Blogs & blogging


Several weekends ago was my eleven year blogiversary: it’s been eleven years and just over a week since I posted my first blog entry on December 27, 2003. Each year around my blogiversary, I take a chance to review the previous year’s posts, choosing my favorite ones and otherwise taking stock of the year that was.

So, here are my top ten favorite posts from the past year:

Asleep and dreaming?

In February, J and I said goodbye to our thirteen-year-old yellow Lab, MAD, whom I memorialized in “That good night.”

In March, J and I visited a makeshift memorial to Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, two Boston firefighters who died while fighting a fire in Boston’s Back Bay, an experience I described in “A thousand hands and eyes.”

In April, J and I joined a million other cheering spectators along the route of the Boston Marathon, as I chronicled in “Taking back the Marathon.”

In May, friends and I went to see an exhibit of colorful quilts at the Museum of Fine Arts, which I described in “Make your bed.”

In July, J and I toured the Charles W. Morgan while she was docked in Boston Harbor, as described in “A whale of a tale.”

Snowy contemplation

In “Solitude,” I explained one of the reasons I enjoy writing in my journal.

In August, I memorialized Robin Wiliams with a post called “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.”

In September, I considered my religious devotion to the act of writing in a post titled “Like prayer.”

In “A modest proposal,” I offered my take on the student riots that marred this year’s Keene Pumpkin Festival.

And in “King hickory,” I described a quintessential October stroll.

Whenever I review a year’s worth of blog posts, I’m always surprised at how much I manage to post given how little time I have to devote to writing. Here’s hoping that pattern continues for another year.

Technicolor hippies

Last Friday was my ten-year blogiversary: it’s been ten years and a few days since I posted my first blog entry on December 27, 2003. Part of me feels obligated to write some sort of retrospective post—some overview of what I’ve gained or attained from ten years of blogging—but the Zennie in me is leery of such talk. In Zen circles, this question of “what have you attained” is a trap: a snare designed to pull you out of the present moment by asking you to make a judgment about the worth of your past endeavors. The question “what have you attained” is a sticky lure because it’s so easy to wonder what you “should” have attained in a given period of time. After ten years devoted to a single endeavor, what do (or should) I have to show for it?


That is the snare, right there: looking back at ten years of blogging, has it been “worth” it, or has it been a “waste”? This question is a trap because it presumes we can (and thus should) “get” something from everything we do: after ten years of blogging, shouldn’t I be able to capture in a neat nutshell the thing I’ve “gained” from all that effort? But life isn’t a souvenir shop where every experience gives you something you can take with you: life is, instead, a series of liquid moments that cannot be captured or contained. Given ten years of water flowing under the proverbial bridge, exactly how drenched have I become? Instead of trying to capture, contain, or quantify the river of time, how fully have I experienced and appreciated each and every drop?


I’m amazed that ten years have passed since I began blogging: in some ways, the years have flown by, but in other ways, December 27, 2003 seems like a literal lifetime ago. Given that I never consciously planned to spend ten years of my life blogging, it seems remarkable that proceeding “one post at a time” eventually added up to an entire decade of posts.

Hanging out

On the other hand, my life ten years ago seems like an entirely different existence than my life right now. In December, 2003, I was married to my ex-husband; newly moved to Keene, NH; and stuck on a dissertation I’ve since finished. Ten years ago, I was “stuck” in more ways than one, and I needed an outlet: a way both to express myself and to make sense of the world and my place in it. I had long kept a journal, but my faithfulness to that task was sporadic, and blogging gave (and continues to give) me an accountability—an audience—that has kept me writing. It was my ex-husband who believed blogging would be a good medium for me, and he was right: my blog and my dog were the two things of inestimable value I took from my first marriage.


