Sunday, January 10, 2010

Of Dreams and Schemes and Fishy Things - Austin

A rousing discussion took place on the TWG listserve some months back. The key word many of you might remember was "Scanner." The focus looked at the vast range of interests many of us as writers pursue. The book, "Refuse to Choose" by Barbara Sher, suggested that the inability to fix our focus on one thing and stick with that was a strength, rather than a weakness.

According to Barbara there are a number of distinct types of "Scanners." The one I most clearly identify with has a cyclical pattern. I will work at something with an almost addictive compulsion for weeks or even months, then suddenly find myself abhoring that topic for a while. I've learned not to discard the work, because a few months later the compulsion will hit again.

It's the in-between times that bug me. There is something satisfying within the compulsion itself. I can work as much as 20 hours a day and feel energized. But when the pendulum swings, sometimes for days or even weeks, I find myself lost.

Human identiy, especially male identity, ties into occupation. If you listen to men introduce themselves, you will almost always here some reference to their work. 'I'm Brian and I'm a writer.' That identity becomes problematic when weeks go by with scarcely a word written. With one major project completed and in the publisher's hands, a computer full of half developed stories and poems offers more than enough possibilities for focus and attention. But something in me rebels. It is not writer's block exactly, although the results are much the same. It's more a deliberate switching of gears for a time. My wife finds it alarming. She is convinced I sit around the house and dream up ways to spend money. Why did God make wives so insightful?

A unique synergy infuses the relationship between intense fish production and ideal greenhouse crops such as tomatoes and peppers. Fish provide all the nutrients required for optimum crop production in a system that draws from and improves on hydroponics. The crop production in turn, as it draws nutrients from the water, purifies and filters that water in a natural and healthy way, optimizing its quality for the fish. Large volumes of water provide thermal mass to stabilize the temperature in a greenhouse environment, while a new generation of greenhouses use soap bubbles between two layers of plastic to provide as much as R30 insulation value yet still allow passage of light. The soap bubbles themselves are essentially the same as children delight to blow through small rings. By selectively filling cavities between walls, they can allow maximum light through the day and maximum insulation at night. They can also alternate between east and west or north and south walls to take full advantage of the position of the sun as it moves across the sky, while insulating any walls where heat loss is greater than heat gain. And of almost equel importance, the same properties can insulate against excessive heat in the summer.

Since buying my first aquarium at the age of 12, small finny critters have had a place in my life for amost the total of the next 43 years. Always I have tried to keep limits on my spending. But always I have longed for more tanks and bigger tanks. At one time I had so much heated water circulating that the humidity was literally destroying our house. Many times through the years I have dreamed and schemed of ways my fascination with water and fish could managed to carry itself financially, or in a perfect world, actually generate income.

The farm I have done tornado cleanup on since this past August just happens to be a fish farm. A tour of that enterprise one morning proved more than sufficient to get all my desires for fish on a big scale all worked up once again.

Now, drawings litter the table in our family room. Many hours of research have calculated the hydro consumption for pumps and lights. Greenhouses, that typically have an R2 insulation value for double wall plastic (R0.8 for a single layer) can be prohibitively costly to operate through Canadian winters, but suddenly become realistic when R30 is possible. Yet R30 comes at a cost, nearly tripling the installation cost of a greenhouse. With our very small land base, our barn has never been a money maker, yet it figures in all these new dreams and schemes. If I ever become foolish enough (and brow-beat my wife enough) to invest in the cost of transforming our 1.68 acres, that barn would be the starting place. Even now, two fish-farm tanks boast a small collection of koi, with temperatures set at the bare minimum to keep things from freezing.

My wife hopes I'll catch the writing bug again -- soon. Getting rich on writing doesn't look overly promising -- but the half million price tag of my latest scheme (shhhh -- don't tell her how crazy I am) doesn't promise riches any time soon either. And since we have now enjoyed a few months of debt-free living, the idea of a new half-million debt-load just so I can have more and bigger aquariums might prove a hard sell.
Now -- if we were to win the lottery. . ? Not very likely, since we refuse to buy the tickets. But -- someone usually buys a ticket for my birthday each year, so who knows.

Ah, but there is something wonderful and restful about an aquarium. Many a time a fussy toddler has quieted in my arms as we have stood before a tank. My Bible tells me heaven will be better than anything I can ask or imagine. Like most writers, I have a pretty well developed imagination -- so I wonder if there will be something fishy there?

Foolish dreams. They're not such a bad way to bridge this transition time until the itch to write must again be scratched. And if, by chance, you hear strange rumours of a huge aquaculture enterprise going up just south of Durham, Ontario, don't wake me up and spoil the dream. Let me savour it as long as I can.

Grandpa's smallest tank is a perfect height for little people -- and even gets Grandma into the picture.


violet said...

Ah Brian - delightful. At least on this one you combined the two - writing and fishiness. Maybe you could make your next compulsion writing about fish...

Peter Black said...

Brian, a very educational and exciting piece. I've learned about things I didn't know, and sense your playful excitement.
Little boys never grow up, but their toys get more expensive with age, eh!

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