RIP Prince

Without much hoopla, Hoarded Ordinaries has made the awkward transition from tween to teen:  it’s been a little over thirteen years since I published my first blog post on December 27, 2003. Because my blog anniversary happens so close to the New Year, I typically use the occasion to post some sort of retrospect on the previous year in blogging. So in honor of Hoarded Ordinaries’ thirteenth birthday, here are thirteen posts from 2016.

End white supremacy

Many people were happy to see 2016 go, given its tumultuous conflicts, violent outbreaks, and tragic losses. When I look back on 2016 through the lens of my blog, I see frequent reminders of loss and heartbreak. I blogged relatively little in 2016, averaging less than a handful of posts most months. (In September, I only posted once, which is unusual for me.) One of my resolutions for 2017 is to blog more, and considering I posted only three entries in January 2016, I’m already on-track to blog more this January than last, at least.

Bunny enjoys her lap-time

Last year began with J and me putting Bunny the cat to sleep, a sad event I chronicled in “Traveling Mercies.” In May, we put another of our cats, Crash, to sleep, and I described the now-too-familiar experience of coming home to a too-big, too-empty house in “His ninth life.” As if euthanizing two cats weren’t enough, in October we put our elderly beagle to sleep after a sudden seizure led to a diagnosis of metastatic cancer. I never got around to blogging Melony’s death: I never found (and still don’t have) words to describe the sudden, beagle-sized hole in our household.

Float reflections

Many of the tragedies of 2016 transcended the purely personal. In “A world full of swans,” I responded to the Orlando nightclub shootings, and in “The cries of the world,” I addressed gun violence by and against police. The election of Donald Trump was a development I’m still reeling from, and I described my reaction in a post titled “Aftermath.”


Not everything in 2016 was drear and disappointing. In August, I enjoyed a trip to the Brookline birthplace of John F. Kennedy, which I blogged in “The house on Beals Street.” In October, I enjoyed a trip to the Tower Hill Botanic Garden to see a stickwork installation by Patrick Doughtery, which I described in “Where the wild things are.”

Journal pages

Although I didn’t write much in 2016, I did meet my goal of reading (more than) 50 books, which I recorded on Goodreads. Of the books I read in 2016, I particularly enjoyed Alexander Masters’ A Life Discarded, which I discussed in “Trusting your days to the page“; Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, which I mentioned in a September post titled “Between the book and me“; and Kerry Egan’s On Living, which I reviewed in a December entry of the same name.

RIP Bowie

Many of my blog entries aren’t easily categorized: one of the things I love most about blogging, in fact, is its random and ragtag nature. In a February post titled “As the moment unfolds,” for example, I describe the flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants feeling I have whenever I teach a new course for the first time, and in “A grace freely given,” I describe the feeling of abundance that comes from leaving a book in a Little Free Library. Finally, in “Keep your options open,” I describe the spacious, free-fall feeling that comes in the summer when I have time to write but haven’t yet defined a topic.

Wake up and do good

For thirteen years, Hoarded Ordinaries has been a place where I’ve explored the creative abundance of writing by the seat of my pants, with or without a clearly defined topic. Here’s to another year of posts both random and ragtag.

Art Wall

My twelve-year blogiversary was several weeks ago: it’s been twelve years and a couple of weeks since I posted my first blog post on December 27, 2003. Each year, I usually use the occasion of my blogiversary to review my favorite posts from the previous year, but this time around I want to reflect on a broader theme: what have I learned from a dozen years of blogging?


The deepest and most lasting lesson I’ve taken from twelve years of blogging, I think, is that it’s always good to be writing. Sometimes on a doubting day I second-guess the time I spend on my blog: surely there must better, more lucrative, or more prestigious projects I could devote myself to. But when I consider how I actually work—how and where my Muse strikes, the kind of things that interest me, and the way I spend my days—I realize blogging nicely matches my creative proclivities. I like writing about an assortment of little things, and I like the way both journals and blogs focus on a ragtag selection of loose ends. Given the challenge to write a Big Book about Something Profound, I clam up, but given the opportunity to share whatever little something comes to mind, I always, eventually, find something to say.