Reggie is now gone, but my blog lives on, having become a catch-all for both my day-to-day life and my creative existence. Many days, my blog is simply a diary, but occasionally it serves as a travelogue, scrap-book, or faithful friend who listens without advice or interruption as I struggle to make sense of whatever thoughts are rattling around my head that day. If I go too many days without posting, I feel a nudge pushing me back to it: this curious impulse to “feed the blog” has kept me writing in a way that no other trick or temptation has.

On the fringe

My favorite post from this past year was “The Marathon I want to remember” because it’s one that took me days—almost a full week—to write. Sometime the act of composing a post is a technical challenge: a problem of finding the right sequence of words to express an intended message. With my Marathon post, however, the challenge was deeply personal: how do you express a gut reaction you yourself don’t fully understand? Writing that post felt necessary; I needed to explain to myself (more than to anyone else) my response to a traumatic event in order to understand that response. When I think of the profound things that have happened in my life over the past ten years, I have inevitably made sense of them by writing and posting about them: my completion of my PhD, for instance, or my separation and divorce, my second marriage, Reggie’s death, and my decision to leave Keene and Keene State.

Hippies in furs

I’ve pondered in the past whether an exhibitionist urge underlies the decision to blog the details of one’s personal life, a question that seems almost quaint in this age of live-Tweeting and Insta-selfies. When I started blogging, social networking was in its infancy, so blogging about one’s life seemed alternately weird and pretentious: who am I, in a word, to think my daily life is worthy of a frequently updated webpage? I never wavered, however, from my sense that it’s natural for writers to write about what they know, and what subject do I know better than my own life? Nowadays, of course, nearly everyone has a Facebook account, and nearly everyone (presumably) is fascinated by the minutiae of other people’s (presumably) real lives. Perhaps I simply started ahead of the curve.

Retro hippies

In retrospect, I’m grateful to have been blogging for years before I jumped on the social media bandwagon: now that everyone can (and does) say anything instantaneously and unedited online (occasionally with regrettable consequences), I’m glad that years ago I established my own rules of what to share and what to keep secret: my own personal privacy policy. In an age where it’s easy to blurt out anything to an invisible audience, I’m glad to have a decade’s worth of practice saying things chiefly for my own benefit.

Earth goddesses

This past March, on the occasion of the ten-year blogiversary of Beth Adams’ “The Cassandra Pages,” I wrote a post pondering the “real work” (and perhaps the “real worth”) of blogging, and what I wrote then pretty much rings true now. What is ten years’ worth of blogging “worth”? Well, I’ve written (and shared) far more in the past ten years than any other, and I certainly wrote more by blogging than I would have if I weren’t. So after ten years of blogging, what have I attained? Right now, I’m writing a post I plan to share, and I hope to continue posting day-by-day, post by post, as long as it feels productive. How do I define “productive”? I don’t know, other than a gut sense that as long as there are words to say and days to say them in, I guess I’ll continue writing and sharing one post at a time, starting with this one.

The photos illustrating today’s post come from Hippie Chic, a collection of 1960s- and ’70s-era clothing that was on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts this past summer: a bit of grooviness I never got around to blogging.

Brown-eyed girl - March 5 / Day 64

Today Beth of The Cassandra Pages celebrates her 10 year blog-birthday, and the entry she posted to commemorate the occasion raises for me the usual questions about what my “real work” is. Is it writing blog posts? Writing books? Teaching? Taking care of pets? When it’s all done and I’m dead, will it make any difference that I blogged, or that I did anything at all? What does it mean, after all, to make a difference in a world that keeps spinning—change and impermanence reigning supreme—whether I do anything or not?


What, in other words, is any writer’s “real” work? Annie Dillard, whom I’d like to emulate as much as anyone, said at the beginning of Teaching a Stone to Talk that her short nonfiction essays weren’t written to supplement her “real” work; instead, her short essays are her real work. Another of my literary heroes, Henry David Thoreau, wrote essays, poetry, several book-length works of nonfiction, and a multi-volume journal he spent his entire adult life adding to, page by page. So what was Thoreau’s “real” work? The books published during his lifetime? The books published after his death? The journal he spent his entire creative life adding to, and which served as the source of his published essays and book-length nonfiction?

