Paper and Pixels and Ink, O, My!

 

Even if you’ve never strapped on a set of skis, think Sundance is something that needs a choreographer and really don’t have a taste for the kind of choral music associated with the Mormon Tabernacle,  Salt Lake City has a lot to commend it.   I lived in Salt Lake for a year, and enjoyed it tremendously.  There was art, the Film Festival and good music everywhere.   At the time, bluegrass and newgrass were particularly popular, and if  David Grisman, Vassar Clements and Tony Rice weren’t in Salt Lake, you could find them playing the circuit in Telluride or Greeley with groups like Hot Rize and the Seldom Scene.

We didn’t need the pros to make us happy, of course.  On Sunday afternoons, I’d travel with friends up one of the canyons into the heart of the Wasatch range and kick back  in a cozy little corner where music, cheeseburgers and beer were available and everyone was welcome to play.  If you were even mildly proficient there always was an extra guitar or two around, or a bass player who’d take time for a burger and let you sit in. For the rest of us, there were spoons and washboards and tabletops to drum on – some days, it sounded for all the world like the kindergarten rhythm band had been set loose with Bill Monroe or the Foggy Mountain Boys.

Music wasn’t the only treat, of course. Nestled up against the Wasatch Range, Salt Lake is known for far more than skiing.   A haven for hikers, mountain bikers, campers and photographers, it’s one of the most beautiful areas of the country.  I spent a good bit of time hiking, particularly up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Upper and Lower Red Pine Lakes and the Pfeifferhorn.  Part of the Lone Peak Wilderness area, Little Cottonwood offered good climbs, alpine meadows filled with flowers in season, gorgeous vistas and the occasional mountain goat.  A flatlander from birth, I was astonished by the mountains.  Every time I went out onto the trails, I couldn’t get enough of “up”.  Climbing higher and higher, I’d make occasional stops to turn and see where I’d been.  As I grew more confident and improved physical conditioning allowed me to make higher and longer climbs, it always was amazing to see how much territory I’d covered, and how far I had come.     

Upper Red Pine Lake, Cottonwood Canyon, Utah 

This past year of writing has been very much like that year in Utah.    When I began The Task at Hand nine months ago, I expected nothing. Like a hiker with no destination, I was interested only in the experience, in the sights along the path and the personal challenge.  Could I develop the necessary skills?   Could I maintain the effort?  Would my energy run low?  Would the path prove too difficult?  Eventually, a certain rhythm set in, just as it does for any hiker, cyclist or runner.   I wrote, and then I wrote again.  When I became frustrated, disappointed or insecure, I wrote more.  Writing became something I simply did, like breathing.  Sentence following sentence, paragraph piling onto paragraph, the entries began to stack up like boulders edging a path.  Step after heavy step I made my way along until finally, after months of effort, it was  time to stop, to turn around and pause and gaze back over the path I’d been traveling.

Scanning the landscape in December, I was amazed by what I saw.  In the mailbox there were checks for my first printed articles: in a magazine  called Arrhythmic Souls and in Telltales, the largest boating magazine on the Texas coast.  Just before Christmas I was asked to write the story of a couple who survived Hurricane Ike on their boat; there’s a first draft now, and  a publisher.  I received confirmation that my essay written for National Public Radio’s This I Believe series will be broadcast in February, and it’s time to begin outlining a year’s worth of new columns for Arrhythmic Souls.  All of this is quite astonishing and leaves me relatively speechless.

But surprises in the paper-and-printer’s-ink world weren’t the only things I saw as I looked back over my lovely literary walkabout.  Re-reading my first WordPress entry,  Dazed and Confused,  I remember vividly the experience of posting it.   Like a  first, tentative log-walk across a mountain stream, it made me anxious, tight, slightly off balance and certain I was only a step away from a tumble into the water.  Today, I’m back on solid ground, traveling with good companions and feeling far more sure-footed.  I’m grateful for my readers and indebted to those who comment, providing as they do the simple pleasure of conversation with friends around a fire. 

Over the months I’ve been startled time and again to discover other bloggers linking to my site.  From time to time I find a passing mention of The Task at Hand and only yesterday I discovered a reader’s review of my blog.  She never told me she’d written it, and I never would have found it had I not received a surge of traffic from StumbleUpon, making me curious enough to go snooping about.  As my dear Grandma used to say, “You never know what you don’t know”.  Indeed.  But I’m learning more and finding more to appreciate every day.

