A Little Less Dazed, A Bit Less Confused

Remembrance of technologies past

While the advent of digital photography has changed the way we take photos, it’s changed the way we view them as well.

Today, we’re awash in photos, but not so very long ago their relative scarcity gave rise to traditions that already seem old-fashioned: carrying family photos in a wallet; creating physical photo albums; trading annual school photos with classmates.

Another tradition in my own family involved evenings spent sorting through boxes of unlabeled photos, trying to identify when or where they were taken, while wondering at those unfamiliar people smiling back at us from the past. Occasionally, even uncertainty took on a strange specificity, leading to comments like, “I think that might have been your dad’s best friend’s cousin, who came to stay every summer.” Just as often, no one had a clue about the person’s identity, and the photo was discarded.

Perhaps the strangest experience was failing to recognize myself in a photo. “Who’s this?” I’d ask, only to have the group laugh as someone said, “Why, that’s you. Don’t you remember when you visited our relatives in Albert Lea?” Only then did it begin to come back: the long afternoon, the leafy trees, the lemonade and cakes offered by a woman in an apron decorated with cross-stitched chickens.

In a sense, blog archives resemble those boxes of disorganized photos. After ten years of posting, it’s possible to encounter occasional surprises during a quick browse through my history. Some pieces have been forgotten. Others stir a sense of astonishment — I wrote that? A few revivify emotions felt during the writing process itself.

Re-reading the first post I published here, the feeling I remember is less astonishment than anxiety: particularly, the sort of anxiety I experienced while standing for the first time at the end of the high diving board at our local swimming pool. With a bevy of friends lined up behind me on the ladder, there was no going back.

Theoretically, of course, I could have turned back from blogging, since no one would have known had I decided to forego clicking that button marked “Publish.”  But I would have known, and so I jumped. I laugh now at the “end of the diving board interior monologue” tone of this first post. It amuses me as much as I’m amused by the title I chose: “Dazed and Confused.” Slightly edited for punctuation and grammar, it may evoke some memories for you.

With more years behind me than I care to remember, startled into cyber-sensitivity by a variety of encounters with this brave new world, I stand at the edge of the precipice: leaning; looking; listening for the voice that has lured me to this place.
What do I know of websites; blogs; html; CSS?  Not a thing. At least, I know so little that my friendly five-year-old neighbor could out-navigate me in any cyber-contest. 
When I think of hyperlinks, I hyperventilate.  When I hear the word tag, I think of a children’s game.  When a computer guru begins a sentence with the phrase “All you have to do is…” I’ve already done a mental turn and am running for my life.  They mean well, and so do I.  It’s just that intuitive isn’t a word I associate with computers or their programs.
But I have things to say — words to write, metaphors to build, conclusions to draw, paragraphs to stack, reorder, and rearrange to suit myself, and perhaps others.  Whether I like it or not, the day of depending solely on my No. 2 pencil or the old, clunky Underwood is over. If I am to share my words and my vision, technology must become my friend.
Of course, friendship takes time. Friendship isn’t an afternoon project or a weekend diversion: a passing inclination for those times when nothing else piques interest.  A commitment as well as a delight, friendship requires attentiveness and care, energy and perseverance.
I have far less time than I’d like, and my energy can ebb, but I know  perseverance. Perseverance is setting a goal, then making coffee at 2 a.m. to meet it. Perseverance is changing a title in order to attract more readers, then changing it back to what seems right. Perseverance is continuing to listen for the voice that lures to the edge of the precipice even when that voice falls silent. Perseverance is singing in the night while others sleep, believing that the song will be heard.
Knowing all this, the question no longer is, “Do you want to write?”  For good or for ill, read or unread, poorly scribed or passionately sung, I will write.  At the edge of the precipice, a bit dazed, a good bit confused, I’ve made my commitment.  Let the perseverance begin.

Of course, perseverance alone — even ten years’ worth of perseverance — isn’t enough. There needs to be a little inspiration to help the process along, and finding inspiration can be difficult. Those difficulties certainly were occupying the mind of a blogger named justjosie when he asked this question in the June, 2008 WordPress forums:

Is there any easy way to just find something in a normal day that you can make interesting and into a blog? This may be a stupid question but I just can’t figure out what the Good Blog formula is.

Less than three months had passed since I began publishing The Task at Hand, but I’d already begun developing a formula of my own. Some weeks after sharing it with Josie, I reduced it to this simple graphic.

Today, the formula seems to have stood the test of time. Beyond that, I discovered in the course of reading and re-reading John McPhee’s utterly delightful Draft No. 4 that his approach to writing felt remarkably familiar. Asked about the genesis of his well-known essay on oranges, McPhee said:

What you hope is that some subject will interest you and then you will have to deal with it on its own terms. I get involved with an idea, and then get a little more involved.
I went to Florida to do a very short piece on oranges. This intrigued me because the color of orange juice changes over the course of a winter. I wanted to find out what was going on. I went into an orange grove down there and found 190 Ph.D.’s studying oranges. There was a library nearby with 50,000 items on oranges. “Oranges” ended up about 60,000 words long.

Getting involved with an idea, and then getting a little more involved, certainly has been the story of these past ten years. Now, there are padlocks and bluesmen, rock walls and flounder that continue to intrigue. Whether they’ll deserve the 60,000 words John McPhee devoted to his oranges is unlikely, but it’s hard to say what another ten years will bring.

Comments always are welcome.


136 thoughts on “A Little Less Dazed, A Bit Less Confused

    1. Thanks, Dina. Like birthdays, anniversaries are good times to pause, and consider, before moving into the future. It seems I’m not quite ready to stop clicking that “publish” button.

  1. Yes, starting out in a new venture is often a bit scary. It makes us self conscious. But didn’t we write long letters to friends once, and share all that was going on around us? Not everyone, but many did, and there are some very interesting collections of correspondence that one could find in the library once. It seems to me that the technology very quickly fades into the background, and then we concern ourselves with the audience. Whom are we writing for, and if our audience is varied, how much should we explain so that everyone will know what we’re talking about.