Diamond-eyed skull

Blogging is an ephemeral genre: what I wrote last week doesn’t matter much tomorrow. But if you look at a blog as being an ongoing project, then the dedication it takes to keep a blog going long-term has to count for something. As Beth herself writes,

…what emerges is a body of work. It isn’t conventional, or even graspable, and perhaps will be impermanent, but I know that it is, in fact, THE body of artistic work accomplished in my lifetime which most closely represents me. It’s also taught me the most. Once upon a time I wasn’t satisfied with that. Now, I am.

Spray can

Ten years is a long time to do anything faithfully, much less thoughtfully and with care. It took me ten years to get my PhD, and between you and me, those letters after my name haven’t meant much in terms of professional prestige: I make no more money and have no more job security as “Dr.” than I did as “Ms.” So is my dissertation—a book-length work that was the culmination of ten years of scholarly work and now sits in the archives of my alma mater—somehow count for more than Beth’s ten-year body of blog-work just because my dissertation was “published” and earned me some letters after my name?


Both Beth’s blog and my dissertation reflect ten years of work, but one has been reaching out to readers and encouraging them on an almost-daily basis to think, write, read, draw, paint, take photos, sing, make books, speak out, and otherwise be active and engaged, whereas the other is considered a scholarly work and collects dust. So what is the “worth” of an active mind engaged in creative pursuits? What is the “worth” of ten years of showing up, paying attention, and sharing what you see?

Black door

If you’re a writer of nonfiction prose, it’s easy to fall into the trap of categorizing your work on the basis of its length: sustained, book-length narratives are “real work,” and short, self-contained essays are something else. If you’re a writer of nonfiction prose who also keeps a blog, it’s even easier to get confused by these categories: short, self-contained essays that are published in print count as “real work,” but blog-entries (no matter how carefully crafted) do not.


I would love to write a book, as Beth has: I have always wanted to write a book. At the moment, I have the vague, sketchy outline of book-length narrative in my head, but whenever I turn to work on it, my ideas turn tail and flee. Given my desire to write this book, should I force myself to work on it exclusively, even when it doesn’t “want” to be worked on, or should I follow my muse wherever it appears, even if that means working on the book while also writing “mere” blog-essays that may or may not ever “lead somewhere”?

Sponge Bob?

That is the sticking point, isn’t it: this idea that what we do should “lead somewhere”? The other night I had dinner with Seon Joon, whose blog is younger than Beth’s, but just as deep. Seon Joon asked me, point blank, whether I was working on a book, remembering (I’m sure) that I’d mentioned one, vaguely, the last time we’d talked. My response to her was yes, I’m working on a book…but no, I don’t know whether that work is leading somewhere, or whether the product of that work will ever be finished, much less published. But in the meantime, I know I’m enjoying the process of working on a book, keeping a blog, and basically being creative in one way or another every single day.

Rise up

Regardless of where the road leads, in other words, I’m happy being on that road. Did Thoreau know when he started his journal that it would eventually fill some seven thousand pages and be published as a work in its own right? Or did Thoreau keep a journal simply because keeping a journal felt right as he was doing it?

I for one am glad that Beth has been blogging faithfully and thoughtfully these past ten years. She is one of the writers who inspired me to start a blog of my own, and the fact that she is still posting is immensely inspiring. Maybe the real work isn’t a noun—a product you finish and publish—but a verb: a thing you do and keep doing. If that be the case, then here’s hoping Beth keeps up the real work for a very long time.


I started blogging at Hoarded Ordinaries on December 27, 2003, which means my ninth blog-birthday was last Thursday. Last Thursday was also the day I finally submitted the last of my fall semester grades, so I’m finally finding time to follow my tradition of looking back on the past year in blog-posts.

The long and short of it


I started 2012 by participating in last year’s “Mindful Writing Challenge,” posting a small stone and an accompanying (typically unrelated) photo almost every day in January. I’m participating again in this year’s Challenge, although I’m posting my daily observations on Twitter, not here.