Another recent gift was receiving the Premio Dardos award from Arti of Ripple Effects.   Arti’s been with me at WordPress from the beginning. She was the first WordPress blogger I gathered courage to email, and the first whose own blog became a weekly must-read.  It’s thanks to her that my literary horizons are expanding a bit, and her blogroll is pure indulgence for Jane Austen fans.   The award itself is given as a  “recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing” (translated from the Portuguese: “O conceito deste prémio passa por reconhecer valores culturais, éticos, literários e pessoais, transmitidos de forma criativa e original nos pedacinhos rabiscados por cada blogueiro que o receba.”).   I’ve seen such awards satirized and ridiculed by bloggers big and small, but in each instance, there has been apparent blindness to one of the important aspects of these awards: they speak to merit, but they also help to build community. 

As a Premio Dardos recipient, one of my tasks is to pass the award on to others.  Many blogs I enjoy and read regularly certainly deserve such an award, but they’re well known, often with huge readership and probably with a drawerful of medallions and plaques.  I’ve chosen instead to highlight blogs I enjoy on a regular basis, but which are tucked into corners of the web where they might not be found by a casual browser.  Not all are “literary” blogs, but each is well-written, intriguing, informative or inspiring in turn, and each stands as a reminder that “good blogging” doesn’t have to fit a particular mold or pattern.  When I see such lists, I count myself lucky if I find one or two entries which appeal.  My hope is that you will find one on this list, and have a new bit of pleasurable reading to carry with you on your own trek up the New Year’s mountain.

A Change in the Wind ~ A tasty bouillabaisse, filled with humor, current events, poetry, criticism and peeks into the crevices of a creative mind. Always a fun read.

Between the Waters ~ Poetry and photography, on an occasional basis.  I tease Earl about his “regularly irregular” posting schedule, but those posts always are worth waiting for.  His latest poem pulls off a literary feat I would have thought impossible.

Carol Buchanan on Writing ~ Practical tips on writing and publication, mixed with a bit of inspiration and some darned good stories. This is the American West from a modern female’s perspective, and it’s worth visiting.

Casual Astronomy ~ Another eclectic mix of photography, writing and science, geared to the non-professional but meaty enough to be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in astronomy or our space program.  Plenty of links, occasional  literate musings and an attentive host who can help you discover what “that thing up there” might be.

Day by Day in Northwest Montana ~ Thoreau at Walden or Dillard at Tinker Creek, in a western setting.  I’ve followed life on this Kalispell ranch for a year, and now a new one has begun. The daily postings of photographs and condition reports have a mesmerizing quality as the truth gets driven home: you can travel far, or you can travel deep, exchanging a day in a thousand places for a thousand days in one.   A beautiful example of learning “one good place”.

Of Books and Bicycles  ~ Maybe it’s the bicyling that helps, but this is a “book blog” without pretensions or snootiness.  You can browse the shelves or chat with the proprietress and while away (entirely too many) hours.  The writing is good and the links alone are worth an afternoon and coffee.

Letters Home ~  All right.  So Ian isn’t particularly hidden.  But if you’re a fan of satire, irony, beautiful photography, a world-view wide as the horizon and occasional posts as poignant and touching as could be found,  expat Ian in Hamburg’s  point of view may be exactly what you’re looking for.  His Desiderata for Bloggers, 20 Blogging Commandments and What If the Buddha Were Just Some Guy in His Mom’s Basement are as inspirational as a 2×4 to the head.  Read him.

 

Vincent van Gogh ~ A Pair of Shoes

 

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Published in: on January 18, 2009 at 12:45 pm  Comments (14)  
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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. As a regular reader through the months, I have enjoyed and appreciated your writings. Your thoughts have enriched my life and expanded my thought processes. I love the Premio Dardos award, for it recognizes exactly what I value in your writings – “recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing”.

    Write on!

    Good morning, Nancy,

    I still think from time to time about that exchange we had early last year when you were essentially snowbound and cooking pork loin.
    Those comments back and forth were as close as anything could be to the “chat around the fire” I referred to, and helped me begin to clarify what I want my writing to be. I still read that conversation from time to time – why buy books on “how to write” when people like you have done such a good job of helping me figure it out?

    Thanks so much for stopping by – the little celebration here wouldn’t have been complete without you!

