Sunday, December 31, 2023

The better half of 2023

2023 has been a rough year for the world, from wars to extreme weather events. Yet for me, the latter half of the year has certainly been a better experience than the first. It's been such a relief to have a relatively clean bill of health. I know some women really struggle with anxiety in the aftermath of treatment, worrying about recurrence. That hasn't been my experience--perhaps because I've always been good at procrastination. I've been able to shove off worries to the future. Probably I'll be a mess when it's time for a follow-up scan, but until then, I've been able to throw myself headlong into enjoying adventures again.

View from the summit of Treble Cone. NZ did not have a great ski season this year, but I enjoyed the heck out of the mountain anyway. 

Revisiting Nugget Point in the Catlins

Walking a wintry beach near Toko Mouth

Glorious coastal sunrise

View of Lake Wanaka from Roys Peak

Mt. Alpha and the Skyline track

It's also been great to spend some quality time with family, starting with a trip back to the U.S. to see my mother and brother (plus meet my new sister-in-law for the first time, since I wasn't able to make my brother's wedding due to the pandemic). Boy, I could write an entire post about the weird reverse culture shock of visiting the U.S. after 4 years away. Suffice it to say that it was a surreal experience, and confirmed that there's not much I miss. But I do miss my family, so it was lovely to see them again after so long apart. 

Hiking with my brother near Harpers Ferry in West Virginia

The kiddo and I hanging out with my mom

My husband's mother, father, and sister came over from Australia to visit us, and that was wonderful too. 

Family dinner at a local restaurant

Best of all, I got to take my Aussie sister-in-law hiking in one of my favorite areas of New Zealand, Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park. No matter how many times I visit Aoraki, I can't get over the mountain's beauty.

Ideogram cloud over Aoraki

Aoraki at sunset

Nothing like the blue of a glacial lake

My sister-in-law on the trail to Red Tarns

We've also enjoyed plenty of family fun closer to home, in the local rivers and lakes.

Playing in Lake Hawea's waves on a windy day

Tubing on Lake Hawea

Bodyboarding in the Hawea River

A local guy built a surf wave machine on his farm, and holds occasional open sessions for the community. Now there's a good use of Kiwi ingenuity!

All this adventuring and playing outdoors does have one downside. I haven't been doing much writing. I've got the professional edit in hand for the Cara story, The White Serpent, and I just need to sit down and push through the last changes. I think maybe in a way I've been scared to finally finish it, because then I'll need to publish it, and after everything I went through to get out the third book in the original trilogy, I associate publishing with stress. The last thing I've wanted in these past months is anything stressful, I suppose! But I think it's time to push past that ambivalence and get this story out into the world, in case there's anyone who'll enjoy reading it. So that can be one goal for 2024.

I do have other goals. One big one has to do with my day job. I have said farewell to my role at Narrative Muse, after accepting an offer to be Head of Data Science for a new Research and Innovation Hub over at MetService, New Zealand's major weather forecaster. I hope to help them improve their forecasting with machine learning and AI, especially for extreme weather events. As the climate changes, New Zealand will be particularly vulnerable to heavy rainfall events and high winds, and it'll be vital to predict dangerous weather in time to save lives. Prediction here is pretty challenging due to limited data and convoluted topography, but it's a challenge I'm eager to tackle. (I still wish Narrative Muse the best, though! I loved my time there and I still 100% believe in what they're trying to do with content-based recommendation. They've got a great team and a good foundation, so I hope they'll be tremendously successful.) 

So yeah, I have lots of plans for 2024. But I'm also trying to embrace flexibility and resilience, because you never know how life will go. I do know that regardless, I want to savor the good things. The world may be a mess, but there is still love here, and kindness, and quiet moments in the sunshine. May we all enjoy as much as we can of those.