May always seems to sneak up on me, even when I’m on the lookout for it. The calendar doesn’t lie, annual cycles are immutable, certain events and occurrences are fairly fixed. And yet I typically find myself feeling behind on everything and scrambling to catch up, let alone keep up. Getting ahead? If you have a secret for how to do that, I’d like to know it.
This year I’m feeling particularly ambushed and slow to react. Perhaps the lingering winterish weather that has kept spring in its grasp has something to do with it. Maybe it’s the relentless return of pre-COVID activity in the valley after a couple of years of ennui and disconnection. Maybe I like the quiet and solitude of “shoulder season” (something a local I talked to recently called the “vintage” Methow experience) a little too much. I’m certain that it has something to do with the fact that I’m not feeling fully well, as I continue working toward remission of an autoimmune condition that, among other things, leaves me feeling worn out from what should be routine exertion and uncertain about what’s ahead. Not looking for a pity party because I’m a lot better than I was, but it makes a difference.
In any event, here we are, a third of the way through month five, and I’m still thinking “April” when I should be getting my head around “June.” Because next month and beyond are coming too, and in a rush if the mishmash of barely legible jottings on my calendar (yes, I use the analog kind with squares for each day that you carry around and write things on) is an indicator.
May means putting some things away for the next many months, and getting others out of storage and ready to go. It means wardrobe shifts related to meteorological adjustments. It means figuring out where you want to be, and when, because the opportunities are piling up. Check out our growing compilations of events in the various “briefs” columns in the newspaper each week. It means more options, like whether to take the North Cascades Scenic Highway to the west side (it opened on Tuesday, in case you’ve been in a snow cave) or stick with the other options until avalanches are less of a possibility. It means the rivers are suddenly surging, as I noted over the weekend. Soon they will be high, fast and dirty at the peak of runoff before gradually drawing down to late-summer, butts-dragging-on-the-gravel level for rafters.
For me, May also means not just filling up those squares on my old-fashioned calendar but also doing something about those notations, because most of them have to do with the newspaper’s coverage expectations.
But first — and immediately — I have to put the finishing touches on a project that both pleases and torments me every year. I’ve been culling and choosing Methow Valley News entries for the annual Washington Newspaper Publishers Association’s Better Newspaper Contest, which draws the best journalistic entries from the state’s weekly newspapers.
That involves carefully combing through all 52 issues for the contest entry period looking for stories, headlines, photos, columns, cartoons and advertisements that will impress another journalist in another state who likely knows nothing about the Methow Valley (the contests are judged my members of similar trade groups in other parts of the country).
It’s exhausting but rewarding in that I come away with a sense of satisfaction for what we’ve been able to do the past 12 months. But making the choices is a challenge — I tend to think everything is a winner and of course it’s not. The deadline is always in May, and I always push it because journalists push deadlines. Then I ask for and usually get an extension. Finally, there’s the waiting: We won’t find out the results until our annual WNPA convention in October, when I will inevitably second-guess myself for decisions made six months earlier.
Meantime, there are plenty of other things to attend to, if I could just get better at crossing one thing off my list without adding two more. My most successful strategy is always to focus on one thing that needs to be done, do it, and move on to the next.
That takes discipline because focus is not my strong suit. But May isn’t going to give me a break. June is already giving off “wait until you get a look at me” vibes and demanding attention. And July? Can I have a nap sometime between now and then?