    Another great problem, is how much time do we want to invest in each post. How much time will it take from my day, or my week? And the give and take between bloggers also demands time and energy. I notice you didn’t mention how much of your free time you devote to the blog. I suspect that it’s a lot. And I know you’re a working woman. Have you established guide lines? This is a very interesting subject for me, Linda. Thanks. And by the way, every time I see an old picture of a typewriter, my heart skips a beat.

    1. I often think about both issues that you raise, Shimon: audience, and time.

      When I began to consider beginning a blog, everyone seemed to agree that the first step should be defining my audience: deciding which readers I wanted to attract and focusing on things that would interest them. I chose a different approach — selecting topics according to my interests, and then trying to write about them in such a way that others might become interested. Making a conscious decision not to worry about numbers certainly has added to the pleasure and sense of freedom I’ve enjoyed. Whoever shows up is my audience, and I cherish every one of them because of what they contribute.

      As for guidelines, mine are simple. My goal is to post on a weekly basis, but I take the Paul Masson approach and publish no piece before its time. If a given piece is going to require hours more research, it gets set aside until I can do it justice, and I choose something else to publish.

      I feel about time the same way I feel about word count. Just as I make an effort to use only as many words as are necessary — no more, and no fewer — the amount of time a given post will require is indeterminate.

      I smiled at your use of the phrase “free time.” It’s a distinction I haven’t made in years, partly because of the nature of my work. When I can work, I work. When I can’t — usually because of rain, cold, or heat — I make an adjustment, and tend to my blog, or clean house, or meet a friend for lunch. Every day is a balancing act, with priorities sometimes shifting by the hour. Adding photography and a second blog to the mix has complicated things somewhat, but it’s working, and I’m enjoying it.

      Of course, all of these additions to my life have necessitated some subtractions. There are, after all, only twenty-four hours in a day. But as I like to say, each of us has all the time there is. The only question is how we choose to make use of it.

      1. What do I hear? A second blog? Now where is that. This may sound strange, but I am quite jealous of my time. About half way through my career, I discovered that I was getting a lot of offers that were very tempting… and I was working just about all the time. Though enjoying myself, I realized that my happiest moments was when I was just living… like the cat. I need much less sleep than most cats, but I do like letting my eyes relax, floating in sensory pleasures… that lazy sort of awareness. By my standards, meeting a friend is free time, whereas cleaning the house is an obligation that nibbles time… even if it’s relatively enjoyable.

        1. My second blog is essentially a photo blog. It’s called Lagniappe, a Cajun/South Louisiana term for “a little something extra.” There are links to both of my blogs at the top of the page, so you can switch back and forth easily. And there’s a thumbnail image for Laniappe in the right sidebar, so you can see if the photo has changed.

  2. Linda, it was a good day when I started following this blog. I look forward to your columns, it’s been an orange blossom special and not one lemon yet.
    You said that you had things to say, and share, and looks like you meant it, alright.
    As a kid, I heard a million times “Start as you mean to go on” and you dove in, and I’d say, things have gone swimmingly. I’ve never understood that expression to mean, that you’re locked into a straight line course of action. It may be, that you mean to declare a Wanderjahr and go wander, or explore, research, or dream for a bit, or I don’t know what – – do a planning barrel roll with a mental half gainer and see what happens.
    (I wonder if this is the actual expression by a Victorian preacher, Charles Spurgeon “Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began…”)
    Anyway, congratulations and cheers from a fan, Robbie.

    1. You’ve touched on the heart of this little endeavor, Rob: the urge to wander. There are opportunities galore for going from point A to point B; sometimes it’s the best way. But it’s not the only way, and I’ve laughed more than once at Tolkien’s great line: “Not all who wander are lost.”

      The great irony is that I once loved writing — so much so that I was designated senior class poet in high school — but well-meaning family members and others convinced me that majoring in English wasn’t practical, and eventually I stopped writing. When I finally remembered that first published poem in my high school year book, I had to call the school to get a copy of it. Once of these days, that story will need telling, too.

      As for Spurgeon’s words, they are his. I laughed when I found them in a search. Ironically, they’re in a piece by Spurgeon titled “The Fear of Final Falling,” and the very first line of his essay is, “A dark fear haunts the minds of many who are coming to Christ; they are afraid they will not persevere to the end.” Obviously, the context is quite different, but it did tickle me to see perseverance popping up again — just like it always tickles me to see you pop up, one way or another.

  3. Is it really ten years?
    The last decade has flown by. It is nearly eleven years since I retired from teaching, and in that time I have grown my Flickr group on the Birds and Wildlife of the UK to nearly 11,000 members; researched and written a 30,000 word ‘Family Story’, to include the family tree, but still haven’t completed my own book that I began in 2005!
    It is nearly there – I just need some of your ‘perseverance’.

    Happy Anniversary!

    1. Of course, I got that initial nudge toward perseverance from you. Remember this? It’s still framed, and sitting where I can see it. I had to laugh — one of the copies of the image I have in my files still has the .mil designation we had to use to make photos visible for Ylee.

      Now that summer’s coming on full-force, I may finally settle down and give some attention to those back-burner projects of my own. It’s been such a delightful, long spring I’ve hardly been able to keep myself indoors, but this past week has been enough to make a little inside work seem tempting. It would be wonderful if you’re able to finish your book this year. Of course, it just occurred to me that we’re nearly into June, and before we blink, another year’s going to be gone.

      Is SmugMug’s purchase of Flickr going to bring any significant changes to the Flickr structure, or your Bird group? I certainly hope not. They’d be foolish to mess with a good thing, but as we learned from WU, the temptation to mess can be strong.

      1. Wow, you still have the original copy. I think I lost mine, but have the words in a folder.
        As far as I can make out, Flickr and SmugMug should run as separate entities. The help forum is full of doomsayers, but I guess it can’t be any worse than Yahoo/Oath!
        It will be a case of “wait and see”.

    1. Thank you! I received a wonderful gift this morning — the peanuts I’ve been putting out for the bluejays and cardinals have attracted a red-headed woodpecker. He looks a little funny, feeding from the ground, but I haven’t noticed that it’s slowed him down any.

        1. A while back, I thought I’d seen a woodpecker on one of our palm trees, but thought, “Oh, surely not.” Now, I think that’s exactly what I saw — rather an unexpected treat.