    Linda

  2. I am not surprised at your success, Linda. Congratulations!

    qugrainne,

    How nice of you to stop by, and thank you very much. It’s been wonderful for me to have beautiful blogs like yours to look at on this little journey. After all, looking back is fine, but keeping an eye on that sunlit summit is a good thing, too! I’m looking forward to your new offerings, and to learning even more from you.

    Linda

  3. Your success does not surprise me at all, and I predict that there will be more of the same. I’ve enjoyed your offerings and look forward to more. I’m also looking forward to visiting the sites you mentioned.

    Thanks, Linda.

    Bella Rum,

    You may or may not realize that your particular contribution to this little endeavor is the encouragement you offer to someone who also is caring for a parent. As the days and weeks go by, more and more time is required to fulfill that responsibility, not to mention patience. Reading your entries – written with that honesty you just were rewarded for! – is comforting. More than once I heaved a sigh and said, “Onward!”

    Thanks for the kind words, and thank you for being willing to share your own journey.

    Linda

  4. Thank you Linda. I am humbled. I just get up each day and walk about the place, write a line or two about what I do, and take an occasional picture. Live, and see things, day by day, that’s it. Thank you again, I’ve already run out of words.

    Daniel,

    It’s the “every day” that’s the heart of it all. You have the opportunity to communicate what’s lost to so many of us – the simple “dailiness” of life in one place that puts us back in touch with the rhythms of the world itself. I’m no Luddite – after all, I’m sitting here typing at a computer, listening to tv and drinking coffee made by my indulgent, timer-driven pot – but I know with a certainty that being cut off from the natural world and those rhythms affects us badly.

    And it IS possible to get a sense of those rhythms and passage of time from your posts. I remember clearly how shocked I was the first morning I woke up and discovered it had snowed overnight – not in Texas, but in Montana. To see a ranch I’ve become familiar with suddenly covered with snow was an experience completely different than hearing a report on the news that “there was snow in Montana.”
    It’s a fascinating project, and I’m looking forward to another year. Maybe we’ll have snow on the lilacs again!

    Linda

  5. Linda,

    You’re a most gracious and deserving receipient of both blogging awards. And it’s pure joy and excitement for me to see you’ve branched out into publication. Congratulations on your success and thanks so much for sharing the cheques with us!

    On another note, … just ignore the Atlantic Article link I sent you. What we need is more inspiring and eloquent writing like that which you’ve been creating. Keep up the momentum and enjoy the climb. Somebody has to reach higher and higher to share with us the view from that vantage point. I can’t be more thrilled to see what you’ve achieved in just nine months!

    Arti,

    Since I’m behind on my email, I’ll tell you here what I was meaning to tell you anyway – I wouldn’t dream of ignoring that Atlantic article.
    It was screamingly funny, in part because I read it with increasing confidence that the path I’m traveling is the right one. The evening I heard a relatively sane woman at a writers’ gathering tell us she’d begun twittering frequent updates on her novel’s progress to family and friends was the day I thought, “Uh….” I’ve been re-reading that article on a daily basis, as a cautionary tale and a perfect example of the power of negative example.

    And a little side note – one of the great advantages of branching out into print is that it makes a wise choice about direction possible. Many people I know insist you’re not a “real writer” unless you’re on a Barnes and Noble shelf. Others denigrate the world of print publication as dollar-driven and somehow less “pure” than blogging. I would no more dream of quitting my blog to spend years trying to “really” publish than I would dream of posting polls and youtubes and quizzes six times a day just to throw something up.

    I suppose it’s just one more manifestation of that choice I indicated on my “About” page – given a choice between “Either/Or” or “Both/And”, I’m taking both/and every time!

    Looking forward to completing this year and beginning the next!

    Linda

  6. Congratulations, Linda! How encouraging it is to see you’re getting published in “the real world.”
    Please let us know when the NPR piece will be broadcast. I probably won’t be able to hear it live, but podcast would work.

    Your recommendation really touched me, you know. In thanking you, I’m going to copy it, OK?

    Good morning, Ian,

    Of course you may copy the recommendation – I’d be pleased for you to do so.

    Re-reading this entry last night, I had a fleeting memory of your post about ice-skating in Holland and went back to look. There it was:

    “You hear a lot about the sweet spot of tennis, how good it feels when you hit the ball exactly the way you should and it lands just where you want it to. There’s something about that in the rhythmic dance of skating when you hit the right cadence, when you’re cutting through the surface in a complete connection from your temples through your thighs down to the bottom of your feet, feeling the blades as if they were an extension of your bones as they scrape…scrape…scrape, a thousand times effortlessly across the ice. You get the feeling you’re floating, as if you were falling into a trance.”