Truth be told, if I weren’t blogging, I probably wouldn’t be writing much. It’s easy to assume that if you didn’t spend a little bit of time every now and then writing about whatever random stuff interests you, you’d suddenly have ample opportunity to focus on sustained profundity, but I think the opposite is just as true. If I ever were to write a Big Book about Something Profound, it would be exactly because I’d flexed my noticing on the scales and arpeggios of daily writing. Henry David Thoreau didn’t write the books that made his reputation despite the fact that he kept a journal; instead, Thoreau’s journal is where his books were born. As much as I enjoy and have come to rely upon my daily journal pages, I also enjoy the accountability and immediate feedback that writing in front of an online audience provides.

Face to face

Blogging is an ephemeral form—a genre that focuses on the minute details of passing days—and as such can sometimes seem not to count for much: at the end of twelve years, what do I have to show for the time I’ve spent? But I’m not sure a lasting legacy is the best way to judge a writer’s (or any other mortal human’s) real worth. After a dozen years, an architect might point to a building erected, but what does a chef have to show for her devoted labor? Does cooking nourishing meals—each one consumed with grateful gusto down to the last crumb—count for nothing simply because the leftovers do not last?


If I write something fulfilling and tasty today, I still need to write something tomorrow and the next day and the next: a blogger’s work, like a woman’s, is never done. But some of life’s greatest joys are ephemeral, every dance begging another just as every kiss commands its consequent. Just because something doesn’t last and thus must be repeated doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. To the contrary, the impermanent and the ephemeral push us to live in the moment, spending with abandon whatever we have NOW and trusting that in the future, more will be provided.

Korean art

What I have to show for the past twelve years of blogging is nothing more than a determination to keep blogging for another dozen, the practice of almost-daily writing being its own reward. Whenever I teach the basics of meditation, I note the special temporal nature of the breath: unlike thoughts, which can wander into the past or future, the breath brings us back to the present exactly because it can happen nowhere else. Try as we might, we can’t recover today the breath we lost yesterday, and there’s no way to stockpile today’s breath for tomorrow. The only place you can breathe is right here, right now.

Partly cloudy

A blog is like a fog of breath on a mirror: yesterday’s brilliant utterance cannot make up for today’s sudden silence. If you want to stay alive, you have to keep breathing, and if you want to keep blogging, you have to keep writing. There is no resting on your laurels in this business: as a blogger, you’re only as good as your last post just as a body is only as alive as its most recent breath.


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.


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.

Empty in the middle

My six-year blogiversary was this past Sunday: it’s been six years and two days since I posted my very first blog entry on December 27, 2003. This gives me an excuse to share my annual retrospective of the past year in blog-posts, loosely organized into categories.

Life as Lorianne

This past year was personally monumental in several senses. I turned 40 this past January, an occasion I commemorated in The Big 4-0. The year 2009 also marked the five year anniversary of my separation and divorce, a milestone I revisited in posts such as Retrospect and Bella Vita.

Under the bridge

Although the daily format of blogging provides an excellent platform for keeping track of one’s mundane life, it also provides an excuse for looking back and taking stock of what one has learned over the years, something I did in posts such as Manjushri’s sword, Water under the bridge, and Checking in. There’s nothing like the death of a dear friend to make you take even deeper stock of your life, and I did so in No words and Wealth.

Not all the personal milestones in 2009 were so somber, though. In Recipe, for instance, I describe a wonderful meal a friend and I enjoyed on the occasion of her “forty-something” birthday.

Posts about Zen:

My meditation practice provides a perpetual source of blog fodder: if nothing else, sitting quietly and following your breath provides ample evidence of the boundless fecundity of your own thinking mind.

Dharma room sunbeam

In Meditation, I struggled with the question of how to illustrate my Zen practice in response to a Photo Friday prompt; in A silent place, I tried to describe, as best I could, the indescribable “place” that meditation takes you after you’ve been practicing a while. In The wisdom of mist, I returned to this idea that meditation changes you over time by considering the way a fine but constant drizzle (like those we had through much of the month of June) soaks you just as surely as steady rain, and in I stand as nigh, I shared some insights inspired by a sidewalk inscription I observed one Sunday morning before arriving for mid-morning practice at the Cambridge Zen Center. And in The replacements, I contemplated the Zen truism that “impermanence surrounds us.”



Like my Zen practice, my daily practice of keeping a journal fuels my blogging. In Take note and Morning routine , I describe my daily ritual of writing in my Moleskine notebook, and in Riding the waves I describe how I’ve learned not to skip these pages on days that are busy. In Purely prosaic, I talk about how journal-keeping feeds my blogging, and in The bright side, I describe how daily blogging changes the way I look at my own life. Finally, in Just breathe I described the preparations I made before presenting several of my blog-essays at a public reading with a half-dozen of my Keene State teaching colleagues.

