THREE YEAR ANNIVERSARY
The three-year anniversary of this blog is officially on July 29th but I would like to celebrate tonight because the coolest thing on the planet (next to the discovery of chocolate) happened today…
How do I begin this story, when it’s beginning has no tangible origin?
I started The Writing Life blog July 29th, 2005 a few weeks after quitting my teaching job and accepting a part-time position at the craft school coffeehouse (six hours a week was all they could offer). I was living in a small cabin in the woods, peeing in a bucket, and had no running water. I knew I wanted to write, apply to grad school, and be healthy. Beyond that, I hadn’t a clue. Here is a link to my first post ever.
Within eight months I had installed running cold water, found a raised seat for the pee bucket, became assistant manager at the coffeehouse, and learned to split would double-time to heat the cabin. I also applied and was accepted to grad school, published my first few essays about art, published in a few small literary journals, and somehow earned the attention of a delightful married couple in BiggestCity, NC, missavie and maeushen.
They found The Writing Life through its original source, Live Journal, probably by searching “North Carolina” or “writing” for interests, and thus the connection was made—out there, somewhere in the wildness of the world wide web, but a connection all the same. At the time, I read their blogs occasionally, but quickly turned all my focus to school. Still, they read on. They left comments. Posed questions. Maeuschen encouraged discourse and kept me thinking. Missavie gave advice and kept her radar up for my stress level, ever so gently. Who were they? Where did they live? What made them so graciously care about me, a perfect stranger, typing away into the night?
First, let’s address the obvious. Sure, in our electronic age “meeting” people through the internet happens in all kinds of ways. But that was never my intention with the blog. I put my heart and soul into these pages, first draft to first draft, and I do it because in order to survive I must attempt to write the world as I know it into coherence. These two—total strangers—have paid witness to that for three years.
There were many nights (and still are), when I blogged specifically with them in mind as my audience even though I’d never met them. Based on their comments, I gained a small understanding of their sensibilities. Based on some of their posts, I learned a little about their values and their endeavors. Good people, I thought to myself. Good people. But who?
Today, they walked into the coffeehouse.
Maeuschen’s face was immediately familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it. Had he taken a class last summer? Did he live in the mountain counties seasonally, spending long weekends here? Where I did I know him from? There was an openness to his smile, a sort of go-with-the-flow to the way he ordered his drink. And Missavie, come to think of it, she looked familiar too. Had I met her a gallery opening? I couldn’t put my finger on it so I gave them the coffeehouse spiel, taking my time to point out the core student artwork since there was nobody in line behind them.
When I was done talking they stood there at the counter and I was struck but this profoundly penetrating energy. These people, somehow, knew me. I mean knew me. I could tell by the way they felt in the room, how they positioned themselves physically, how absolutely affectionate their gazes where. But why didn’t I know them?
They turned from the counter and the connection severed. I attended to my cleaning duties, helped a few other customers, and tried to flip through the memory cards of my mind for their faces. Of course, I had no physical, real-time memory of them, so my mind literally had no pathway to follow in order to call up their faces from the Live Journal userpics I recognize every night on my computer screen. There, on top of Conley Ridge, they were totally out of context.
They drank their double-shot mochas quickly. Very quickly, in fact. And within minutes, were back up at the counter.
“So, my husband and I are having this argument…” said the woman, “…about whether or not we should tell you who we are…”
I paused, smiled. “You do look really familiar, you especially,” I said to the man. I set down my cleaning towel and walked toward the counter. “I must have met you before but I can’t…” I stopped, looked at their faces again, this time with absolute clarity.
They were all smiles.
“I know who you are. I know exactly who you are,” I said, offering my hand. “Thank you so much for your support,” I told them. “I never expected it but it’s meant to much to have you as readers for so long.”
There was a lot to say, though I can’t remember much of it now. But after only about a minute I had to come around the other side of the counter and hug each of them. That’s when they really became real and my heart, see, there’s really no other way to explain it, but my heart broke a little in the most gracious way.
Why? Because there, right there in front of me, were two people who represent the possibility of connection through the written word. They didn’t even know who I was. They never had to care. They never had to read or write. And yet they did. They always did. Without the thought of gain or recognition. And here is what I’ve been telling myself, dear readers, about all of you for the past three years: If these people who I’ve never even met care enough to keep reading and commenting after so many posts and so many years, after so many rollercoasters of love and life, after so much doubt and faith, then there must be something to this writing life.
And that, my friends, leaves me absolutely grateful and speechless.
~ Thank you M & M ~
(And if you come to BigCity next weekend, email me!)