  4. Millions have leaped from that board into the cyber pool. Not all of them keep swimming, and few to as good effect. I wouldn’t mind sitting again in the basement bullpen and hearing the sound of the Selectrics clacking away in the cubes from Steve, Rog, Peggy, Maureen and Dick (2-fingered, in his case) during my first, pre-computer gig, but I’m glad the connected world lets me read The Task at Hand. Keep swimming.

    1. Ah, the memories. I’d forgotten the 1960s secretarial pool practice of taking Selectric typeballs home at night to prevent switching. There was nothing worse than coming to work and finding that your fancy script ball had been replaced with a standard Courier 72 — unless, of course, someone had swiped your whiteout, too.

      As for that leap into the pool — if we’re lucky, or brave, or discover it suits us, it can be more than a one-time thing. After my first experience, I ended up going off that springboard time after time. Eventually, I even used it as it was meant to be used, rather than as a platform, and found it exhilarating.

  5. 10 is a fine number. You’ve reached a milestone. Choosing what to write about is very hard if you have to write on a schedule. I prefer to write on things that are interesting as they come up. That can be in spurts or many days can go by.

    I’m glad you are still blogging. Your place is always a worthwhile stop.

    1. I certainly don’t have to write on a schedule, but I rather enjoy it. Writing under the pressure of any deadline isn’t easy, but being able to do so is a valuable skill. Who knows? Someday I may move so far into the sticks I’ll find a place that still has a weekly newspaper, and be able to use my blog to promote myself as their weekly columnist. It’s not very likely, but it’s fun to think about.

      In the meantime, the blogging community as a whole is a great pleasure. I especially enjoy sites like yours, where I can expand my own horizons a little.

      1. Coming up with daily lesson plans in school required that you write for an audience on a schedule. I’m glad I can now teach without it being on a tight schedule. I’m glad people like you come to class and are interested. :-)

  6. I’m happy you took that first plunge into blogging, Linda, and made it through ten years already, as it’s been a delight befriending you. Enjoyed hearing about John McPhee’s writing on oranges, as it is very much like the art of posting on a blog, the publishing pushes us to dig a little deeper into subjects. Happy Anniversary!

    1. Many thanks, Jet. Like you, I take great pleasure in the research that accompanies many of my posts. Some people claim we should write about what we know, but I’ve always found that writing about what I don’t know results in the joy of discovery as well as increased knowledge.

      Here’s to many more years of discovery for us all!

  7. I am grateful I came upon your blog at least 8-9 years ago. Mom was still alive and I was writing Taking Care of Mom.

    Your writing, your curious mind, and your sensitivity toward others has delighted me ever since.

    I am looking forward to writing again about things that intrigue me, rather than the dreary business I am presently engaged in.


    1. It seems like that time of mothering our mothers was decades ago, not years. On the other hand, when I mentioned to someone recently that it’s been almost seven years since Mom died, I hardly could believe it.

      We certainly have shared some memorable experiences over the years. One of my favorite memories is of the sailing trip you took with your leg and foot in less than stellar condition. I knew then you were a woman after my own heart.

      I was browsing through some of your posts from that time and discovered something else — a mention of ZumMist in one of “those” post-surgical posts. I didn’t know about Zum at the time, and read right past it. Now, thanks to a friend, I’ve been introduced.

      On a lark, I decided to take a look and see if there happened to be a saint in charge of — well, you know. What I found amused me, and I suspect it may amuse you, too. It took me a minute to realize that it’s satirical, but a little satire never hurt anyone. Sometimes, it even helps to drive away the drearies.

    1. That’s more than kind, John. I appreciate your linking to the post on Twitter, too. I’ve just gone through the process of cleaning up my Twitter account: deleting all of my tweets and retweets, and culling those I follow. I don’t intend to leave the service, since some of the best weather information around is easy to find there, but for the time being I’m just going to post new blog entries and let that be it for a while.

      I’m so glad that we finally connected. It’s always nice to have a fellow Texan around!

    1. I like your suggestions, Tom. I’d hope that, depending on the topic, my blogs could nudge readers toward that kind of questioning, and that kind of empathy. Of course, my little list has more to do with the process of writing than anything else. But it’s that first “noticing” that determines the topic, and its development is what can lead to questioning and emotional engagement.

      One of the best things about the process is that even I don’t always know where it will lead. Sometimes, I end up in a completely unexpected place.

  8. Congratulations dear Linda, This is beautiful, never bored reading and visiting your blog, always hits me… By the way I remembered my typewriter and days… Thank you, Love, nia

    1. When I think about those old typewriters, one of the things I most remember is the sound they made. I liked it; the silent keyboards we use today aren’t nearly so satisfying. Thank you for reminding me, and thank you for your good wishes. That you can come here and read without being bored is a great compliment!

  9. I kept my typewriter for the longest time! Something permanent about making a hard copy of a story.
    You recipe for each post is a very good, tried-and-true plan for everyone! We have far too many out there talking thru their … a*s.

    1. It’s interesting to think back to those typewriter days and remember all the things that came along with them: carbon paper, onion skin, whiteout, and those funny erasers that could put a hole right through the paper if you weren’t careful. As I recall, changing the ribbon could be a bit messy, too. You’re right about the pleasure of a hard copy, too. Printing out a document that’s been done on the computer just isn’t the same.

      I suppose everyone has their own way of doing things. I certainly wouldn’t claim that my way’s the only way, but it’s worked for me to this point. I’ve also come to the conclusion that, for any larger project, there would need to be some adjustments made — but the basics still hold: especially the need for thought.

        1. I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve accidentally posted on various sites because I hit “enter” when I meant only to create a new paragraph.

  10. John McPhee

    Only John McPhee could write a book titled The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed so well that you want to read it twice.

    For those who appreciate humor, you might want to wedge an addition item between Writing a Good Blog Point 1 and 2.

    2.5 Find something to laugh about.

    1. But the humor’s already there: at least, implicitly. Remember my post about those twenty naked Pentecostals in the Pontiac? When I noticed those folks, a piece of humorous writing developed.

