I started this blog five years ago just a few months after my father’s death. The first entry was January 18th, 2016, and my objective was simply to escape the changes going on—the loss of my Dad, politics, the swamp that was my job—through journal-like entries about my favorite locale, nature. I thought I’d share with anyone who might want to read these short pieces about the bay and the river and the woods here at Aerie just what it’s like to take a moment to myself on an afternoon walk, or a morning sunrise, so that I might better handle the outrageous drudgery the rest of the time; and along the way I’d probably digress into the brevity of life and the organic need each of us has to love. Sometimes it worked, more often not. It didn’t really matter; this wasn’t the writing I’d be sending out to be taken seriously. It was more or less a diary.
But every once in a while I’d be just finished with an entry and decide it was worthy of a larger outlet and I’d send it off. Like the time I sat in Panera’s in Virginia Beach the afternoon I returned from my uncle’s internment at Arlington National Cemetery. I drank iced tea and wrote a blog and posted it. I reread it right away and thought it seemed pretty good. I immediately planned to send it to the Virginian Pilot, but I couldn’t find the editor’s email, so I looked up the Washington Post just for fun and sent it. I went to the bathroom (free refills of iced tea, don’t you know), and by the time I was back at my table the Post had replied and accepted it, with plans to publish in Memorial Day Weekend on the front page of the Metro Section. My acceptance needed to accompany a checked box acknowledging it had never been published anywhere, including a blog. I checked the box and said, “of course not,” and immediately went to this blog and erased the entry. I then went to Facebook and posted a note which said, “If you thought you just read a blog here, you are mistaken; however, buy the Washington Post Memorial Day weekend.” The piece got a lot of attention.
More often I’d be halfway through and wonder what kind of pretentious, bloated ego I had to think anyone would care what happened up here. Look around: we all have faces and stories and histories and desires. Everyone can have a blog and each one would be interesting, and boring, and worthy of a larger outlet and rank enough be tossed immediately. Point: I realized straight off if this was going to work, I had to write solely for myself, like it really is a journal for my own perusal. That took the pressure off and allowed me to write without expectation, without judgement. I quickly didn’t care if a single sole followed the bloody thing.
And, predictably, the “followers” don’t number very high, but the tracker shows the current weekly unique readership is surprisingly just over 1000 people. Every single week. And after year three I rewrote several dozen entries and strung them together in what would become A Third Place: Notes in Nature, published by Madville Press in Texas last year.
So after five full years of this, and on this entry, my 300th, I thought I was going to write about something that forced me to be completely wide open, expose my soul, as it were. I was going to write about all the things writers try and write about but fall short because writers have all already written about them, like the need to love, truly love, or about the need to live, truly live the way you dreamed of living when you were young and still unafraid of failure. So many subject matters a hopeless romantic like myself could write about, such as what it’s like to be a hopeless (hopeful?) romantic. So I tried just an hour ago. Didn’t work out. At first, I wrote that I thought the hardest thing about being a hopeless romantic is that we keep dreaming long after everyone else has come back down to reality. But I reread what I had written and realized that the most beautiful thing about being a hopeless romantic is that we keep dreaming long after everyone else has come back down to reality.
There are no words for some things; some thoughts can’t be chiseled out with phrases and punctuation.
So instead, for entry 300, I decided to publish someone else’s words. It is from Joseph Zinker at the Gestalt Institute and I’ve published it on this blog before. It is still and most likely always will be my favorite passage of words on a page:
If a man in the street were to pursue his self, what kind of guiding thoughts would he come up with about changing his existence? He would perhaps discover that his brain is not yet dead, that his body is not dried up, and that no matter where he is right now, he is still the creator of his own destiny. He can change this destiny by taking his one decision to change seriously, by fighting his petty resistance against change and fear, by learning more about his mind, by trying out behavior which fills his real need, by carrying out concrete acts rather than conceptualizing about them, by practicing to see and hear and touch and feel as he has never before used these senses, by creating something with his own hands without demanding perfection, by thinking out ways in which he behaves in a self-defeating manner, by listening to the words that he utters to his wife, his kids, and his friends, by listening to himself, by listening to the words and looking into the eyes of those who speak to him, by learning to respect the process of his own creative encounters and by having faith that they will get him somewhere soon. We must remind ourselves, however, that no change takes place without working hard and without getting your hands dirty. There are no formulae and no books to memorize on becoming. I only know this: I exist, I am, I am here, I am becoming, I am my life and no one else makes it for me. I must face my own shortcomings, mistakes, transgressions. No one can suffer my non-being as I do, but tomorrow is another day, and I must decide to leave my bed and live again. And if I fail, I don’t have the comfort of blaming you or life or God.
Please go to the “follow” button on the bottom right hand corner of this site and click it. Then enter your email. Then go to your email and confirm it. You will ONLY get my blogs, nothing else, no junk (except when my blog entries are junky).
Thanks for following me these five years. I’ll be back the beginning of January to begin Volume Six of A View from this Wilderness.
Carpe diem and all that, you know.