Monday, November 1, 2010

While we're waitin for the write-in votes to be tallied...

...I decided to have a look around the blogosphere, specifically in Alaska, to see what's out there. Wouldn't you know there's a whole spectrum of interesting blogs in our fair state devoted to not just Alaskan politics but family life, cooking, hiking, Native Alaskan culture, you name it. Many, like this one, are meant to be online diaries. One adventurous blogger said it was an experiment, he had absolutely no idea where it would lead, and would cover any and all topics as they come to him. I even found a blog for and about Alaskan cross-dressers who like to ride their bicycles in winter. In short, the Alaskan blog world is probably not much different from the World Wide Blogosphere.

Most of the blogs I visited look pretty serious. And not just because they have numerous posts chock full of information and pictures & stories. There are blogs that link to other blogs, many have sponsors, and several are formatted like online newsletters with several pieces all competing for your attention. Most importantly, most of these blogs have scores if not hundreds of followers. Isn't that the point of why we do it in the first place?

I realize that unlike my own humble effort here, there are many dedicated bloggers putting a lot of care and attention into their blogs, kind of like a prized houseplant /pet/baby. Though I know absolutely nothing about babies, I’ve had pets before and currently have half a dozen houseplants, nearly half of which might not make it past Christmas. Which is weird because I used to collect tropical plants back in Chicago and had many nice ones that bloomed faithfully for years. Up here, by November it gets dark really fast, and trying to keep an orchid or African violet alive through an Alaskan winter is frankly just too much work for me.

Kinda like this blog.

I started it mainly to keep the folks back home apprised of our activities up here, and initially friends and family called and emailed and complimented me on my postings all the time, but I know I've kinda let it slip, and now and then I have to remind myself to put some pictures up so our loved ones don’t think we froze/starved to death/fell through the ice/got trampled by a moose/eaten by a bear.

Funny, that last item is the #1 fear Midwesterners have about Alaska.

To be quite honest, I like writing these postings, but I don't necessarily like looking at lots of words onscreen. Actual printed pages are one thing, I just don't enjoy staring at a video monitor for pleasure, especially since I do it 8 hours a day to earn a living. So I (usually) prefer to keep postings brief, and tend to shy away from reading the wordier ones.

I do make exceptions. I came across one blog from Chicago that riveted me to my chair. It was written by a woman who started a triathlete blog until she was diagnosed with breast cancer, then she started writing about how her life changed after going through surgery and radiation treatment. I wanted to know the whole story, so I spent one entire weekend reading about the last two years of her life.

I came to realize, in my current state of affairs, that after moving to Fairbanks, Joe and I really don't have it so bad up here. We both have our health (knock on wood) we both have jobs, we're making enough money to rent our little cabin and buy our organic produce and mid-price wine from our local Fred Meyers*; on weekends we have dinners with friends or a beer at Silver Gulch Brewery and once in awhile see a movie at the cineplex downtown or live music at the Golden Eagle in Ester. During the week, while I crunch away at numbers in the lab, Joe divides his time between Toolik camp as a seasonal field operations assistant and wrenching bikes at Goldstream Sports. In the summer we picked berries and wild mushrooms, and in the fall if we’re lucky a friend or neighbor will give us some salmon or moose or caribou meat for the freezer. We just invested in 100 million BTUs of seasoned birch for the winter, and once we get it all chopped and stacked there’s nothing to do but ski and ice skate and compose haiku about the aurora borealis all winter long. We've carved a cozy little niche up here for ourselves, and sometimes as we hold hands and watch the sun melt behind Ester Dome we turn to one another and say (in unison): How blessed we are.

Folks in Chicago keep asking: so how long are you guys planning to stay? Until something better comes along or the job well runs dry would be my best estimate. So, maybe another year if all goes well.

Now does that make for an exciting blog or what??

My point is, the best stuff out there is either about strife--political or (most often) personal--or some other factor that makes it compelling. Some blogs are simply weird and beautiful. I came across one that is basically a collection of high-resolution images of 18th and 19th century erotica (lithographs & watercolors) and Chagall-esque depictions of creation myths. It was simply ravishing.

Beyond that, nobody really gives a rip about you and your wonderful life. Yawn.

A person like my friend in Chicago, just minding her own business blogging away about her upcoming Iron Man triathlon, and then getting diagnosed with cancer, now that's compelling reading. I don't wish things like that on anyone. My point is it’s the people who use their blogs as a canvas for their life, brushstroke by brushstroke, who will be remembered.


Besides my wordiness rule, I have listed other reservations about my blog which probably explains why it's not quite in the same category:

-I don't wish to offend people with language or content. I once posted something, however briefly, and was asked to remove it, and I deferred to their wishes. It was personal stuff and they didn’t want it out there. It was perfectly understandable.

-I don't wish to get too deep into my own personal problems in a public forum. Personal problems make for interesting reading, and I have some stories that I don't mind sharing with my family or close friends, but, well, I’m just not ready to tell you about my checkered past riddled with crime and drug abuse and brushes with death.

*Joe just reminded me, re the wine and groceries: “Don’t make us sound snobbish.”

-Checkered past aside, at this point in my life I’m not so much about drama and adventure as peace and contentment. I’m actually envious of the silver-haired couples who retire to Arizona to play bridge and sip daiquiris and see their grandchildren a couple times a year. Boring as hell, by Darwin’s definition they are the fittest of our species.

-I'm rather lazy.

-It is very, very hard to write well. At the rate it takes me to fix a single sentence, maybe I should have stuck to art after all.

-I’m terrified of saying something stupid. I have noticed that the best bloggers don’t seem to mind it at all.

-I’m just a big fraidy cat in general. I was watching Globe Trekker with Gareth the other night and he kept saying how cool was it that the crazy British host just bungee jumped off the 300-foot bridge spanning a yawning chasm somewhere in New Zealand. Gareth is 15. I am 50, and all I could say was, how cool is it if the rope breaks/you upchuck and choke on your own vomit/poop your pants/black out/die?

So there you have it. Some of us are bungee jumpers and some of us aren’t. Coming up here after nearly 50 years in Chicago was like bungeeing all the way to the moon, and I can’t tell you yet if the rope is still attached or not.


  1. I use Google Reader. Whenever your blog pops up as having a new post I am glad to read it.

    What you think is mundane isn't to all of us. What is it like to live in Alaska? Now I know a bit more.

    So thanks.

  2. Seconded! And the rope is still attached.