      The nice thing about my little set of personal guidelines is that they can apply to any sort of topic. They’re all about structure and process, and the decision-making that comes at the beginning of any writing project. Deciding whether I want to amuse, inform, or inspire (or all three, or none of the above) is part of the freedom any writer has. It makes sense to me that you’d add guideline 2.5 to your list, since your blog is devoted to humor, but it feels to me as though it would limit my options.

  11. Congratulations on ten years! I don’t remember how long ago I found your blog, but I am glad that I did. Your formula seemed to have worked. One can tell that you have carefully researched whatever you are writing about. This post should inspire us all!

    1. Of course, the new joke is that the world’s full of people wasting time link-hopping on the internet while claiming to do “research.” Still, there’s a direct line between a curious kid with a set of encyclopedia and an old lady with a search engine, and there’s a real sense in which this blog is my excuse to go exploring in places I’d never otherwise see. Given the number of drafts in my files, there’s a lot of exploring yet to be done — I’m happy you’re traveling with me.

    1. Sometimes I think my editor self could stand to be a little more severe, but my writer self has found perseverance to be more a matter of steadfastness and constancy. There have been moments, of course, like the two hours I spent recently trying to figure out whether who or whom was the right word, but generally this on-going little project has been enjoyable.

        1. What a great article. I had to smile to see both decimate and unique make an appearance, as well as less and fewer. Every time I visit my local HEB, I smile at their express lanes, which now have signs that say, “Fifteen items or fewer.”

          1. After three years of Latin in high school and many more of etymology and math since then, I just can’t use decimate to mean ‘destroy’ and unique to mean ‘special.’ When it comes to less, however, I grew up in New York saying things like “less books” and “less cars,” so “15 items or less” sounds normal to me. What I don’t find normal is a checker who lets a shopper come through an express lane with 30 items. The checker isn’t allowed to say anything, but I’ve been known to say something to a person in front of me with way too many items.

  12. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your look back over the past ten years of blogging. I wish I had been following you since the beginning. Your blogging formula is good advice but you make it look easier than most of us know it really is. You’ve got a writer’s heart and soul.

    1. Truth to tell, there were plenty of posts during the first two or three years that I wouldn’t publish today, but that’s all part of developing as a writer. I went back once and tried to analyze why certain posts just didn’t seem to click, and found that many of them were pieces where I was trying to utilize tips offered by others: especially the so-called blogging “experts.”

      Presumptuous as it may seem, I’ve had a pretty clear sense from the beginning of how I wanted to do things; developing the skills to actually do them is something else entirely. Being able to read our own work with a critical eye isn’t easy, but it’s necessary, especially for those of us who aren’t in a position to have a trustworthy editor. Editing for typos is one thing; editing content is quite another. Even knowing which common spelling errors I make, I still miss them. I no doubt miss my own incoherence from time to time, as well. That’s harder to spot.

  13. Congratulations indeed Linda. As I see it, you’re an explorer and you share your journeys so delightfully with us. Thank you.
    I’ve never been at a loss for a topic, just hampered by situation at times. I’ll get there again of course. Taking your inspiration with me.

    1. I suspect that future posts are stacking up in your mind, if not in your files. I’ve always found it hard to travel and write at the same time. A little distance, particularly in time, is necessary for the sorting process to take place. Not every event is equal in significance, nor every place in beauty.

      Of course, there are the practicalities to consider, too, like a lack of internet connection or the realities of life on the road. No matter. There’s a time to travel, and a time to write, and when you find the time and inclination to write or share some photos, it’s always delightful.

  14. My, my, my…. time flies, doesn’t it?

    It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years. It seems like yesterday that I started talking to you and hearing about your Mom and Miss Dixie.

    Well, cheers to you. You’ve always had something interesting to tell us and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!

    1. What’s even more unbelievable is that two months have passed since Dixie died. If someone had asked, I might have said it’s been a month. Funny, how time can compress or expand, depending on our age, the events taking place, and so on. I still remember those endless summers of childhood. Now, three months passes in a flash. I don’t understand Einstein’s math, but he certainly described the reality well.

      Summer here on the Gulf coast is remarkably like winter in northern climes: reasonable people head indoors, or to Colorado, and many don’t appear again until October. I’m not so determined to avoid the heat, and can’t at any rate, but it is our season for indoor activity. I’ll see what I can find to interest and intrigue as the summer wears on.

  15. congratulations on 10 years’ worth of excellent blog posts.
    It impresses me most that even your very first post showed no hesitancy, no delicate dipping of toes into this unknown world we share; no, not you. Even the first post is sure-footed, erudite, clearly and beautifully written. And your list isn’t bad either.

    One of these days I am going to get back into regular and maybe even interesting blogging myself. That I can ever achieve the Everest of blogging of your way is doubtful.

    1. Friko, it’s lovely beyond all telling to have you stop by; I appreciate your kind words so much. I smiled when you mentioned a lack of hesitancy. My mother sometimes described my tendencies in that direction as wrong-headed impulsivity. I was willing to grant the impulsivity but, like beauty, wrong-headedness is in the eye of the beholder.

      For all of the reasons we know, your blogging may have become intermittent, but it’s never been uninteresting. I’ve never forgotten the tagline on the blog of a Danish woman I greatly admired. It said, “If I don’t have anything to say, I won’t say it.” She saved me from a good bit of blathering. I suspect when you have something to say, you’ll say it, and your readers will take pleasure in it.

    1. Well, your keyboard isn’t entirely quiet. I’m still trying to figure out the breed of that cow! And you took the time to stop by, which I appreciate. One of these days I’ll get up there during the apple harvest, and we can share some words in real time.

      1. That would be very very cool! (coming to visit over apple harvest) Actually after reading your latest post, it lit a little fire under my butt to sit down and write….

    1. Thanks, Terry. From sailing to starting a business to blogging to photography, I’ve pretty much lived by “taking the plunge.” Who knows what will come next? I certainly don’t!

  16. I struggle more with time constraints (researching, writing, editing, adding rich content) than content for a blog post. It’s a formula of too much to write about with no time left over with which to write.

    You are a very gifted writer. From the beginning, no less.

    Congratulations to your ten years blogging, Linda. I agree with Jean R. — you make it look so easy!!

    1. I suspect your time constraints are even greater than mine. You have your family, after all, and all of your involvement with the schools. I’m sure there are other commitments that take up significant chunks of time. I experienced some of that during the five years that I was caring for my mother; it does make a difference.

