once upon a time there was a vox blog that became a wordpress blog. it wasn’t entirely sure what it wanted to grow up to be or even if growing “up” were entailed in the process– only that with changing seasons time had come to fall from branches that had held it aloft and fed it on liquid light strained through dirt, take flight, take root elsewhere and stretch toward whatever new sun rose on a persistent tomorrow. flash some new growth for good measure. it expected to encounter weather in due course, stout breezes, occasional cyclones, the odd deluge– maybe it carried around its umbrella rather more than was necessary, but you never know when you’ll need to catch a fresh draft and go flying across the hills for a novel perspective or snatch a fish from the flood, all wriggling and spectrum-spun, or curl in a shapely shadow from the direct glare of daily events. study the different forms of posture and motion available to its occasion and possibly accomplish some understanding in the process.
Eras ending, heydays fading out to make way for the next new thing barreling down the line. So passes away Vox– which has been so many things to so many of us.
In odd synchronicity for me personally, the lifetime of Vox has run nearly parallel with the first stage of my life here in Chicago—my early posts mark the move from Iowa to my new city neighborhood. Writing my way through that transition, I resettled both psychically and geographically, found work of a new and unanticipated variety herding cats on behalf of wallpaper—a job I’ve held since that first summer four years ago and have just recently left for who-knows-what-next. Meanwhile, Chris and I are busy planning our mutual second wedding—done in intentionally markedly different fashion from either of our first weddings—on Friday afternoon, feeling somehow like a dame in a black and white flick from the ‘40s, I met my fiancé downtown at the city offices where we procured our marriage license and civil ceremony date for October at the Tiffany-domed Chicago Cultural Center. Afterward we toasted with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at a shiny downtown bar with, appropriately enough, feature wallpaper booths and the following morning breakfasted at Ohio House, where we went after buying the ring. Parallels abound, both intentional and fortuitous, in times of change. Into the current state of personal/professional transition arrive into my inbox the Vox shutdown notification, quickly followed by neighbor-member farewell and forwarding address notes.
Once upon a time, for a couple of years in the late ’90s, I participated in a small, close-knit virtual mailing list-based community, which I loved dearly. Folks I saw face-to-face only rarely if at all, who lived across a widely dispersed map, became my daily touchstones, virtual neighbors and friends, through the words we crafted in the digital realm. That community saw me through an enormous series of life transitions as well—the ending of my first marriage and move to Iowa and a writing life. In time that beloved community dispersed likewise—its constituent members gone off into entirely other lives, and to a large extent vanished from my own—the coming together real enough, yet wholly comprised by the tenuous connection created by the medium.
In both cases, I’d be remiss if I failed to note the pivotal performance of one particular friend, responsible for this media-nourished conjunction of experiences and identity: dear Michael, whose life I now glimpse across the ether in Facebook flashes.
Labor day weekend is upon us, unemployment and all, and here in Chicago the weather’s shifted without ceremony from sticky hot to crisp cool. Late in the night I wake to find the single light summer cover no longer keeps me warm through the night. Driving through Michigan, we encountered lone trees with leaves turning to fall. How many more ways can the world insist on change without me changing too?
Long ago I created navelgazer.com as a repository for the drifted sift and flotsam of a turbulent mind. For several years now it’s snoozed away with little more than a front page footnote to mark it as I noodle my way through other online writing venues. But the time has come to wake it up and witness what can be built of all its dreaming. I sincerely hope my Vox friends who’ve generously shared so much of themselves and their own journeys will find a way to visit from time to time, as I intend to check in on their new online writings. The truth, I know, is that life, that real, physical, inevitable force, drives us all on in our distinct directions, only occasionally allowing the good fortune of real reconnection in aftermath. In light of which I will now holler out my own gratitude and grief in the passing of this particular place, this sweet Vox with all its riches of connection and connotation. Farewell and my love to all, always.