Birds and birding

I’ve been bird-watching since I was 12 years old, so it makes sense that I’d occasionally reference birds and birding on my blog. In Extreme closeup, for instance, I describe a wild duck chase involving a Eurasian teal at Newton’s Cold Spring Park, and in Saturday at the cemetery, I describe the hoopla caused by a pair of red-tailed hawks sunning themselves on the tower at Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Cemetery. In Fair and fowl, I once again go birdwatching in a cemetery: this time in Newton Cemetery on Thanksgiving Day.

Mallard drake

In Heads up, I talk about the birds you can see even in the suburbs if you simply look up, and in Picture perfect, I narrate a trip with my family to Pickerington Ponds in central Ohio, a place I birded often when I was a teenager. In Flyby, J and I watch birds and planes at Belle Isle Marsh in East Boston, and in Of frost and pheasants, I’m startled to see a well-camouflaged pheasant on a morning dog-walk in Keene.

Sometimes birds are just birds, and sometimes birds represent something else. In Plenty, the endless flocks of migrating blackbirds I remember from my Ohio childhood serve as a metaphor for infinite creativity, and in Dreaming of Birds, the strange and exotic birds I occasionally see in my dreams are as elusive and unidentifiable as any mystery.


Waiting for the puck to drop

This year as in past years, J and I went to a lot of sporting events with cameras in hand, on a perpetual hunt for blog-worthy moments. In Freeze-frame, I explain my interest in hockey by describing my continued quest to photograph a puck in mid-drop. In Are you ready for some football and The beautiful game, I explain several of the reasons J and I have recently become soccer fans while Three tells why I’ve always loved basketball.

In The winners, J and I take a walk down the street to watch runners in the Boston Marathon, and in To the nines and Eyes, we travel all the way to Atlanta to see the Red Sox play the Braves.

Good walks remembered

Bumble bee on purple coneflower

They say that golf is a good walk ruined, but I’ve found that walking with an eye toward the bloggable actually enhances one’s perambulations, with some of the best pedestrian discoveries happening almost by accident.

In Unwind, September stride, and Leave your mind alone, for instance, I describe the dog-walks I rely upon to help me relax at the end of a long teaching day. In To make a prairie, Serendipitous, and Gossamer, I’m surprised to discover photogenic insects and arachnids, and in A place like this, The lesson of leaves, and Gone to seed, plants are the ones providing photogenic (and lesson-worthy) blog-fodder.

Art and culture

Art is a perennial source of inspiration in both my writing and blogging. In some cases, I use photographs of artwork to illustrate blog-posts about entirely different things, as is true with Dreamtime, which uses photos from Ugo Rondinone’s Clockwork for Oracles at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art to illustrate a post about the nightmares I often have before the start of a new semester. In other cases, though, I talk about art more explicitly.

Pine Sharks

In Metal, for instance, I use the occasion of a Photo Friday prompt to share photographs of my favorite installation at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Massachusetts. In The sands of time, I consider a far more ephemeral medium–sand sculpture–as a metaphor for aging, and in Paper thick, the occasion of a New York City art show inspires a meditation on image and fashion. In Drawn from nature, my own nature journal sketches are the subject of scrutiny, and in Everyday use, an exhibit of art quilts leaves me wondering whether Art is the highest use an object can have.

Sounds good!

Nose in a book

At the start of 2009, in a post titled Books for free, I talked about my lifelong fondness for public libraries and my more recent appreciation for digital audiobooks. Also in January, I committed to an audiobook challenge whereby I would blog reviews for 12 audiobooks before the end of the year.

The year ends on Thursday, and I’ve blogged only two audiobook reviews even though I have listened to the full dozen books I’d committed to. Perhaps sometime before New Year’s Day, I’ll take the time to tell you about the ten other books I listened to this year, but in the meantime, I’m proud of the two reviews I did post: Where the heart is, which focuses on Marilynne Robinson’s Home, and As she lay dying, which reviews Toni Morrison’s A Mercy.

And so another blog-year turns just in time for another New Year, and as always, who knows what blog-worthy moments 2010 will bring.

Faithful to the spirit of retrospection, today’s photos are recycled from the various blog-posts that made the year-end cut. If you want to review previous blogiversary posts, you can find them here (2008), here (2007), here (2006), here (2005), and here (2004). Enjoy!

Why did the chicken cross the road...

