I started this blog one year ago. My daughter helped me; in fact she suggested it.
I have tried some writing in the past. (Not counting scientific papers.) Since I was a kid I have occasionally written short stories. At one time I even thought I might write a novel. I composed novels in my head while driving alone on long trips. When I lived in Atlanta I sometimes visited my friend Penny who lived in southern Virginia. The drive took about 6 hours and during those trips I concocted a long yarn, most of which never got written.
The novel was to be set at a school like Florida Southern College where I had taught biology when I lived in Tampa, with characters imported from the job I was currently working in Atlanta, a research job at Emory University. At the Atlanta job I had the worst boss ever. He was a professor of physiology and I was hired on his NIH grant to study stomach ulcers. Funny thing, I was diagnosed with an ulcer myself while working there. I planned to make the boss the villain; the novel was to be my revenge.
At that job I used a computer for the first time to write and I learned WordStar, the first commercially successful word processing program. I wrote scientific papers, one of which still comes up early when I Google my name along with my boss’s. I was captivated by the computer and I declared my intention to stay after work and write a novel. My boss, who guessed he would be a central character, had a fit. He forbade me from using the computer in my office for anything personal, even on my own time. I bought my own computer. My boss darkly threatened libel suits if I included any character that resembled him. But, alas, I never wrote the novel.
A few years later I took some poetry classes in Washington, D. C. where I worked at the Department of Agriculture. The classes were at Glen Echo, a place that had been an amusement park when I was a child, and still had some of the old carnival structures. It was converted into an artist’s colony; it was a suitable setting for artists. Though the Writer’s Center has since moved from Glen Echo, it still exists. It is a small press that publishes books of poetry. I often went to poetry readings there.
The first class I took at the Writer’s Center was really good, and I had a wonderful time. The teacher was a young man who taught classes at George Washington University (where it happens I got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.) He was a poet himself, and he may have been a fine one; I couldn’t judge because I never understood any of his poems. He was, however, an excellent teacher.
We had to read our poems aloud to the class. Then he and the class would critique. This system scared me to death at first, but I found that it resulted in rapid improvement of my writing, and I learned a lot from the comments on the poems of others, as well as my own.
The next class I took at the same place had a teacher who was far less effective, and he yeilded to people in the class who were afraid to let their peoms be publicly read. The class was boring and I stopped going.
After I retired from biology I went to art school, and most of my creative energy was spent in making prints and painting.
The blog is an exercise in writing. I read the blogs of others whose writing is more elegant than mine, and I try to learn from them. When I wrote scientific papers in which I wanted to convey information I felt that brevity and clarity were the operative principles. When I wrote poetry I was looking for harmonious sound and cadence, and I tried to choose words and phrases that evoked images and emotion. Prose writing can combine these things if it’s good. When I read blogs I want to be able to enjoy and understand. If the writing gets too abstruse and wordy I can’t be bothered and I go on to the next one. I feel the same way about poems. I am willing to read a short poem 3 times. If I can’t figure out what it’s about on the third reading, I give up.
Besides being an exercise in writing, the blog is a way to record some parts of my life. Much of what I have written is memoire, and I hope someday one or two of my great grandchildren will enjoy reading it to find out a bit about the world of their ancestors. I hope there’s a bit of history here.
This blog has been a record of my year. It has recounted major and minor events, trips, births, deaths, parties, conversations, projects. Of course, there are things that happened this year that are too private to tell about. My descendents are not getting the whole unvarnished truth. They will understand that nobody tells everything. I tend to tell more than most; sometimes a bit too much.
While writing my blog I have explored the blogs of others. On other blogs, besides some excellent prose writing, I find poetry, sometimes exceptionally good. I find drawings, prints, photographs, painting. I find recipes, gardening tips, history, life stories, political essays and more. There are videos, and music and jokes. It’s great entertainment.
Three of my island neighbors have blogs. They are Rich and Pat of Artisan Wine Gallery, Cathy of IslandCAT’s blog and Wynne of Lummi Island Living. The blog has been a way to make wonderful new friends. This was an unexpected happy surprise. I have met interesting people and found kindred spirits through reading their creations and the exchange of comments. Some of these fellow bloggers live nearby, others are in far away places. I have met two bloggers in person. Natalie of Blaugustine, and Marja-Leena of Marja-leena Rathje. Both were a great treat and adventures.
To meet Natalie I traveled from Oxford to London by bus, and then took the tube to find my way to Natalie’s flat. From that meeting and from our web exchanges I feel she is my friend for life. I was able to look at and hold some of the beautiful books she makes, and to see where she lives and to give her a hug.
I went to Bowen Island in British Columbia to meet Marja-leena. She is a printmaker, and some of her work was in a show at the Bowen Island Gallery. Jerry and I went for the opening. I am sure we will meet again. I want to visit her in Vancouver, and I hope she will come to my island as well. And I got to see her interesting work, which I had also admired on the internet and to give her a hug.
Other blog friends I plan to meet soon are Dale (Mole) and Naomi (A Little Red Hen), both in Portland. When I get back to England I want to meet Friko (Firko’s Musings) and Dick (Patteran Pages.) I have spoken to Dick on the telephone but did not have the chance to meet him. Someday I want to meet Ruth Pennebaker (The Fabulous Geezer Sisters), Darlene (Darlene’s Hodge-podge) and Jan (Jan’s Sushi Bar.) I wish I could meet both of the Annies, (Canyon Cottage and Mzodell’s Page) and Mary (Red Nose.) Perhaps someday I will visit my sister in San Diego and I wlill meet Maggie (Postcards.)
There are bloggers in places I am unlikely to go, such as Spain, Australia, and Montreal. But one never knows. And I hereby invite you, my bloggy pals, to come to my island. I have a nice guest apartment and I would love to have you stay — one and all (just not all at the same time.) This invitation is real and standing as long as I am well.
During my year of blogging I have occasionally written about politics. Obama was elected president and I celebrated. Health care has been an issue and it is one I care about, so I have posted a couple of times on it. Ted Kennedy died and I said goodbye.
I have posted some of my art; only what I consider the best, of course. I have posted a couple of my poems, though I find that most of the poetry I have written is lost (or at least, I can’t find it. Once, when my grandson was looking for his cell phone I, said, “Have you lost it, Tom?” He replied, “It isn’t lost. I just can’t find it.”
I have made some mistakes with the blog. The biggest one was, I think, that I was too open about my identity and location, given the material I was writing. I used some conversations with a friend in a tongue in cheek post about writing a murder mystery; someone who knew about my blog showed the post to the friend; the friend was offended. A controversy arose in the comments, and some really unpleasant things were said. I apologized to the friend I had offended, and I withdrew the post. But the moving finger writes. There is again an angry comment on my last post. I think it is symptomatic of the lapse of civility that characterizes current public discourse. It is a sad trend.
My blog, like that of many others, is personal. I express my opinion about a lot of things, and I have a lot of strongly held opinions. I welcome constructive criticism and I am glad when there is some disagreement and some real discussion. That’s what makes the blog interesting. That is not the same, however, as attacks that are purely personal and not about a topic.
The whole experience of writing the blog has been rewarding and educational. I am glad my daughter fixed me up with the chance to do it.
So here’s the beginning of the second year.