One of the questions I continue to grapple with is how much and where I should share what I write. Last spring in a post titled “Twitterpated,” I explained how I was trying to use Twitter as a showcase for shorter, more focused observations…and then I got waylaid by other things. This year, I’m hoping to post to Twitter more frequently, saving this blog for longer, more detailed essays…but only time will tell whether I keep to that intention.

Coming and going


Just as I’ll always remember 2004 as being the year when I both finished my doctorate and divorced, I’ll always remember 2012 as being the year we put Reggie to sleep and I left my job at Keene State College. Just as finishing my doctorate didn’t cause my divorce, putting Reggie to sleep didn’t cause me to quit Keene State…but in both cases, the chance juxtaposition of two significant transitions means I’ll always associate them with one another.

Two-faced” is the post where I first mentioned the ruthless budget cuts that led to my downsizing at Keene State, and “Letting go” is the post where I officially announced I’d quit my job there. I memorialized Reggie in a post titled “A good boy,” written a few days after we’d put him to sleep, and I wrote about the grieving process in “Go gentle.” I also wrote about impermanence and grief in “Sudden hummingbirds,” which made specific mention of Reggie, and “A stone that will endure,” which focused instead of Sylvia Fish, a goldfish I never met but whose grave marker now sits in our dining room: a monument to someone else’s beloved pet.

In keeping with the theme of impermanence, in “Anticlimax” I described the extermination of a bald-faced hornets nest I’d described in “Good neighbors,” “After the storm,” “Homecoming,” and “The last day of our acquaintance.” In “Fallen timbers,” I contemplate the changed landscape of Mount Auburn Cemetery in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which blew through but largely spared us here in New England.

Teaching and learning


Although I quit my job at Keene State last year, I haven’t quit teaching, and I still find that my job is an abundant source of blog-fodder. In “How to fall,” for instance, I look back on my final spring semester at Keene State, and in “What makes a poem?,” I share an activity I did with students in a summer school lit class.

In “(Almost) back to school,” I describe the newbie jitters I felt before starting the semester as a Visiting Lecturer at Framingham State University, a job which in turn inspired the post “How to read a true war story.” My college teaching was also the inspiration for the posts “Office in a bag” and “Theme for English B.” Starting a new job on a new campus gave me an excuse to explore new places, which I describe in “The way of water” and “Let your fingers do the walking.”

Adventures near and far


This past spring, J and I went visited the Margaret C. Ferguson Greenhouses at Wellesley College, enjoying the greenery and witnessing the once-in-a-decade blooming of an otherwise unremarkable shingle plant. In April, we watched the Boston Marathon, which once again brought me to tears, and we met up with old friends to watch Teju Cole accept a prestigious award at the JFK Library. I also visited (and duly blogged) labyrinths in Keene and Chestnut Hill, proving again that walking meditation is good for the soul.

This past summer, J and I admired, photographed, but did not bet on the racehorses at Suffolk Downs, and we attended Saint Joseph’s Feast in Boston’s North End, which brought to mind thoughts of James Joyce. We also went to a few Red Sox games, which I blogged here and here, and we traveled to visit family in Pennsylvania and Ohio, which resulted in a lot of photos from Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh and the Columbus Zoo in Columbus.

Closer to home, a friend and I went to the Josiah McElheny exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art, and we battled the crowds flocking to see the Ansel Adams exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum. In November, I took a solitary pilgrimage to Thoreau’s grave in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, MA, and I also checked out Houghton Gardens, which I’ve frequently seen from the T but had never before visited on foot.

Lastly, in September, I finally got around to blogging a pilgrimage to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City that J and I had taken in December, 2011: better late than never.

