Next June will mark twenty years since I first blogged, on a Blogspot site, on impulse. That day I figured I’d tire of the blog, that it would quickly become one of my many abandoned writing practices. Instead I blogged regularly for more than ten years, and occasionally for a few years beyond that.
Over the years I worked on Ancestor Trouble, I came to see the blog as a thing of the past. Between writing about state taxes all day at my (increasingly demanding) job and, for the book, immersing myself in many complex disciplines unfamiliar to me and trying to describe them accurately, and writing as truthfully, open-heartedly, and non-gratuitously about my own family as possible, my brain was wrung dry. I could tweet about politics or sometimes a book I liked. I could post the occasional photo on Instagram. That was it. I often called the stove the dishwasher, the animals by the wrong names. Max would jump in to supply possibilities in our conversations when there was a pause as I struggled to think of the word for an apple or basil or cheddar cheese.
Lately I’ve been working on essays and fiction (in addition to the omnipresent job) and reading a lot, and I’ve been finding myself wanting to share things, maybe on a venue that’s wholly mine, a place that’s a little bit commonplace book, a little bit confessional, a little bit (very little) opinion? Was that place my newsletter? Medium? Twitter threads? I think maybe what I’m looking for is a blog. Which is great because I have one right here. Yesterday I put up a post acknowledging some trepidation around the book’s upcoming publication, and it helped a bit of that anxiety dissipate, or at least feel less oppressive and less important, more like passing weather than the climate.
Some people use journals the way I use a blog, but something about expressing myself publicly, no matter how many or few people read what I have to say, has always felt cleansing to me in a way that a private journal doesn’t. Is this very Gen X of me? Probably! There’s a kind of accountability in this form that I like, and also a forgiving quality — a capaciousness that allows for varying lengths and randomness. While I enjoy sending newsletters, the considerations about what to commit to that form are different for me. With a website, people can choose to visit if they feel like it, whereas with a newsletter I’m entering their inbox. I don’t like to feel like I’m coming in at readers too often.
One thing I struggled with as I worked on the book was how to write about the numinous. I’m still pondering this and continue to be drawn to books like Braiding Sweetgrass and The Overstory, to the Kinship series, Matrix, and the poetry of W.S. Merwin. Re-reading Merwin’s “After the Alphabets” has been a kind of devotional the past couple days. “I am trying to decipher the language of insects,” it begins. “They are the tongues of the future.”