      Over the years, I’ve enjoyed drawing parallels between my varnishing work and writing. One of my favorites is the “making it look easy” phenomenon. Especially when I’m putting on the last coats, people will come along and comment on how easy it looks, and I just smile. No one ever says that during the stripping and sanding processes! There’s some stripping and sanding that goes on with writing, too — but it’s an important part of the process, even if it takes some effort.

      On an entirely different subject, I have to show you this photo of a black-necked stilt chick I took out at the Brazoria refuge last weekend. They’ve drained some of the major ponds, and a male, female, and three chicks were running around these mud flats. I was worried about this one, but it soon got up and joined the rest of the family, trucking off to some green weeds in the middle of the mud. I talked to some birders who said I could ease my mind — that the chicks are more than capable of traveling pretty good distances from the beginning, and these no doubt would do fine. I’ll say this — the camouflage was terrific!

    1. I appreciate that, Lavinia. Of course, I’ve always said that part of what makes this so much fun is the quality of my readers. The conversation, the back-and-forth in the comment sections, is so delightful, and I’m always learning something new. Even more, I appreciate your planting a little remembrance for Dixie Rose. I’ll look forward to seeing that in the future.

  17. Your writing is excellent and certainly flows well, as one sentence leads naturally to another.

    Personally, I like a writing blog that has small paragraphs of no more than, say, 3 sentences and has a space between each paragraph. For people like me with poor eyesight and reading comprehension (these days), a long paragraph immediately switches me off and my eyes glaze over and the words swim around the page/screen. This Brain Fog is part of one of my health conditions, not because I’m getting old(er).

    I was a speed reader from a very young age to 2010, when I had to finally switch back to very thick glasses (after 40 years of contact lenses), due to a dry-eye condition. Now I really struggle to read, but can type and write long posts myself. Then I fall down in a heap when I’ve got to proofread my own work. I can’t re-read my own writing/typing very well at all and on re-reading the posts the next day find even more errors. LOL

    The ‘experts’ say you shouldn’t write more than 800 words in a post, as, after that, readers start to lose interest. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but certainly the flow of words and appearance of the whole post influences my enjoyment of the writer’s work.

    Even if I wasn’t an amateur photographer, I find photos break up a long post and give my brain a rest.

    1. Your comments about the arrangement of words on the page and the inclusion of images are part of what’s called visual rhetoric. Here’s a really nice short video from Purdue University that explains some of it. Once you get past the hamburger ad, there’s a segment on a note to a noisy neighbor that’s really fun.

      I was lucky enough to bump into the term and learn something about it fairly early on. I noticed that blogs with enormous blocks of text didn’t feel nearly as accessible as those that were arranged differently, and there were times when even very long essays seemed easier to read that much shorter ones. I started making adjustments, and finally moved to the theme I have now, which is much more open and easy to deal with.

      When I began blogging, the experts claimed that 300 words was the upper limit. I chose to ignore that, and I’ve often gone well beyond the 800 word mark. Of course, anyone who’s going to go past a thousand words is going to have to make darned sure that all those words are necessary, interesting, and well put together. That’s important for everyone, even those with perfect eyesight.

  18. Your personal writing formula certainly works, (and I like the coffee ring!)–this reader is always eager for your stories and observations.

    1. I like that coffee ring, too — almost as much as I like the old-fashioned notebook paper. There’s nothing complicated about coffee, or paper and pencil, and there’s not really anything complicated about writing. I’ve always loved this, from Annie Dillard: “It is no less difficult to write a sentence in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So, you might as well write Moby Dick.”

  19. Linda, dear lady, you are a breath of early spring after a rain, each time you write a new piece. I enjoyed reading this post very much. Your perspective on or about writing intrigues me. It is too bad your family discouraged your writing but honestly your lack of an English major has had no ill effect on your spotless writing style. I love how you write and as one commenter wrote, you are doing swimmingly well. So keep on entertaining your fans.

    I am sorry to have missed some of your posts of late but life got in the way. Congratulations on your tenth year of blogging.

    1. Yvonne, you are too sweet. I have had a good bit of fun with this endeavor, and I feel like I’m ready to re-engage. Figuring out how to add photography to my activities has been a little difficult, but I can feel a better rhythm beginning to develop, which will let me get on with some of the “larger” writing projects I have in mind.

      As for that English major, I could argue pretty convincingly that going in other directions probably served me better. It’s entirely possible that, had I gone the English major route, I would have missed hospital work, Liberia, sailing, and entrepreneurship. Thoreau once said, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” I certainly have some interesting years behind me, and there’s still time to do a little more writing about them.

  20. Well done, Linda.
    Writing down your words in a blog gives us a reward which I am sure is reciprocal. We click on our links and when I see your latest post, I know I will be in for a wonderful read.

    My writing is a must which releases the anxiety that seems to build up when I forego putting down the words. The subject often is irrelevant and meanders off as if it has will of its own.

    1. Isn’t it funny how that meandering happens, Gerard? More times than I can count, I’ve started off in one direction with a post, only to have it seem to transform itself into something entirely other. I’ve read fiction writers talk about the same phenomenon. Now and then, a character will seem to take on a life of its own, and begin behaving in ways the writer never would have envisioned. It’s great fun, really.

      I think you’re right about the urge to communicate, too. Think about children, telling stories to their dolls, or little friends, or imaginary companions. It starts early!

  21. Linda, congratulations on blogging for 10 years — that’s quite a testament to your perseverance and the blogging formula you’ve developed. It works for you!! Personally, I’m delighted that somehow during that decade, I managed to find you and become online friends. I can’t say I’ve read even one of your posts that wasn’t well-written and interesting!

    While some have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this new world of technology, can you even imagine NOT participating? How grand it feels to hit that Publish button, to know that people all over the world can now read our thoughts (and respond to them)? The writer’s burden, of course, still holds — to “hatch” a piece as long as necessary so it says just what the writer wants it to say, in the manner the writer wants it to be presented.

    1. In fact, I can imagine not participating in certain areas of technology. I still haven’t made the move to a smart phone, for a variety of reasons. Because of that, I’m not a texter, either; it’s just too cumbersome with the phone that I have. But I can text if I have to, and I can send and receive calls; to my poor little mind, that’s what a phone is for.

