What shall I write about? That’s a question I think about whenever I sit down to work on a post. What’s the right kind of thing to put on a blog, or rather, what’s the right thing for me to put on a blog. There are things that seem just too mundane to write about — like washing dishes or mowing the lawn. But even those can be made interesting if treated by a really skilled writer.
I need a break from the strange story of John, and perhaps that was getting close to things I shouldn’t write about. Will my descendants really want to know about their ancestor’s foolish love affairs?
So for the time being I’ll change the subject. Today the subject is what shall I blog about?
Jerry and I have had some social events lately which we have enjoyed immensely. We went to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island where Jerry used to live. There we had lunch with an old friend of his late wife, Susy. The three of us sat at a table for 2 hours in a little café at the San Juan airport. The café is called Ernie’s, but it is run, single handed, by a Korean woman who makes good hamburgers and various Korean dishes. The walls are decorated with photos of vintage airplanes, some with Ernie flying them. The windows look out on the runway, so we watched the Cessnas and other small planes as they landed and took off. The friend, EB, is a little younger than us, and is a brave woman. She had 2 sons and lost both of them, 1 year apart, in automobile accidents. She is divorced. But she is eternally cheerful, laughs a lot and spends her time with friends, in her garden, and making quilts.
I could blog about EB.
We took the dogs for a walk on the beach, a beach piled high with driftwood and surrounded by orange California poppies.
I took some pictures of the patterns in the driftwood. I was thinking of Marja-Leena’s blog and the wonderful pictures she posts of patterns in rocks and sand and leaves. I was trying to think of the world as abstract beauty, or to transform the image by changing the scale to micro. I could post some of those pictures. I could show that I find it difficult not to make form from whatever I see.
A little later we sipped wine with other friends, Paulette and Doug, at their house on a little dirt road far from the main road, where their dogs can run free without worries about traffic. Paulette is a master gardener, and we toured her garden which includes a small lake, stocked with trout, and a waterfall, built by her husband, that circulates and partially purifies the water of the lake. The four of us talked about geology, about the flooding from Lake Missoula at the end of the last ice age, about bears and guns, about wine and dogs and mutual friends in San Juan and Manley Hot Springs. We talked about my blog and the reaction to it by some residents of Manley. We talked about John McPhee (his book, Coming into the Country, is about Eagle, Alaska,) and the reactions of Eagle residents to what McPhee wrote about them. While we talked we saw an osprey dive into the lake, fishing for trout.
Then Jerry and I had dinner at an elegant little restaurant, Duck Soup Inn, because it was the fourth anniversary of the day we met. We shared a scrumptious appetizer, smoked oysters with a garlicky butter sauce; I had duck breast and Jerry had beef brochettes. Paulette and Doug called the restaurant and treated us to wine and the oysters.
So I could blog about these things.
Or I could blog about an article I read in the Economist about the prime minister of Canada. I bet that 9 out of 10 people who live in the US couldn’t tell you his name. I take an interest in Canadian politics because Jerry and I drive through Canada once or twice a year to get to Alaska, and I live only 20 miles from the Canadian border. Besides, a lot of my blog friends are Canadian. The Economist says he’s like George Bush’s twin. He’s an evangelical oil man and follows policies that the tea baggers would like. And, like Bush, he’s a spender, spending money on silly things like constructing an artificial lake for the media at the up-coming G-20 meeting, complete with fake canoes and recorded loon calls. Now I’ll reveal his name: it’s Stephen Harper.
Or I could blog about any of 3 articles I read in Science: One was a genetic study of various groups of Jews — showing that they are related genetically as well as by religion. Or about an article on the hormone oxytocin, the hormone that is secreted during childbirth and lactation, and how it makes mother bears protect their cubs fiercely. Or another report about Polynesians coming to the new world before Europeans, an article called Beyond Kon Tiki.
Or I might blog about the 60th wedding anniversary party that we went to. It was for Karl and Polly, held on the wide deck of the octagonal house he built for her. The house, and the deck, have a view of Puget Sound and the Canadian islands. The sun was shining; Karl and Polly’s daughter sang “Long, Long Ago” and their granddaughters played the violin and viola. Karl made a little speech about a dream he had. He has had a life-long romance with flying, but gave up his ultra-light when he turned 80. He dreamed he was saying goodbye to airplanes and airports; as he walked away from the airport he came to Polly standing by their car, and felt a sudden flood of happiness. He knew that marrying her had been right.
At that party a woman called Elizabeth came up to me and said, enthusiastically, “I read your blog all the time.” I thanked her. She paused, and said, “You write about such intimate things — I mean, I couldn’t — well, what makes you want to write about such personal things?”
I said, “I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with being honest.”
Since then I have thought more on this. Some people write political blogs. I care a lot about politics, but I am not sure I have anything original to say about politics. Some people write poetry and put it on their blogs. I write poetry too, but for some reason I am much shyer about revealing my poetry than I am about revealing my life. Some people write lyrical things about flowers or sunsets or travels. Some write about their children or their grandchildren or happy times with their partners or husbands. There may be hints of trouble, but they are often not openly stated. Too much chance for embarrassment or hurting someone.
I try to take care not to hurt, but sometimes I fail. I am surprised that what some people find hurtful are things I think are trivial. I write about my own life. I have not always been wise or successful. I think I have had an interesting life, and I want to revisit it in lots of different aspects. I would like my descendants to know what it was like to live in my time, and I don’t want to gloss over the difficult parts, or my own weaknesses and failures. I often wonder about my grandparents and great grandparents, people I knew or heard about. I would like to know the truth about their lives.
So I put a lot of it down. I’m not really brave enough to reveal my every mistake or embarrassing moment or ugly episode, but some things, like the story of John, are in a way cautionary tales. What real difference will it make if someone is shocked by my small revelations? The whole thing, after all, is an experiment.