    That can be writing, too, and it’s the best experience in the world.

    Linda

  7. CONGRATULATIONS! Linda, you deserve all of the awards, accolades, recognitions, etc. Your excellent work is always interesting and thought provoking. Thank you for sharing your literary contributions (and wonderful photos) with us. Pros.

    Hi, Proserpina,

    Thank you so much. It’s been fun to share with such receptive and responsive readers as you. I’m looking forward to the next year, and the wonderful projects that await us all!

    Linda

  8. Well, what an incredible description of my blog — I’m so very pleased and flattered! Thank you so much — it really made my day. I’ll make sure to check out the other links here. All the best!

    Evening, Dorothy,

    Every time I go to your blog I have a sense of wanting to stretch out with a nice pillow, a cup of something good to drink – and just read. I’m always going in so many directions anyone who can induce the desire to stop is accomplishing quite a feat! Many thanks again for the work you do. I’m looking forward to a new year of enjoyment.

    Linda

  9. Congratulations on the reward of your mounting success and recognition.

    Thank you for the honor of including me in the company of Premio Dardos recipients! I look forward becoming more familiar with my companions.

    LowerCal,

    The best part of it all is watching a little community of readers and responders grow. It’s been enormous fun, and it’s exciting to find new ways to expand my own horizons. I was delighted to include you in my list because you’re one of the best educators I’ve found on the web. You don’t make novices feel nervous or stupid, and I’ve never once seen you roll your eyes!

    I’m looking forward to giving myself a little more “space” this year!

    Linda

  10. Thank you, Linda! I’m touched and encouraged by your recognition, and appreciate you mentioning my blog. Keep up your fine work!

    Carol

    Carol,

    You’re most welcome – and I appreciated your blog response. There’s simply no need for those things you mention – jealousy, petty thoughts, hyper-critical attitudes – to impinge on this journey we’re all taking. We each have our own experience, our own vocabulary and our own sense of imagination – when we use them to create, it should be cause for celebration.

    My best to you in the new year!

    Linda

  11. Congrats on your blog award AND on your publishing!!! Ya’ gotta admit, it’s got some clout, overall. Makes a writer feel legitimized even though the very act of writing something down is courageous. Getting it out there is excellent.

    And thanks for your comments on my blog recently about that crazy little manuscript which I WILL read one of these long wintry nights. Brrr.

    warm regards,
    Oh

  12. I’ve seen you build analogies like this before, so apt, so engaging. I hope more recognition, affirmation and money keep coming your way!

    Jackie,

    Thanks for the fine-fine words! Story-telling, word-shaping and community-building belong to the whole world. I’m glad you’ve become part of mine, and I look forward to finding some ways to promote your new Carribean blogging site! There’s a lifetime of exploration ahead!

    Linda

  13. Hi, Linda — First, congratulations on your award. I love these — they help build the community and in your case it is particularly well deserved.

    Congratulations, too, on your recent financial rewards. As part of an NPR station, this is a feature I follow regularly; it’s one of my favorites, and to know someone featured will be extra special.

    I get very excited when I see the many good things that come from the blog — the daily writing practice (or regular, at least!), the friendships, the support, the adventure of putting it out there and wondering if anyone will care. I’ve always found something at your site that touches me in one way or another, makes me think, or makes me smile. I’m so very glad you’re here (and eager to check out the sites you mentioned!)

    Jeanie,

    Thank you very much. You and the entire Write on Wednesday crew have been so helpful to me, in any number of ways – not just Becca’s prompts, but the interesting responses of others to them, and the comments offered here. There are so many decisions that need to be made along the way, and so many convictions that need clarifying. The community helps the process.

    I smiled myself when you mentioned “putting it out there and wondering if anyone will care.” One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to “write, and let go”, without worrying about the response. If it’s terrible, there’s not a thing you can do about it but go on to the next project. And, if it’s really good, it’s just as important to move on – maybe more so. The fear of not being able to measure up to something that was good can be more of a block than embarassment over failure. I’m a little stuck in the pleasure of this entry, but I’m eager to get my new post up – to begin moving on, up the mountain!

    Linda

  14. Congratulations on your wonderful success! I think this is only the beginning.

    Ella,

    It’s been a lovely experience, for sure. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way is that there’s a huge difference between “hits” and “readers”. I much prefer the latter ~ thanks for being one of mine!

    Linda


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