Somehow, this picture of the proverbial chicken crossing the road, which I blogged in February, strikes me as being the quintessential WTF moment here at Hoarded Ordinaries this past year. In a world where beer is Buddhist-flavored and even fences wear glasses, why not ponder the eternal question about pedestrian poultry?

Got glasses?

This past Saturday marked my fifth blogiversary: yes, it’s been five years since I posted my first tentative blog entry on December 27, 2003. On (or soon after) past blogiversaries, I’ve compiled a post that looks back on the previous year’s bloggish goodness: an annual excuse for me to re-visit my own archive. For my first few blogiversary posts, I chose my favorite five or so posts to link to, but last year I chose to link to a whole slew of posts in a variety of categories, figuring readers could pick and choose their own favorites. So in the spirit of last year’s blogiversary post, here is a montage of the past year.

Be a good sport

It’s a simple fact I’m well aware of: I like to watch sports, and most of my readers do not. When I go to sporting events, I take lots of pictures, which leaves me with a bloggish conundrum: should I force these photos on readers who probably don’t care, or should I leave them to gather digital-dust on my hard-drive?

Nobody can guard KG

This past year, I’ve settled on a kind of compromise: talking about sports on-blog is perfectly fine as long as the sport at hand is somehow a metaphor for something else. So what you’ll find under the “Good sports” category here at Hoarded Ordinaries isn’t your usual sports-bar conversation; instead, you’ll hear what I’d like to think is a slightly more highbrow view of basketball, hockey, and the like.

Thus in “Emotions,” I argued that watching a good game is as cathartic as watching a good drama. In “Fighting words,” I compared a red-blooded hockey fight to the controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s public distancing of himself from his then-pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In “Girls who wear glasses,” I described the hockey film “Slap-Shot” as a metaphor for working class responses to economic emasculation. And in “Up against it,” “Where happy endings happen,” and “Unimaginable,” I used images from my favorite sport (basketball) to illustrate how our daily lives are really just a game.

Zen and the Art of Graffiti

The categories of “Zen” and “Graffiti” might not seem to go together…but since I almost always take a stroll down Central Square’s graffiti-rich Modica Way on my way to the Cambridge Zen Center, my posts about Zen tend to be illustrated with pictures of graffiti and my posts about graffiti tend to carry more than a touch of Zen.

Mixed messages

My first attempt to link the phenomena of meditation and street art was “Random,” where I suggest the lawless nature of graffiti makes it as unpredictable as the spontaneous thoughts that pop into mind while you meditate. In “Art,” I explore the classic question of whether graffiti qualifies as highbrow culture, and in “Not-quite-busted,” I describe my experience photographing Modica Way on a morning when one Cambridge cop was looking for breakfast. This theme of police on patrol influenced “On the beat,” where I compare meditation to the act of reconnoitering a familiar neighborhood, and both “While you can” and “Scrambling” admit how difficult it can be to find the time to pay mindful attention when the rest of life is tugging at one’s sleeve. Somehow, amidst life’s clutter and color, we find time to do the things we simply can’t live without.

Light and dark; life and death

Some five years after this bloggish experiment began, I still am obsessed by many of the same themes that captivated me early on. One of my first posts, for instance, focused on particular quality of late afternoon light as it illuminates winter skies, and this early fascination with light and shadow hasn’t diminished. In “Eclipsed,” I describe how I mostly missed a lunar eclipse only to revel in the shadows cast by low-angled light the next morning. In “Made in the shade,” I began collecting a new phenomenon: twiggy shadows I dubbed “shade trees” and which I blogged again (just recently) in “All clear.” And in “Alien oddity,” “Take me to your heater,” and “Straight from the (Holy) Mothership,” I continued to collect the weird window reflections I call “alien eyes.”

Alien eyes

Like sports, shadows are often metaphoric. Whenever I write about light, I have in mind the idea that light is finite and thus can be spent. In my mind, light is always a symbol of time, time always calls to mind time’s passage, and an awareness of time’s passage always points toward impermanence. So to my way of seeing, light is like life and shadow like death, with both light and shadow reminding us to pay attention, for these pyrotechnics won’t last forever.

With all this in mind, in “Memento mori” I described the unsettling sensation of stumbling on a grave with my (sur)name on it, and in “Not the rainbow bridge,” I talked about learning to live with an aging (but not yet dying) dog. And in “Without ceasing,” I return to the theme of impermanence–illustrated with images of light and shadow–in response to a fatal MBTA trolley accident that happened not far from J’s house this past May.

