal to watch a slow part of a movie without reaching for the phone, and there was no longer the temptation to photograph my beer at the bar or a bacon sandwich, those things don’t need sharing.

I’ll share this though, since January I’ve been writing the next book, and today, on the longest day of the year (for us northern hemisphere inhabitants), I can tell you it’s going to be the longest book I’ve ever written which is ironic, here’s why.

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My time off social media was not time away from the screen, I’ve been doing a lot of book publishing tutorials. One of the suggestions was to give a book away for free on Kindle, a novelette they call it. It introduces your style of writing to a new audience, albeit the kind who don’t like to pay for stuff. Brilliant I thought, but I don’t write fiction, I do brutally honest truth and I’ve got a great one, unbelievable, strange but then truth tends to have that over fiction. I decided to tell a little tale about hiking in the Himalayas and flying round Everest in a tiny hired jet with a rock god. So I started pen and inking it. Now generally when I’m requested to write an article or some literary contribution I’m given a word count, which I always tend to exceed a bit. Then as I edit it I accidently make it even longer.

What happened with this tale was it required a back story about cycling in India, and that needed perspective by telling of the bicycle trip in China the year before. Then I felt the need to explain where the seed was sown in Patagonia two years earlier. And now over 120,000 words later I’m yet to even get to Nepal, the journeys are just too damn good to rush.

I had been concerned about the structure of the book, how to format and combine the different trips and keep coherence but it’s all coming together now. I’m really pleased with it, so pleased in fact that I’m going to continue to craft it as carefully as I can. I’m not even sure at this point it will even be ready for a Christmas release. The prose is flowing and last week I reread it to make sure I hadn’t repeated myself or that I’d said the same thing twice ; )

The journey took place early in this millennium – a time of travel before selfies and social media when internet was not a necessity and mobile phones were only used for roaming calls, SMS and playing Snake. So to help immerse myself back into that time and those journeys, I too avoided mostly all instant communication. It’s so liberating, so undistracting, when you are not bombarded with the mostly wrong and irrelevant. You can focus clearly on the path ahead. When the noise decreases we can find and hear our inner voice again. Time alone revived the memory, the unconscious mind was unleashed, the words written in my diaries became pictures and then I recalled an actual photo that was taken. I find myself really looking at the photos, what was it about that scene that made me use up a precious exposure on my 35mm reel of film? The background, the buildings, the load I’m carrying, the environment I’m passing through? Something about it was thrilling, and I look until I feel what it was, what it was like to be there, then, in that moment. I remember what it was I wanted to preserve, the hardness of the road, the heat of the day, the clinging of my clothing, the grit in my eyes, the omnipresent horns of the dense traffic. Through it all I can feel what it was that stopped me in my tracks, and the reason I photographed it, got the film developed, carried it along thousands of miles of road until the time and place came to put it in an album. It deserves more than a glance and when I give the picture that time it pays me back with the value it holds. Photos were so precious back then, taken for us, not for a like, and that makes them all the more likeable.

I’ve got a lot of work still to do but it’s already rewarding, that’s why I write every day. One of the reccurring themes in the publishing tutorials I’ve been watching is to write at least 2000 words a day. I disagree, it’s not about quantity but quality and I get a lot of satisfaction from spending an hour sculpting a sentence so it flows just right as opposed to banging out a bunch of words just to make a target.

So that’s the story so far, needless to say it will not be a free book, but a bloody big one, the best so far. I thought I’d better warn you so you can start saving up because it looks like it will be a year in the making which basically means a year of unpaid work. Except it’s not really work when you love what you do. Every day is a workday, every day a weekend and today is the longest day of the year. Hence finding time to do this little letter to update you.

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Happy solstice

Graham

Here is a little excerpt taken for the new book, but not from the road. Written while I took a break from the bike on a beach in India. It’s raw unedited, not proofread or ready for print but I think it’s suitable for today.

  …however, the solstice is undeniable, and the more extreme your latitude, the more significant it is. I have a devotion to planetary change because it’s real and sometimes, with the right awareness, I can physically feel it. The peak of the axis, the crossover of a timeline, today things change beyond human beliefs, beyond a calendar. This is rotation, this is orbital, this is momentous and like a heretic in a place of worship I may not voice it, but I know it, I sense it, I count down to it and I happen to love it. Whether it’s witnessing the daily increase in light as we leave the darkest of days, or a slight sadness that the pinnacle of summer has passed and we are falling back to earlier shadows and shivering shad. It is all remarkable and always worthy of recognition, it keeps me in line with the planets, keeps me aware that something is greater than anything and everything I do. Be it stoned on the couch or driven to goal scoring and growth, the rock we exist on has just completed a rotation that is beyond any means, ability, agenda or manipulation of the number we chose to put on time. Whether we divide an orbit by 24 units and those by 60, the numerals are irrelevant, the fractions unimportant, the counting conditioned, the names superficial and superfluous. But every six of our manmade months give or take a night or two, something happens that represents the repetition of seasons, the revolution of our existence. Something has ended, something is beginning, and be you flat earther, pagan, Hindu, Muslim, Jew or any other ethnicity, colour, creed or race, you can deny all you like but today something changes and it’s bigger than all of us. So I silently worship it because this will bring irrigation to the parched, crops to fruition, food to tummy, sustenance of life, and whilst it works in that fashion I’m indebted to it, reliant on it, conditioned because of it. Seasons man, they blow my fuckin’ mind.

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8 thoughts on “Happy Solstice”

  1. Beautiful sentiments. Nature is ever changing. We must enjoy it while we can.
    Look forward to the new book in my hands. Wish I had the gift of words

  2. You have my wife jumping with joy with the news of another book coming out from you! I told her this morning about the email and she smiled and quoted your favourite phrase you come out with WTF brilliant. lol

  3. Woohoo! Looking forward to it! And extra bonus that it’ll be a long one! I always devour your books too fast, and then I’m all disappointed that it’s over. I believe it was you once wrote about the eager anticipation of a new album of your favourite band coming out…. that’s me with your books 😉
    I really hope you will be telling us more about your life in Bulgaria, too?

  4. Steve Anderson

    Looking forward to the new book, Graham. I’ve enjoyed your other works very much, and appreciate your style of writing, which is about as close to sitting and listening to you talk as I could imagine.

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