Saturday, December 27, 2008

Number 52

A year ago I committed to publishing a new article on The Nort Spews each week. If I had thought about how many weeks there are in a year, and that it would mean writing 52 essays in that time, I might have chickened out. But here it is, a year later, and we have arrived at number 52.

Looking back, what surprises me most is that I was never at a loss for something to write about. Between books, movies, music, politics, religion, science, grandchildren, sports, and prognostication, there was no shortage of material. In fact, for most of the year I had several articles waiting to post well in advance of my Saturday deadlines. Of course, professional columnists do this all the time, year after year -- some of them with daily deadlines on top of the weekly ones. This experiment has given me new respect for them while at the same time satisfying my curiosity about my ability to get that kind of a job done. (Offers, anyone?)

But it has meant much more to me than that.The blog has given me both opportunity and incentive to more fully explore my own life of the mind. It's one thing to enjoy a piece of music, another to give expression to that enjoyment and share it with others. Life itself is full and rich, but much of the richness flows past all too quickly and is lost like flotsam in the wake of a boat. The blog has been a way to capture some of those things as they go by, to take snapshots and fasten them into an album of memory.

Blog writing is really a new form of communication, part diary, part editorial, part open letter to an intimate friend. In making my efforts public, I find I have a reason to explore my thoughts more fully than I would if I were merely making notes for my own reference, as I would in a journal, or even in a deep discussion with a close friend. Instead of just saying what I remember, I'm forced to check my facts, which is often an interesting exercise in itself. As Yogi Berra said, "You can see a lot just by looking."

And what a full year it was. Looking back over my list of titles I see that I began and ended with exploring the future, both in science fiction and fact. In "The God of the Falls" and "The Simple Truth" I managed to give as complete a statement of personal spiritual belief -- and history -- as I have ever done. It was the year I explored ebooks with the Sony reader I got last Christmas, opening a new torrent of readily available literature. I recorded another visit to the Miami Book Fair, and explained the secret behind my fondness for the Olympic Games. There are memorials to my father-in-law as well as to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and reports on three notable Conscientious Objectors -- one of whom I met, and another who should be legendary.

I revisited the Evolution debate yet again, and explored a new theory about the origin and fate of the universe. I reviewed three 19th century books about America, three versions of The Man Who Would Be King, three books about Los Alamos, and two histories of the early U.S. Navy. I cheered on a Presidential candidate, and shared my vote with my eight-year-old grandson in an election that neither of us will ever forget. And always there was a backdrop of music ... the innovative computer animations of Animusic, the immortal pianist Glenn Gould, the history of local classical radio, and the lost jazz of Paul Desmond.

I'm under no delusions of fame for all this. Google's tracking software tells me I get some hits every day, but many are mere glances, like the passing eyes of browsers in a book store. There are a few faithful readers out there (you know who you are!) to whom I am grateful. Sometimes a comment comes back like the distant plunk of a pebble plumbing the depths of a deep well. But I am my own favorite reader, and the rewards of writing have never been more clear to me than they are now.

So onward into 2009. My challenge for the new year will be to keep it up without the clockwork of calendar deadlines. I may post more or less often than once per week, but life goes on, and so will these observances of it. I feel sure there is much more to come.

- Steve Donachie

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