The art of blogging, or the blogging of art

Crouching Spider with Bay Bridge

Lest you think street art is the only “art” I partake in these days, I did manage to blog several otherwise artsy things this past year. In “Tableau,” I described the accidental (but nevertheless artful) juxtaposition of unrelated artworks at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. In “We meet again,” I had another accidental art encounter, this time with a monumental metal spider along the San Francisco waterfront. And in “I’m feeling…,” I used the occasion of an apt Photo Friday theme as an excuse to blog several encounters with Boston artist Bren Bataclan, with whose paths my own repeatedly cross.

If blogging is itself an art, then I’ve had some stuff to say about that this year, too. In “The wheres and the whys,” I explore (again!) the question of why I blog about the places I find myself. In “Just a note,” I announced the desire to return to more frequent blogging (conveniently timed for November’s National Blog Posting Month), and in “The art of inside,” I gave a status update on how that more frequent blogging was working for me. (In a word, I like to blog often if not early, at least when my schedule allows it.)

State of the nation

Obama and McCain

I seldom blog about politics per se…but inspired (I think) by this year’s historic Presidential election, I did (briefly) crawl out of my patriotic shell this past November. In “Here’s hoping,” I described the scene at my neighborhood polling place on Election Day, and in “The mornings after,” I described what it’s like (after the fact) to live in New Hampshire during a Presidential campaign. In “Passing the Bataan,” I used the occasion of Veteran’s Day to post (and of course ponder) some images from a Navy amphibious assault ship J and I had toured last summer.

And in a year when the U.S. economy has been direly hurting, its seems that frugality is finally stylish. By way of determining, then, that I am (at long last) a trend-setter, take a second look at “Economic stimulus,” “Not a thing to wear,” and “Food,” all of which insist that contentment and self-worth aren’t things you buy but attitudes you can (cheaply) cultivate.

So that is Hoarded Ordinaries past year in a nutshell: heaven knows what blog-fodder 2009 will bring.

If your mouse isn’t worn out from all the clicking, you can check out past years’ blogiversary retrospectives here (2007), here (2006), here (2005), and here (2004). Enjoy!

Mona Lisa

I’ve been woefully lax when it comes to observing my own four year blogiversary, which happened on December 27. In previous years, I’ve marked the day by writing a retrospective entry that included links to my top five or ten favorite posts from the previous year. This year, I was preoccupied instead with compiling links for the New Year’s Festival of the Trees post, so the day came and went without me as much as mentioning it.

In past years, I’ve tried to summarize what I’ve learned from X many years of blogging. This year, I’m not sure I’ve learned much of anything. When I first started blogging, I had idealistic notions of how my blog could and would reach lots of readers, change lots of minds, and ultimately Change The World. Four full years later, I’m less idealistic. Four years of more-or-less faithful blogging later, I’ve given up on reaching lots of readers, changing lots of minds, and ultimately Changing The World. These days, I realize the world is the world whether I like (and blog about) it or not. Rather than trying to change myself, my readers, or the world at large, these days I mostly try to content myself with what is.

So this year, instead of trying to decide upon a handful of favorite posts from 2007, I’m taking a “Festival of the Trees” approach. Here is a whole forest of links, clustered into loose categories: a retrospective that is more than a day late and much more than a dollar short.

Posts about blogging:


Bloggers love to talk about blogging, what keeps them from blogging, and what they hope to attain or achieve through blogging. In 2007, I didn’t refrain from such meta-bloggery.

Futuristic contains within it a post titled Ad infinitum, which discusses the challenge a long-time blogger faces trying to re-see the same world in different ways, day after day. Sustained attention features my thoughts on place-blogging as inspired by the ASLE conference in Spartanburg, NC this past summer. Plain Jane mundane is as close to a Hoarded Ordinaries Blogging Manifesto as I’ve ever written, which is why it has a prominent spot on my “About” page.

Day trips:


One of the things I love about living in New England is the sheer number of cool places there are to explore here…and one of the things I love about blogging is the excuse it gives me to wander with a camera and a double-dollop of curiosity.

In Spring fling, I take a trip to the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, MA; in Hannah, get your axe, I explore the Hannah Dustan monument in Penacook, NH; and in Unwind, I visit the original scroll-typescript of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road during its exhibition in Lowell, MA. Madonna with musket focuses on the statue of Molly Stark in Wilmington, VT; The sphinx’s riddle describes a walk in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA; and The sky’s the limit chronicles a trip to the JFK Library in Boston, MA. With destinations like these so close to home, this past year I hardly needed to venture to places as far-flung and diverse as New York and Spartanburg…but I did anyway.


