Spring 2002 to Spring 2009: seven years, dozens of radio essays, hundreds of newspaper column inches, thousands of hyper-local, variegated blog posts and hundreds of thousands of words later…
I read about blogs in 2001 I think, at Lockergnome where Chris Pirillo was talking about how cool it was to have a persistent, updatable, multi-author tool like the web-log he’d just started–like writing in a word processor, he said, except instead of hitting SAVE you hit PUBLISH!
I started one. What the heck, it was free, and I’d abandon it in a week or two. I gave it a frivolous name that reflected my fondness for affiliation and consonant rhyme, full of “F”s. Silly, but no matter. It’d die a death of neglect for sure.
But then, I really needed to talk it out. I could see even then in March ’02 that trouble was on the horizon at work. The owners were about to give me an offer where the choice was easy: suck up or quit. I took that invitation to begin digging for treasure in a new place, certain there was none to be found in another year in that setting. It seemed like a disaster at age 54–and an opportunity. But for what?
With no one to talk to out here in the bush, I began to write, sharing the blog entries with my kids and a few friends, writing out this seeming tragedy of my life at the time. None seemed very interested–until I wrote a piece from the gut shortly after I’d told my clinic-owner bosses they could take my job and…
And it was strangers who wrote back. “Your words touched me; what you said was hard to say, but you said it well” and by writing out my issues and fears, I understood my situation a little better. How do you know what you think until you see what you say?
A few weeks later I found out how to post my digital pictures that no one but me had seen til then. I’d had a digital camera (a little swivel-body Nikon) for exactly two years that spring, but really didn’t have a purpose for the hundreds of pictures of mushrooms, insects, the creeks…but I had old dreams.
I remembered something I had written when I was 26 after first moving to Virginia–a letter to a small regional magazine that had a section called “photo-essays.” I liked the sound of that. I wrote a letter to accompany some slides I submitted, telling them that to put words and images together was my ultimate hope as a new photographer and writer. And that was that.
It was almost 30 years before I followed through with that desire to combine photography and language.
And here we are. Turns out, the new book will have more than 50 small black and white images that will likely be disappointed as images but helpful in telling the tale. And so I feel like I’ve finally done what I intended, more or less.
Things do take time to move in fits and starts from hope and possibility to fact and actuality. Some dreams–like this one–we live long enough to realize. Others, if we’re fortunate and always keep one or more going, will die with us. And so it goes.