Balloons

I’m writing this post one day early because if there’s one thing that 364 days of blogging have taught me, it’s that sometimes you run out of ideas to write about…but you should blog anyway.

Yep, tomorrow (December 27, 2004) marks my one year Blog Birthday: it’s been 364 days since I sat in my empty office in an empty Parker Hall on the empty campus of Keene State College and posted my very first “secret” entry on Blogger. Since then I’ve mustered the nerve to tell folks I’m keeping a blog, started posting photos as well as text entries, moved from blogspot to three separate URLs, and now find myself, one year minus one day later, wondering what the heck I’ve learned from the experience.

I think I already stated the sum total of what I’ve learned from one year minus one day of blogging: some days you have no idea what to write, but you write anyway. The same goes for what blogging has taught me about taking and posting pictures: whether you consider yourself a photographer, and whether you think a particular scene or object is photogenic, take and post pictures anyway. In one year minus one day of blogging, I’ve learned that my idea of what is a “good” or “interesting” post or picture doesn’t necessarily relate to what others think is good or interesting. In some cases, posts that I felt were empty cop-outs–something slapped online in a lame attempt to post something on what felt like a nothing day–garnered more positive comments than posts I’d carefully crafted.

Steeple with skyscraper

This isn’t to say that I never can tell when I’ve written a good post. In recalling this first year minus a day that I’ve been blogging, I’ve determined five posts that I’d deem my favorites: entries where I clicked “save” feeling that I’d really, truly expressed what I was aiming for. In each case, commenters agreed: I’d struck a nerve. Although I’ve never hit a homerun, I have to believe that blogging is a bit like baseball. Sometimes if you keep swinging, you do the impossible: you hit a round ball squarely. And although I’ve never hit a homerun, I imagine I know something what that feels like. I imagine you can feel the reverberation of contact running through your bat and up your arms and into your spine: you feel the magical crack of contact, the thrill of that sweet spot. In a word, you know when you’ve swung and hit true; you know there’s no need to dash toward first base; you know you can stand back, jaw agape, and watch with the crowd, amazed, as that tiny white dot disappears into the heavens. This one’s going over the wall and outta the park: Ladies and Gentlemen, this one’s going, going, gone.

And so, in order of their appearance, here are my top five favorite blog entries from this past year, written without the benefit of performance-enhancing drugs (blogging without asterisks):

Taxicabs

  • Sleeping with Strangers. It’s fitting, perhaps, that this first homerun favorite describes a bustrip to New York taken last winter, in January rather than December. I’ve referred to the poems of Walt Whitman several times in this past year of blogging, but this ode to coming and going is my favorite, with a provocative title that Papa Walt with all his physical karma would truly love.
  • On Photography. Ever since I started posting photos on Hoarded Ordinaries, I’ve struggled with the notion of photography: as an amateur shutterbug with no formal training, who do I think I am posting pictures online? I started posting pictures because far-flung readers expressed an interest in seeing my corner of the world; I continued posting pictures because I myself am a visual person, preferring to see as well as imagine the things I read about. And in “On Photography,” I think I finally (sort of) came to terms with my own philosophy of amateur shutterbugging.
  • One Art. I love Elizabeth Bishop’s poem of the same name, and as my “Sleeping with Strangers” post showed, sometimes an evocative poem can be a wonderful starting place for a blog-entry. Talking about one’s own death–either a life-threatening asthma attack or a passing suicidal impulse–is understandably difficult, but somehow the image of the ocean off California’s Point Reyes coupled with Bishop’s poem gave me the framework to tie together an admittedly rag-tag constellation of ideas.
  • My People. After all the whining I did about finishing my PhD dissertation, it only made sense to post a big self-congratulatory post (and picture) when I went through the formal ceremony that marked the end of that journey. As tempting as it was to post a brief “I graduated: woo-hoo!” entry, I wanted to post something that summed up the beginning, middle, and end of my doctoral journey: something that gave credit to where I come from as well as where I’ve now arrived. As much as graduating with the title of “Doctor” made me proud, strolling the streets of Boston’s North End and feeling a connection with my working class Italian (and Irish) heritage made me even prouder. No matter how far we go, we are our people, and this entry pointed toward that fact.
  • Separated. As much as getting my doctorate was a huge turning point, ending a nearly 13-year marriage was an even greater transition. Part of the reason I didn’t fully disclose this detail of my personal life until after-the-fact was I hadn’t informed everyone in my family of the split; more importantly, though, I wanted to wait until I felt ready to blog the break. When you make your life “public” on the blogosphere, sometimes you struggle with how and when and why to make certain details widely known, and this post marks my official “coming out” as a soon-to-be (and now officially) divorced woman. Several months after the split, the time was right to explain what had happened, and this combination of words and pictures felt like the perfect way to come clean.

Imposing facade

Looking back at my top five favorite entries, I realize they are all serious: I’ve not included any of my humorous or silly posts. I guess this says something about me as well as about my blogging: although I do occasionally post fun or funny stuff, the serious stuff is what feels “right” to me. One of the joys of blogging is the experimental nature of it all: one day you can try your hand at a serious post; the next you can experiment with a lighter, more zany voice. In a word, blogging provides a forum where you can let all of your personalities (if you happen to have several) out of the bag, each with a day and a spotlight all their own. One year minus one day later, it feels like a long, strange trip, this foray into blogging. One year minus one day later, I hope I’ll be swinging my blog-bat for many seasons to come.