Dharma room sunbeam

“Open your mouth, already a mistake.” This Zen saying points to the utter ineffability of the present moment that Zen practice seeks to capture: as soon as you’ve described This Present Moment, it’s already past. This, of course, poses a problem for a blogger who practices Zen, and in 2007, I made many “open-mouthed mistakes.”

Birthday Boy describes an April visit to the Providence Zen Center to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. Open meadow mind focuses on the formal meditation practice I do when my schedule allows, and Black Friday describes the walking meditation I do whether or not I have time for formal practice. Strength describes my favorite fruit of meditation practice, and Instead of apple picking talks about the Zen of literal fruit.

Life as Lorianne:


One of the coolest things about blogging is the way it provides you with your own personal time-capsule. For many years, my Mom has kept a diary in which she writes a one- or two-sentence summary of each day’s events; whenever she wants to know when a certain thing happened, her diary is the first place she goes. For me, my blog serves as an electronic diary: one way I as a writer keep a finger on my own psychological pulse.

Probably the biggest change in my personal life in 2007 was the baby-step I took toward leaving Keene, NH, which I described in Bipolar. In The end of an era, I talked about another rite of passage in my personal life: the long-overdue demolition of my favorite abandoned factory. No escape describes the panic attacks I sometimes feel in crowded places. Soft in the middle features me letting it all (or at least my belly) hang out as I talk about my shifting attitudes toward my body.

Love, marriage, and not-always-happily-ever-after:

Marital Bliss Bar

One of the things I’ve chronicled over the years I’ve been blogging is my 2004 divorce after nearly 13 years of marriage. When I first separated from my ex-husband, someone told me it takes three years to get over a marriage…which means 2007 was the year of my “getting over it.” Although I can’t say with certainty whether a person ever fully “gets over” nearly 13 years of water under the bridge, I did in several posts re-visit what I learned from a dozen years in an ultimately unsuccessful marriage.

Three years looks back on my post-divorce experience, Until death describes my unsettled reaction to a friend’s engagement, and Don’t do the math offers some learned-the-hard-way advice to the soon-to-be-married. Wholesome offers my thoughts on older, long-married love versus the younger, newlywed kind.

The sporting life:

Under a darkening sky

With the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series, the New England Patriots remaining undefeated during the regular season, and the Boston Celtics finally back on top in the NBA rankings, 2007 has been an amazing year to be a New England sports fan. In June, J and I traveled to Atlanta to see the Red Sox; in December, we saw both the Celtics and the Patriots. In between, we’ve been to a handful of hockey games, with Hat tricks describing fan behavior at a Boston Bruins game and More than a few good men describing a collegiate match-up between Boston College and Northeastern University. And in Field of dreams, I explore the love affair many of us have with America’s pastime, this time played by a summertime collegiate league.

Ways of seeing:


This last category is the catch-all for posts I couldn’t classify elsewhere. When you come down to it, all of my posts are about “ways of seeing” in one way or another. There’s the literal seeing I do through my camera’s view-screen, then there are the ways that regular writing can sometimes lead to insight. After you’ve kept a blog for four full years, you learn to appreciate the everyday world as it transpires over time.

Four years later, I’m still exploring the backsides of buildings, as I described in Like a weed, and I’m still fascinated with the fall of light on my living room floor, as I explored in A certain slat of light. Four years later, I’m still walking the dog in woodsy places, as I described in Stalking; four years later, I’m still fascinated by mannequins and shop-window reflections, as illustrated in Holiday reflections. I’m still traveling to new places and trying to find my perceptual feet, as I describe in Out of proportion, and I’m still snooping in other people’s yards, as I explained in The leaves of others. Four years later, in other words, I’m still doing the same thing I did when I began blogging, regardless of whether I’ve learned anything or remain consistently idealistic about the experience. At the end of the day, even if you’re a handful of days late and a bucketful of dollars short, I guess that itself matters for something.

If you’re in a retrospective mood, you can read my inaugural blog entry, where the experiment began. I’m not sure what exactly I’ve learned from four years of experimenting, but you can read previous retrospectives here (2004), here (2005), and here (2006). If you follow any of today’s links, you might notice that I’ve recycled photos for this entry: a Lazy Blogger’s approach to an illustrated post.