The practice of writing

Santa in shades

Keeping a blog for nine years provides its own assortment of lessons, and the writing I post on Hoarded Ordinaries is only one kind of writing I regularly do. In addition to blogging, I also keep a handwritten journal, and in October I started devoting a more intentional amount of time (namely, an hour a day five days a week) to writing words that sometimes end up on-blog and sometimes get filed as “Other,” a process I described in “The hours.” In addition to all this daily (or at least “almost daily”) writing, in 2012 I also participated in two informal day-long writing retreats: one at MIT in August, and the other at Framingham State in November.

This practice of writing an hour a day five days a week led to many of the longer essays I posted in October and November, including “Showing up at the page” and “I no longer believe this.” In December, I had less time to write, but I did take a moment in “Sharing silence” to reflect on the Newtown shootings and to admit the word-weariness I sometimes feel as a writer and teacher of writing.

What do I expect from 2013, my tenth year of blogging? I have no idea, butO I hope to continue showing up and seeing what words decide to appear.

If you want to review previous blogiversary posts, you can find all of them (minus 2010, when I never got around to posting a retrospective) here (2011), here (2009), here (2008), here (2007), here (2006), here (2005), and here (2004). Enjoy!


One of the cool things about starting a blog a few days after Christmas is you get to do your annual blogiversary post around the time that everyone else is doing their year-end retrospectives. I started blogging at Hoarded Ordinaries on December 27, 2003, which means my blog-birthday was last Tuesday. Following the tradition of past years, here is a look back on the past year in blog-posts, now that Hoarded Ordinaries is eight years and several days old.

Soft focus

Just keep doing it

When I first started blogging, I tried to post every day; more recently, though, my posting has been less frequent. Now that I post photos to Flickr and quick jots and tittles to Facebook and Twitter, I typically save my blog for more substantial pieces, which means I tend to post about once or twice a week. There have been two exceptions to that in 2011, however. Last January, I participated in the “River of Stones” daily posting practice and thus shared a photo and short observation every day, a practice I plan to continue this January. And this past November, I participated in National Blog Posting Month by posting at least a photo every day.


Momentous milestones

This past year marked the end of an era as Osama bin Laden was killed, an event I reflected upon in a post titled “At last.” This past year also marked a significant milestone on the ten year anniversary of the September 11th attacks, which I remembered in a May post titled “Memorial” and a September post titled “Sunday on the Charles.” On a more personal level, this past May I moved out of my apartment in Keene, an experience I chronicled in “Moving On” and “Unbound.”


How fragile we are

The theme of mortality is a continual undercurrent here at Hoarded Ordinaries; as a Buddhist, I’m perpetually mindful of impermanence and the fleeting nature of the present moment. This realization of the precious fragility of sentient life is illustrated in “There will come soft rains,” which I wrote in response to the spring earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis in Japan, and this same theme echoes throughout “When you live with an old dog,” which chronicles Reggie’s recent decline into old age. In September, a storm that knocked down countless limbs in our neighborhood inspired me to reflect on mortality in “Left hanging,” and earlier this month, a bit of graffiti reminding us that we’re “still gonna die” gave me a bit of “Perspective.”


Art and Writing

I started Hoarded Ordinaries because I wanted a forum to showcase my writing; very quickly, however, this blog became a place where I marry word and image. Because of that ongoing focus, it should come as no surprise that I wrote about both art and writing in 2011. This past summer, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts featured an exhibit of works by Dale Chihuly, which I blogged in both “Enormous” and “A thousand flowers.” (I never did get around to finishing a promised follow-up post about Chihuly’s “Ikebana Boat,” however.) In “Two views,” I blogged about an afternoon spent sketching with a friend; in “Returning,” I talked about the courage it takes to revise a piece of writing; and in “Completion,” I recounted the lessons I learned from writing 50,000 words of nonfiction during November’s National Novel Writing Month.

