Saturday, November 1, 2008

National Blog Posting Month

So I thought I would try NaBloPoMo, like so many other people are doing. I would like to post more frequently on my blog, and maybe this will be the incentive I need. But it did get me thinking about why I blog.

Frequent readers (all six of you, that I know of) will have noticed that this isn't really a personal diary, in the sense that it doesn't explore my interior life. Not only am I not comfortable posting my personal feelings on the internet, for all sorts of reasons, but in fact I have always loathed the idea of keeping a journal in which one records one's feelings. Every time I've tried it in the past, usually out of a sense that I was the kind of person who should be keeping a journal, it's degenerated in one or two entries into self-centered wallowing. The truth is, I'm more mentally healthy when I don't take my emotions that seriously. And I'm not interested in dealing with the confidentiality issues that come with talking too much about other people on my blog.

Instead, I think of this blog as a place to record interesting things that happen to me, or that I see. This comes from a deeply rooted sense that wonderful things are always happening around us, if we only take notice. I mean "wonderful" in its old sense of "inspiring wonder" - I'm not trying to be all Hallmark or Pollyanna as much as I am trying to build a testament to the awesome weirdness of everyday life. Sometimes the things that happen are very small, like a Muscovy drake going for a walk in the fields of the elementary school, or transient, like a double rainbow on Yom Kippur, or the blooming of the cereus hedge. These kinds of things demand that we pay attention to them, observe and describe them.

I think I feel something close to an ethical responsibility to notice these things. This definitely comes from my early training in English composition (high school, I'm looking at you), in which my first assignment in my first class in my first semester of freshman English was to find a place, visit it every week, and describe what I saw, how the place changed over time. I chose a thicket of elderberry bushes behind the soccer fields. Somewhere I still have the lab book in which I described how the berries withered and turned dark with the approach of a New Hampshire winter. Through readings (Maxine Kumin, Annie Dillard, Chet Raymo, Aldo Leopold - all books I still own) I learned the magical power of close observation; but with it came a sense that the magic could easily pass you by, if you weren't looking for it. And somehow I got the feeling that all that wonder shouldn't stay in your head. That's when I decided that awe at the world is in itself an imperative to write.

I owe a lot to the English teachers I had over those four years; not least, I owe them major chunks of my career, as I can recall many occasions when my ability to write carried the day more than anything else. But I also owe them this sense of amazement, and the desire to record it. So here it is, the wonderful and the weird. The question is, can I do it every day? Can I find something worth remembering, every day of the month? Here's some of the latest:

On Thursday a student came to one of my colleagues' classes totally plastered, with a 40oz bottle of beer, a new low in the undergraduate "What were they *thinking*?" sweepstakes, which has heretofore been dominated by female students showing too much skin.

When I went to vote early on Friday (Halloween), my ballot was collected by a poll worker dressed as Bozo the Clown.

The best Halloween costumes I saw Friday night were a 2-year-old dressed as an ear of corn (with a breastplate of egg-carton "niblets" spray-painted yellow, and a green stocking cap with raffia tassel - the best part was the foam-rubber pat of butter strapped to one arm), and a 5-year-old dressed as a red dragon. The dragon costume was good, but even better, his father went as a damsel in distress and his mother went as a knight in shining armor.


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