      On the other hand, I do love my computer, and my iPad, and my digital camera. It is great fun to be able to connect with people all around the world, especially since I remember the days when communicating with my family from Liberia involved Ham radio operators and phone patches. Life certainly is easier, these days.

      In a way, it’s like developing that writing formula. Each of us has to find the way that works for us. I spent some time thinking about how I would revise the formula I developed so many years ago, and honestly, it still seems just right. It could work for a novel or an advertising campaign, a poem or an essay. It’s those caveats — “not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily in equal amounts” — that make it so flexible. I guess I’ll stick with it for the time being!

      1. I think you’ve hit on a winning formula! Yes, the caveats lend a flexibility and are particularly appealing to those of us who might feel constrained by a set of “rules”!!

  22. Well, Linda, it’s been delightful to read this post – and timeous, since my ten-year anniversary is on 19th May, tomorrow, and I’ve been wondering what to do to commemorate it. I had been thinking of writing something round that very first blog post. Thanks for the encouragement, and for your ever-fresh, wonderful writing. Anne

    1. I see your post is up, Anne; I’m anxious to read it. It’s been such a pleasure to follow you: not only for the quality of your writing, but for the experience of being introduced to a world-view quite different from the one I grew up with and still (mostly) live by. Finding the commonalities has been the greatest pleasure. I suppose that might be one of the great, unsung virtues of blogging. It does allow people with quite different views to interact, and begin to appreciate one another — if they’re so inclined, of course. As we both know, not everyone is so inclined.

      Now, I’m off to read your anniversary post. Congratulations to you, too! It’s fun to be traveling in time-synch with you!

      1. Thanks, Linda! I run a Facebook Page as companion to the blog now and post my blog posts there too – that’s where most of the action is these days. It’s easier to click a Like etc, or leave a quick comment there, than to bother going onto the blog. O Tempora, O Mores! Enjoy your celebrations: last night I had a glass of red wine with one friend, whilst breaking the Ramadan fast at the same table with another friend – with some delicious chicken soup…we live in interesting times, indeed!

  23. Congratulations on not only maintaining your blog all this time, but on keeping your content fresh and interesting. I am boring myself to death these days after finding the first few years so stimulating and exciting. I think it’s been partly the series of upheavals in daily life, but I hope to give the old writing brain a good strong poke someday soon and see what might burble out.

    1. Life events can make a huge difference; there’s no question about that. And it isn’t only things like the loss of a pet, or a parent or friend, that can lead to the kind of emotional deadening that makes writing difficult. One of the hardest periods for me was the extreme drought that set in during 2011. There came a point where it seemed as though no one could do a thing but stare at the sky and wonder when the rain was going to come. It was a slow-motion disaster, and harder to deal with in some ways than a hurricane.

      I like your use of “burble.” Most people think inspiration comes from outside, and either falls like rain or doesn’t. I like to think of it as a spring. Clean out the leaves and muck, and it runs free and clear again.

  24. 10 years! And you have remained true to your mission, which is more than I can say for less blog time. I am glad indeed that you have persevered. Congratulations, and here’s to 10 more years of fine writing.

    1. At this point, ten more years of anything sounds pretty good, but I do hope to stir more writing into the mix. Like everyone, I toy with thoughts of new projects, and then don’t follow up, but I don’t worry about it particularly. Unlike one of my readers, who’s setting off on a thousand mile hike through the mountains — at age 75 — I’m not inclined toward the grand gesture. But there’s still time for a little fun.

  25. So glad you jumped, and that you continue to write so well, from the first post to this one.
    I should take your cue and leap into another blog that I’ve thought about, but haven’t started.

    1. Thanks for those kind words, Tom. I must say, I thought long and hard about starting a second blog, but I finally decided to give it a try, and I’m glad I did. I enjoy learning, and I enjoy sharing, and blogs are a good way to do both of those things. Even though there’s a bit of an overlap between writing and photography in both blogs, having a separate spot for each has been good.

    1. And I’m pleased to have you here! It tickled me that you used cultivation as an image. I keep saying I’m not a gardener, and that I don’t have a garden, but you’ve just reminded me that one of my very first books was A Child’s Garden Of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Those poems bring my childhood back in a flash; if my words here can have even a hundredth of the same effect, I’ll be pleased!

  26. Boy, do I resonate with this. After 30 or so years writing for a local newspaper, it’s amazing, still, to me that there is plenty to pause about, look about, think about and, lastly, comment about. Your writing has always been delightful reading, and that’s a reason I follow.

    1. Have you ever heard of Leon Hale? He was a columnist for the Houston Post and then the Chronicle, and he wrote daily essays for around sixty years or so. Here are some photos of him and his working spaces up in Winedale. He was a cross between Donald Kaul and Garrison Keillor, only not so political as Kaul and not so snarky as Keillor in his latter years. He wrote homespun, but smart homespun.

      One day, a few years back, he temporarily ran out of ideas, and posted this. If it could happen to Leon, it could happen to us, too — but so far, so good.

    1. And isn’t it true that the simplest formulae often are the best? They certainly can lead to some of the most enjoyable results. Many years after coming up with my own little formula, I found another offered by the poet Mary Oliver: one that seems equally right:

      Instructions for living a life.

      Pay attention.
      Be astonished.
      Tell about it.

  27. I love this, Linda. Again, a full circle. Your formula is really the most elegant — simple and yet spot on. Sometimes you fall into parts of it. I am reminded how a couple years ago I was going to put together in narrative form a compilation of my family history. Mostly names and dates to share with the relatives who will be left behind when I go. Then I started learning where they came from, what they believed. And I didn’t know much about that, so I started to research — what was it like to be a Mennonite in 1500s Europe? What did Mennonites believe? And as we moved more to the present — what did it take to farm in the 1800s? Equipment, time, supplies… What about working in the newly mechanized confectionary industry during that period? What was it like to be a passenger “between decks” in the 1700s and 1800s? What was life like in an insane asylum in 1900?

    My short little project is no longer a narrative. It is a book. And it came to be by using that formula you so simply developed. I just didn’t know I was doing it.