Traveling a great deal in Boston

Although J and I traveled to Los Angeles and Seattle in August, I didn’t blog our vacation. Instead, I wrote various posts inspired by day-trips J and made in and around Boston. In “Run like the wind,” we watched the Boston Marathon from a vantage point within walking distance from our house. In “Time upon time,” we visited an archeology exhibit at Boston College, and in “Between the lions,” we visited a Civil War exhibit at the main branch of the Boston Public Library. Finally, in “One picture” I shared (yes) one image from a walk in South Boston.

Self-portrait with green mannequin

Inspiring reads

As a college writing and literature instructor, I spend a lot of time reading student papers, so any time I’m able to devote to pleasure reading is precious. Although I didn’t blog any full-length book reviews in 2011, I did write several posts that were inspired by books I was reading at the time. “Remembered landscapes,” for instance, is a meditation on walking and place inspired in part by Teju Cole’s Open City. “In sickness and in health” was my response to Diane Ackerman’s recent book about her husband’s recovery from a stroke, One Hundred Names for Love, and my Christmas Eve post, “Christmas Finches,” was inspired in part by an earlier Ackerman book, A Slender Thread, which describes her experience working for a suicide prevention hotline.

So that is the year that was here at Hoarded Ordinaries; who knows what the next year will bring, blog- or otherwise. Here’s hoping 2012 will be happy, healthy, and hopeful for us all.

The photos illustrating today’s belated blogiversary post feature the mannequins from the Great Eastern Trading Company in Central Square, Cambridge, both past and present.

Ever upward

Today I received an invitation to join Google+, a social networking site I’d heard various folks mention on Facebook recently. I’m not normally an early adopter of online (or any) technologies: a creature of habit, I typically prefer my old, familiar ways to something strange and newfangled. But since the friend who invited me is someone I know both online and face-to-face–and since this same friend is a “cool kid” who keeps up-to-date with the latest ways of interacting online–I accepted her invitation to join Facebook’s newest competition.

Upwardly mobile

As soon as I connected my Google profile to Google+, however, I had a pang of joiners’ remorse. Already, I feel spread too thin among the various “places” where I maintain an online presence. At any given moment, I share stuff on my blog, on Flickr, on Facebook, and on Twitter. How many more places can I possibly find cool news to post and share, and how many more places do I need to check to see what my cool friends are doing?

Way back in the old days, keeping a blog was all you needed to do to keep in touch with friends both near and far. In the days after my divorce, for instance, one friend used to check my blog every few days just to make sure I was still alive and posting, like keeping an eye on the house of an elderly neighbor for signs of life. Nowadays, though, my blogging friends and I can (and do) go days or even weeks without publishing a proper blog-post, leaving our online footprints on Facebook or Twitter instead.

Toward the clouds

On any given day, if I want to know how Friend X is doing, checking her or his blog isn’t enough; I also need to check for recent Facebook updates, Flickr photos, or Tweets. Now that Google+ offers another “room” where cool kids can congregate, it might be easier just to call and talk to Friend X to see how she or he is really doing rather than clicking a half different places where such information might be posted.

In this era of smart phones, texting, and Twitter, I feel like a dinosaur when I admit that sometimes I don’t want to “be in touch.” When I was in grad school, for instance, I’d sometimes do research at the public library, figuring no one would think to look for me there rather than the library on campus. The simple fact of leaving campus created the illusion of being out of reach, and I always got more done without the imagined threat of running into my students, colleagues, or friends.

All in a row

Last month when J and I went to Pittsburgh then Columbus to visit family, I didn’t announce our whereabouts on-blog, on Facebook, or elsewhere: we just went offline like any normal person might have done in the old days, letting our families know when we were arriving while keeping in touch via email with work and school. After we’d arrived in Columbus, however, I realized a high school friend with whom we’d made last-minute dinner plans had mentioned these plans on Facebook, spurring an innocuous but sad-sounding message from another friend whom I hadn’t notified of our trip: “You were in town?” In the age of Facebook and Twitter, simply visiting your family and making Saturday night dinner plans without notifying your entire network of friends can be perceived as a social snub. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, what will happen to the concept of a secret getaway?

