A Five Year Blog Retrospective

This was too much to post as a comment over on Nameless Creek as a followup to a recent “allegory about blogging“, and perhaps a topic with which other bloggers might identify. Thanks Gary, Andy and others for your thoughts as I grapple with the purpose and end of blogging. Here I attempt to give voice to my vacillations pro and con about writing every day to this one-in-a-billion journal.

I feel such a strong ambivalence, not wanting merely to add to the noise of an increasingly bloated world of ego and opinion while having a self and point of view that wants to see the light of day.

I feel increasingly irrelevant in a world where more and more people are better qualified to discuss anything I would think to post. At some point, saving your own words is like saving barbershop floor clippings after a haircut. Yes, it’s yours. But of what value is it?

I find, for good or ill, that blogging satisfies too many of my creative urges–to the extent that I don’t have enough motivation to spill those energies over into anything concrete: a book, a magazine article, a for-real professional-quality gallery of images, a radio essay. Maybe that’s okay. Sometimes I think so. Lately, not so much.

I don’t want the blog to become a mere broadcast, and yet it feels far more monologue-ish and pushed compared to the multi-way, collaborative “front porch” it did at one time. There’s still a point to using the blog as a simple repository for future reference or posterity (of uncertain value for either). But again, it seems a sad one-man band keeping time when nobody’s dancing.

For the first three years of Fragments, I would have told you that there was at least one, usually more, reinforcing connections made through the blog every week–a new reader who was also a writer or editor; someone with connections in SWVA who felt reunited to place through the images on FFF; a “place blogger” who quickly became a kindred spirit and friend; a journalist, producer, photographer, writer, etc who was interested in or coming to Floyd and wanted to establish a relationship. Lately, not so much. None, actually.

For some of these deficiencies, I give myself credit. The teaching at Radford, the return to the PT clinic, the writing of the book, the marketing and promotion of the book, the Floyd Press regular column, the various other projects–all this has diminished my energies and focus for blogging. And rss readers put distance between me and the blogs I read in that way, and between those who read mine by newsfeed. There is a level of anonymity that didn’t use to be there.

And some of the loss I feel is simply the nature of the beast, the nature of something become routine that once was innovative, cutting-edge and unknown. Heck, folks: five years of doing anything every day is a long time!

Above all, I don’t want to become a blog that blogs about blogging.

Well, there you have it. I am my own worst enemy. And I apologize for this public navel gazing, and do so just to let you know I’m still home, still listening for the next traveler to pass down our slow road, still excited about this world-connection we have at our fingertips, and still just as confused as the rest of you about what all this means and where it is leading us.

What odd times we live in! — Fred

Farmer’s Tale

I woke up this morning thinking perhaps the wife in this little allegory from Fragment’s ancient history was right.

When we expose our greatest hopes and precious things to strangers, we may be thought a fool. But the ordinary treasures we share may touch lives in ways we cannot imagine. This is the tale of one hopeful fool.

He prepared them lovingly, his precious mementos and carefully pressed flowers. He arranged them prominently on simple benches near the road. Just beyond, by the barn, a rough oak plank set across two tree stumps formed a crude table to display all manner of clippings and cards that flapped in the breeze-some brittle and yellow with age, others crisp and white from yesterday’s journal.

Someone might care to turn the thin pages and read the forgotten stories, said the farmer to himself. Up around the bend near the low-water bridge, photographs were pinned haphazardly on the dark trunks of the maple trees-dog-eared, roughly framed or not at all; some new, most sepia toned from the passage of time, worn with a patina of love and memory. Trinkets and curios, found things and very private bric-a-brac lined the dirt road along a quarter mile of this seldom traveled path in a remote part of a sparsely peopled region of the rural land of Erehwon.

“Who will come?” she asked derisively. “You are a foolish old man” said the farmer’s wife, “and if anyone comes, they will think you mad”.

“Friends I have never met will come”, said the farmer. Strangers will come who do not know that they wanted to know about these things I show them here until they have seen them. In seeing them, they will see into me and trust me, and we will share the deep things of our souls with each other, me and my visitors.”

The farmer was careful to set out chalk boards nailed to roadside trees. He put pads of paper on the display tables so that his guests could tell him about themselves and direct him to their places. With these wonderful leavings, he would be able to visit them all around the world and see their treasures and know their found things, sepia memories, and golden dreams.

And so, the days and weeks passed. Visitors did come down his road, but more often than not, they drove by without stopping. Yet the farmer thought in their passing they might have acknowledged in some small way his racks and tables and adornments. Many came down his road quite by mistake, looking for the shopping mall or in order to read some strange and terrible story not contained in the farmer’s collection. Some surely thought him mad.

But lo, wonder of wonders, some of the wanderers who came tarried, even occasionally handling one or two of the treasures on the rickety tables. They turned them over curiously in their hands. Once, a visitor exclaimed “This is the most wonderful thing I have ever seen” upon discovering some small caged creature that was so commonplace in the farmer’s life that it was barely worthy of note.

This delighted him, and he was eager to tell his wife that indeed, his treasures were becoming treasures to one in a hundred of his guests, and that this was enough. But in truth, he was always disappointed when they remained strangers as they drove away. He soon learned to take joy in the fact that they had come at all.

His chalk boards and scratch pads and his green rusty mailbox near the stone walk to his door remained sadly empty. From time to time, a visitor would pen “hello I came by”, or “my name is Mary. Nice tables and stuff”. The farmer was always thrilled to see that the page was not empty, but dejected when he had given so much of himself and learned so little of his visitors. He began to feel foolish and doubted himself and the public display of his silly yard-sale memories and special things that were sacred only to him.

And yet, in his more hopeful moments, he thought “There is a point to this that I cannot see yet. If I am faithful to my dream, they will come and stop. They will share and invite me to their roads. And when those strangers are able to put their precious things on all the roadsides of Erehwon and the larger world beyond, we will grow to know and trust and care for each other. We will learn from and about those of us that seem strange and unfamiliar, as I must seem now to my visitors.”

And so, the strange farmer of Erehwon still searches in his garden and woods, and in his memories and hopes and golden dreams, to find things each day to display before his visitors. If he is mad, he is harmless; and if his strange ways become the way of the lands beyond Erehwon, his madness will have become his joy.

Fragments Births Second Blog!

Overflow, I guess you could call it.

Turns out, there’s more junk than will fit in the closet of Fragments from Floyd.
Landscapes from Floyd County, Southwest Virginia by Fred First
Actually, had I not needed to experiment with “new blogger” to help a friend set up his blog over the past couple of weeks, I doubt I ever would have felt the need for an “alter-blog”.

But that’s what I’ve got, and it’s called Nameless Creek.

I confess, I like the ease of modifying the template without hacking code, though you can still get to the html of the template if you’re a mind to.

Please stop by.

And notice–in a bit of a divergence from FFF–there are three AUDIO files within the first half dozen posts. So click away, and turn up your speakers.

And don’t fail to note there are sponsored links over at Nameless Creek–an annex to the meager income that results from same on FFF. We appreciate your patronage, and check back here from time to time (I’m likely to point you in this direction) and see what shape it takes over the coming months.