    Another part of this post that resonated was the photos. I’ve been scanning hundreds of them and hundreds more are in a pile called “I don’t know what to do with these.” There is no one to tell me who they are. (I have a feeling I KNOW what I should do with them but I’m not ready to toss them yet!) The photos tell of times and places we have only read about. Imagining the starchiness of the dress-up pinafore, the sounds that metal cycle made, the stillness of a lake without jet skis and powerboats. It continually reminds me to label things or identify digitally. I laughed when you didn’t recognize yourself. That has happened to me, too.

    What I find best about this post is that where you were ten years ago and where you are now is both poles apart and remarkably the same. You have honed your methods and as you know, writing more makes us better writers. But you have stayed true to who you are, what you started to be. And I love that more than I can say.

    1. You’ve just proved what I came to suspect over the years, Jeanie: that the “formula” is scalable. And it is flexible. For example, sometimes no research at all is required, as with a poem. With an etheree, there’s often a great deal of thought, but very little writing and re-writing. And sometimes I’ll spend hours and hours doing research for a post with a more historical bent. The only thing that’s constant is the piling up of topics. Now and then I’ll find one in my draft files and have not the slightest idea why its there. Sometimes I try to make something of an idea, nothing comes of it, and I toss it, but most of the time it’s only a matter of choosing one that interests me and getting to work.

      Due to circumstances beyond my control — they were updating the fire suppression system in our apartments last week — I had to empty every closet in this place. (Yes, there are sprinkler heads in the closets.) That meant getting out the bin of photos again, and now it’s sitting on the dining table, awaiting another cull. It’s also reminding me that there are some I want to digitize for purposes of a post or two.

      Your last comment pleased me no end. I’ve always wanted my postings to be true, in the sense of being an expression of who I am, and you’ve suggested I’ve had at least some success in that regard. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

      1. True indeed. No doubt about that.

        Ah, photos. I think I should open a professional scanning business, I do so much of it! And yes, sometimes it is forced upon us! I am trying to send photos on to those who might want them when I get them done but oh, the piles! Last week I gained back 29 gb on my hard drive deleting photos that just weren’t good or duplicates or dumb or taken of, say, a book cover, for a blog post. And that was just the first 10 months of 2017. Feels so good when you stop…

  28. This is a great posting and it was a pleasure to read your first. You certainly do have a lot to say. It’s all well thought out and researched. Wish I had a lot to say too. Pictures can say much and, in my case, I am better off with it that way. Not sure they all express something in a thousand words but there is something there.
    The print is considered to be the final step in a photograph’s existence although it is often tweaked over the years. Ansel Adams constantly worked at reprocessing his images…especially the more well-known of them. Anyway, you’ll be glad to know that, with all the digital online sharing that goes on, many serious photographers print their images so not all is bits to the future.

    1. Now, that made me laugh: “bits to the future,” indeed. I do think you’re right that pictures can say as much or more as any word-piece, particularly when someone like you gets down to the business of capturing a part of the world.

      I had a first experience last year of having some of my photos printed;they were used in a Native Plant Society exhibit. It was interesting to see them that way, rather than on a screen. Even though they weren’t high quality prints and certainly weren’t all that artistic, they still seemed to have a little extra “something” once printed. I confess it made me think seriously for the first time about the difference between posting online and the printed page. I’m still thinking about that, so we’ll see where it goes.

      I didn’t know about Adams reprocessing his images. That’s interesting. I tend to think of that as something that belongs to the digital age — clearly a false assumption on my part.

  29. There is such an evolution to writing… as it should be. I love what I learn here, Linda. And I enjoy just as much, the comments from like-minded people. Your prose takes me to places I never considered, and many times didn’t even know about. It’s always a delight to read something you’ve written. Many times I’m pondering your words long into the day while I work outdoors.

    1. Lori, my prose often takes me to places I’ve never considered or known about. Both my writing and my photography are ways of exploring the world: what I see, what I believe, what I cherish. It’s been interesting to see my interests change over the past decades, and to watch some skills develop. Even in my work, the process of growth still is taking place. I recently adopted a new technique that’s improved my results, and I’m delighted for it. Growth — that evolution you mentioned — doesn’t have to end at some predetermined point.

      Both of us have a gift that nurtures thought: plenty of outdoor time, physical work, and solitude that nurtures thought. I think it suits both of us!

  30. First of all, I am very fond of John McPhee. His essay on oranges is priceless. I was fortunate to discover your blog over 7 years ago and never looked back. I well remember my first blog. I was sure no one would read it and why should they? Cheri suggested it, and helped get me started. When I look at the reams of typewritten thought, I’m grateful for the computer now. We have come a long way.

    1. One of the best things about McPhee is that he’s as willing to talk about his writing process as he is about his subjects. And he must be quite a teacher. I’ve read several articles written by some of his former students, and it’s clear they’d rather be criticized by McPhee than praised by anyone else.

      Apart from everything else, it is amazing to contemplate how the technology has changed in the past couple of decades.During this year’s pre-hurricane season sorting, I finally got rid of my old Gateway laptop. That thing not only ran Vista, and had terrible screen resolution, it must have weighed twenty pounds — it was good to bid it adieu.

      Luckily, we don’t have to bid one another adieu just yet — there’s a good bit more fun to be had!

  31. Your formula certainly works. And you have been able to keep at it for ten years. That is nothing less than amazing. Isn’t it so that if we want to touch others it needs to come from our own heart? Whether it’s writing or photography or any other expression.

    1. There’s no question that personal investment in any creative endeavor is crucial. Setting aside time or developing skills is fine, but being willing to engage with others and expose ourselves is equally necessary. Reading the reports from your workshops, it’s clear that it’s not all shutter speed and aperture; it’s really a matter of helping people to find their own “heart” in the midst of it all. All of us need little pushes in that direction, I think.

  32. Happy blog anniversary, Linda. I’m always astonished that anyone can keep a blog going for more than three or four years but ten is astonishing. Your first post was very polished and it makes me wonder if you were a writer before you first blogged?

    1. I did quite a bit of writing in graduate school, and then in my careers before I took up varnishing. But it was a different sort of writing, and certainly more constrained by the demands of academia and my professions.