My neophyte understanding of Google+ suggests it’s set up so you can sort your contacts into various circles of intimacy, sharing one set of updates with “Friends” and another version of your life with “Family.” This way, if you want to complain about your relatives, in-laws, or coworkers behind their backs, you can conveniently post those gripes in a space where said folks won’t (presumably) see them.

Above the trees

But having blogged under my real name for so long, my posts available for anyone and everyone to see, I’ve learned how to keep to myself any tidbits I don’t want any given relative, in-law, coworker, or friend to see. Instead of relying upon social network circles or online privacy settings to keep my venting rants hidden from those they might hurt, I try to keep most of my obnoxious opinions to myself.

When I was a kid, one oft-repeated saying advised “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” As cheesy and Pollyanna-like this advice might sound, it’s served as a decent blog philosophy all these years. Instead of rushing to Facebook or Twitter to vent my latest gripe or defend my side in a petty squabble, I keep those opinions to myself, allowing a cooler head to prevail.

Fast tracking

To some, this philosophy is tantamount to self-censorship; to me, it’s the making of good writing. Instead of broadcasting a first-draft version of the latest round of “here’s why I’m right,” I’m forced to digest said debate, figuring out a way to write about the issue at hand while preserving the privacy of all involved. This takes a good deal more crafting–and thus is far more artful–than the prevailing philosophy of “If you can’t say something nice, make sure you post your thoughts where only your closest, most like-minded contacts can read them.”

In my online World Literature class, we read a Rumi quatrain which nicely sums up my concerns about the dangers of over-sharing in our Instant-Information Age.

What I most want
is to spring out of this personality,
then to sit apart from that leaping.
I’ve lived too long where I can be reached.

Now that all the cool kids are connecting on Google+, where can an old dinosaur go to find a spot of solitude where she can keep her opinions to herself? Now that all the cool kids are connecting online, can we innovate an even more exotic concept: Google Unplugged?

Going up

Click here for more photos of Jonathan Borofsky’s “Walking to the Sky,” which I photographed when J and I were in Pittsburgh last month. If Borofsky’s figures look familiar, it might be because I’ve blogged his work before.

Tiny pollinator

It’s a question I’ve been repeatedly asked by both my blogging and non-blogging friends. When you write a post, which comes first: the pictures or the post?

More raindrops on hosta

The answer, of course, is “It depends.” In some cases, I have a specific topic or theme I want to write about–often, something on my mind that I’ve written about in my paper journal–so then I find pictures to accompany that theme. These pictures might go along with what I’m blogging, or they might simply be whatever pictures I have on hand. This latter scenario is why so many of my posts about Zen are illustrated with pictures of graffiti. Because I typically walk through Central Square before sitting at the Cambridge Zen Center, on any given day that I blog about Zen, I usually have lots of graffiti pictures close at hand.

Kousa dogwood

In other cases, though, I have pictures of a particular event that I plan to blog, so I start with those pictures and basically write an essay “around” them. Some examples of this kind of post would be the entries I’ve written about the Boston Marathon or pretty much any of my sports posts. Given a bunch of photos from a hockey or basketball game, I try to think of something to say that would go along with the pictures. These posts feel more like news articles than journal entries: I’m basically reporting on something I did, and I’m illustrating with pictures of what I saw. These posts feel different (neither better nor worse–just different) from the more “personal,” journal-inspired entries.

Orange beetle

And then there are days like today when I simply have a picture–in this case, a tiny bee pollinating a cluster of pink flowers, which I took in our backyard one morning this week–that I want to share because I like it. There’s no big story behind how I came to shoot a picture of a bee in the backyard, or how I shot any of today’s other photos on various dog-walks this week. I just had these pictures lying around, so after posting them on Flickr, I tried to think of a reason (excuse?) to use them on-blog.

The all-time classic unanswerable question is “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” For writers who both blog and take pictures, though, a close second in the unanswerable question department is “Which comes first, the pictures or the post?”

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