Saturday, June 17, 2006

It's been almost a year. . .

. . . since I started writing this blog. I remember my first post was from this same front porch, a few days before we left for the FGC Gathering in Virginia. Today, Lovely Wife and her mother flew to Seattle for a professional conference and week at her sister's before the Gathering, so our family is in the preparing-to-go stage.

Tonight, I'm alone on the porch on a muggy Minnesota night, the string of Christmas-tree-lights-in-plastic-tubes giving just enough illumination for me to feel not entirely in the dark, but dark enough for me to feel contemplative.

The other night, I attended a reading by my friend Mary Rose O'Reilley, my favorite Quaker writer. She has just published a book called The Love of Impermanent Things. I haven't read this one yet, but I'm sure it is as good -- as insightful and funny -- as the last one I read and loved, The Barn at the End of the World.

Mary Rose has a disarming way of writing, and speaking that accomplishes what she says was her goal as a teacher, i.e., to turn your attention away from her as author or teacher and to learn to live your one wild and precious life. She does this in a lot of ways, but the way I like the best is by paying fearless attention to the details of her own life and describing them with love and humor.

But she did say one thing at the reading that stuck and brings me round to reminiscing about Showers of Blessings after a year. A questioner (who happens to be a Friend and a writer herself) asked Mary Rose how she maintains a spiritual state of mind when she revises her writing. Mary Rose's replied to the effect that she spends a lot of time revising, and she loves it as much as the initial writing. She looks for the common threads, the coherent themes that run through her writing that she may not have known existed when she wrote it. When this works, it reveals her life to her as a coherent whole in a way she couldn't have possibly imagined in advance, and that this process or reviewing and discovering what was already there was as profoundly spiritual as the writing was in the first place. Or that's what I think she said.

I can't claim anything quite so high flautin', but I have enjoyed over the past week or two re-reading the past year's work here and realizing that there are, indeed, some themes that keep coming through, a point of view that I would never have been able to identify when I started but which make a lot of sense to me in retrospect.

When I re-read it, it's not like I wrote it, but I recognize the guy who did. He keeps showing up at places I go to, but I don't really know him all that well and am not sure what to make of him. He embarasses me sometimes with his pretentiousness, and I roll my eyes and am glad I'm not him just then. This usually happens when he's tring an idea out for size, something he doesn't really know from the inside out but wants to run up the flagpole and see who shoots at it. (And I hate it when he can't keept his metaphors straight.)

And I often feel he's pulling his punches, holding back what he really thinks, but I'm not sure why. Is he just being polite? Or does he really care and doesn't want to hurt other's feelings or make anyone mad at him? Is he afraid? (Is there a difference?) Or is he so warped by his legal training that he can see all sides to a question and can't make a commitment to any of them?

Or is he just trying to figure it out and wants to use his words carefully?

Whatever, I kind of like him and am beginning to think he actually has a voice that is uniquely his own, if only he'll keep at it and have fun.

So, what have I learned over the past year?
  • Just enough html (if that's what it is) to get barely by, like knowing enough of a language to order a sandwich or find the hotel, but not enough to do anything creative.
  • Writing in a forum that is accessible by anyone is hard work and takes a lot of time, even to do it half assed, and that it's only sometimes worth it.
  • It is a challenge to write in this medium where no one is really interested in what you're saying just because it's you saying it, so if you want your blog to be anything more than self-indulgence and really communiate with anyone you've got to grab 'em and make it interesting and worthwhile in the first second or two, and if you don't, they're back to Quaker Ranter to see what else is worth reading. (I actually learned this back in journalism class, but dropped out of it before I got enough practice.)

  • If you innocently title your blog "Showers of Blessings" and mention even once mention he phrase "sex toy" (as in, "my wife's friend whose husband made a small fortune for inventing a sex toy") a ton of the hits on you blog will be from perverts (mainly from Kuwait, Iraq, and New York) who are looking for "sex in the shower" or "wife sex in the shower."

  • I really love a lot more people than I knew a year ago -- some of whom I knew and love more, and others who I didn't know or love before but I do now.Then it's off to meeting.

  • It's late now and we're getting up early so I can take Only Son and Youngest Daughter here for breakfast, something we try to do each year around birthday time.

1 comment:

Martin Kelley said...

Well Paul, as any publicist will tell you the best way to get people's attention is show pictures of cute babies, the not-so-secret reason behind the Quaker Ranter's success. Has your blog only been around a year? Wow, it's been a nice addition to the Quaker realm, thanks so much for sharing yourself through it. Your Friend, Martin