      Part of the enjoyment of blogging has been the ability to write about whatever piques my interest, and to move from one topic to another as I please. I suppose the advantage for my readers is that there’s a little something for everyone: a bit of poetry, some nature posts, occasional history. I certainly have learned a lot about things I didn’t even know existed before I began this little endeavor!

  33. Happy blogging anniversary Linda. The formula you shared is very practical.

    I myself became disenchanted with blogging quite some time ago, due to my images being used by others without my permission in other websites. Perhaps it’s my fault, but perhaps it’s better not to have high expectations, since there are image snatchers all across the web who will grab any image they can get their hands on. For this reason, my blog is not even ‘searchable’ in the web (a setting you can choose to dissuade search engines).

    1. I think that’s a good word for it, Maria: practical. It contains the basics, but is flexible enough to allow for the sudden twists and turns that come when writing about anything. I still make use of the more formal outlines we were taught in school — at least, in their broad outlines — but this little formula feels more congenial.

      I know many people have struggled with the theft that’s rampant online. I’ve been through it with my posts. Sometimes I’ve pursued the perpetrators; sometimes I let it slide. Especially a decade ago, there were a lot of people who simply didn’t understand that things on the internet weren’t free for the taking, and if someone apologized and removed what they’d taken from my site, that was fine. Today, everyone ought to know the rules — but of course understanding doesn’t deter everyone.

  34. Just so. I have 10 years also. I think I was more interesting in the first half. too many posts later just recounting my days but I wanted to keep on a regular schedule or else it would go by the wayside if too many days passed. but even a daily accounting is enjoyable for some. I know I enjoy those types of posts in the blogs I read. well, I’m just back from 3 weeks in Portugal so have plenty to think and write about for a bit.

    1. Welcome home! I was thrilled for you when I heard about your travel opportunity, and I’m looking forward to reading about it all. After what you went through with Harvey, you certainly deserved a time away, some relaxation, and a few of life’s pleasures.

      Like you, I enjoy a mix of posts: both the writing and the reading of them. I suppose it’s natural that we get caught up in the highs or lows when they come along, but most of life is in-between — ordinary — and the ordinary has great value, too. Sometimes I think of the extraordinary times as the beads on a necklace — but the ordinary times are the string.

  35. The discussion of inspiration for blog topics resonated with me, not only with respect to the blog but with respect to homilies and columns I write. And awareness, which you pointed out as an important factor, is most important to me. I carry a little notebook around with me all the time, and I frequently use it to preserve my memory of experience that, for all their mundane qualities, seem likely to sprout into something larger some day, somewhere.

    Recently, I stopped at McDonald’s on my way to work, and while I was still in my car, a man came out of the restaurant with a cup of coffee in his hand. With half of my brain I was listening to the end of a story on NPR; with the other half, I was sizing up this seemingly undernourished, under-scrubbed fellow and imagining him as the central figure in a rural murder case. Meanwhile, he put the coffee cup in his van and, before getting in himself and driving away, walked around the parking lot in his vicinity, picking up cups and wrappers that previous customers had carelessly discarded. He tossed them into the trash receptacle as I thought to myself, “You never learn, do you?” Some day, somewhere.

    1. I’ve been traveling, which means I’ve fallen behind in all things bloggy, including reading and commenting. But I must say, finding your comment — both its presence and its content — was a great joy. I still remember with amusement the experience of being the one “sized up” when I moved from the pulpit to the boatyard and spent most of my days covered in sanding dust and sweat. More than one person stopped in their tracks and started asking questions when they discovered I spoke in complete and grammatically correct sentences. I was equally surprised when I discovered a marina maintenance man had been a professor of mathematics at a northeastern university. Truly, we never know.

      What you say about snippets of thought and experience sprouting into something larger someday rings true. I still have things in my draft files that deserve a fuller treatment, but how that will happen is largely mysterious. I like the image of the kaleidoscope as a way of describing the process. Like bits of colored glass, bits of experience fall into new and interesting patterns when given a twist, and there’s no predicting what will emerge.

  36. It’s obvious that you enjoy what you write about, that is certainly contagious. Happy blogging, long may you continue, always such a pleasure to drop by here!xxx

    1. One reason I’ve been a little resistant to the idea of “writing a book” is that I have what I call attention surplus disorder. So many things seem interesting, and stir my curiosity, that the thought of devoting so much time to one thing doesn’t appeal. Certainly it gives others great pleasure: that much is clear. But I do enjoy my writing here, and I’m never bored or feel a sense of obligation. I suppose that’s why I’ve held on for ten years!

  37. I enjoy your posts and the feedback you have provided me in the past. I stopped posting poetry a while back so I can enter my work in contests and anthologies many of which disqualify if previously published online. I’m currently working to get my book length poetry manuscript of Priest Lake poems published. In the meantime I’ve started post short pieces on retirement and hope to do so regularly.

    1. Good luck to you. I’ve experienced the complications of the never-published requirement, and the other side of that coin: having to request permission to republish my own work on my blog. It’s quite a world out there — I hope you can work your way through the maze successfully! It’s good to see you pop up again. I’ll keep an eye out for your posts.

  38. Wonderful. I got to my 1000th blog post before I figured out what my blog was about: celebrating the outdoors and nature balances my family medicine work. I thought I’d just keep going and eventually it would sort itself out….

    1. It’s been interesting to watch the focus of my blog shift and change over time. Your approach — just keep going, and let things sort themselves out — is a good one. At least, it would suit me. It allows for exploration and discovery — as important for us as writers and photographers as it is for our readers.

  39. Happy Anniversary, Linda! I’ve felt the same wonderment as you describe, reading my first blog posts, or even some not that old, as though I were reading someone else, the word often seem so strange. My writing style has evolved, too…

    I probably haven’t read half of your posts! But I’m so glad you took the plunge back then, and keep on keeping on!

    1. I’m not particularly dazed or confused, but I certainly have fallen behind in my reading and commenting! I so appreciate your encouragement, and enjoyed reading that you’ve had somewhat the same experience when it comes to re-reading your own posts: the early ones, or the more recent. What’s most interesting to me is that I sometimes forget what I’ve written about. An occasional scroll through the archives can be illuminating; I highly recommend it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.