so in the process of preparing to backup/migrate all of my vox site to wordpress, I’m going through and changing posts and photos marked for friends or neighborhood viewing/commenting only to viewable by anyone– where I can. in a couple of instances I’m removing from online publication altogether where I fear the possible harm done to family feelings might be too great– but in most cases I’m choosing to view this as an honest retrospective history and biting the bullet of making it (mostly) all public. which is a really weird and uncomfortable experience.
one of the big things vox has provided is a semi-private-public space in which to process feelings by making posts publishable only to select designated online friends and neighbors. this capability has, I now realize, resulted in a substantively greater sense of verbal license, a heightened level of honesty and decreased degree of self-editing than would ordinarily be the case.
writing in the semi-public blogosphere has for me constituted an extended exercise in learning about personal truth and narrative boundaries– what is it okay for me to air abroad? what is it okay for the people I care about to read in a public forum? the two things not always being synonymous. in the final, or at least current, analysis I seem to come down on the side of airing rather more overt honesty than is typical. then again, I am, ultimately, a poet and nonfiction writer of the confessional bent. so these are issues that come with the territory.
only here a new twist on that old and recurring theme.
… if only amid the drifted strata of effluvium where dimensionality and subtleties of living-breathing get sacrificed to retrospect’s incisive core sampling tactics– still, it’s something better than nothing.
I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again– I truly, dearly love the internet archive wayback machine. it creates a sense of continuity and footing in this otherwise untracked and untethered gelatinous ooze of cyberspace. and there are times I can really use that exterior scaffolding as I fidget and tumble and noodle and thrash and angst and angst some more my own odd way along.
it’s all too tumultuous and shifting a sea, the lives we live out online in so many fragmented words and images, so many diaphanous connections forged and dissipated over so much time– as we keep moving ever onward and this malleable beast the internet continues to morph and shift through myriad twitters and twitches and memes– from personal narrative to porn, social networking to ecommerce, blogging to marketing, the whole proliferation of personal identity construction and branding.
one of the things for which I love the wayback machine (which name chris points out to me as we’re watching the rocky & bullwinkle show, a longstanding favorite of his, originated with mr. peabody’s device) is its preservation in some form of the topic project, which lorelei and I got started post-workshop as a writing-engines-warmup-throat-clearing routine and which ran for a handful of glorious months in 2001, suffered collapse with 9/11, and then revived for a short stint in 2005– collaborative constructions being fitful and tricky to perpetuate, a topic in and of itself that preoccupies me some days. (I know I’ve written about the topic project elsetime here in vox, only I can’t find it now– once again foiled by the limitations of search and indexing capabilities, only allowed to view my top 100 tags from within a vast lexicon of idiosyncratic and spontaneously logical notations lost to retrospective review).
lately I’ve been thinking a lot about work (again)– what makes it satisfying, what makes it frustrating, what factors play into the kinds of “work” I personally define as valuable and fulfilling– as I struggle with the relentless daily treadmill of time and against letting myself allow it to be or feel like too much of a treadmill despite the onward march of days of the week, well-trodden commute route, and the host of other habitude that conspires to drag me into that particular failure of imagination– and in this frame of mind this morning, while playing with my current favorite resource google docs, I discovered this little piece of my own scribbles for the topic project that I pulled out sometime last year and saved for myself there:
the topic projectnulla dies sine linea.Saturday, July 07, 2001
According to Sarah: Work
It came to me in a dream—what work is. That, contrary to common assumption, it isn’t that which one does in order to be paid. That work is, rather, doing something well, properly, and right. It is the nexus of a particular sort of focus that produces an object and a corollary sense of satisfaction. Thus sometimes work is that for which I am paid. But more often of late, in this wacky life of mine, it is made up of the minutiae of domestic existence. No one pays me for this work or even asks or expects me to do it—and I think that because of this very fact, I treasure it all the more.
And so I wake early to barking dogs and get myself up out of bed and go through the whole dog-feeding-and-walking routine, sometimes washing loads of dishes by hand while they eat—I’m much faster and more efficient than a mechanized dishwasher at this stage. And then sometimes I weed the gardens, or water them before the heat of the day creeps across the whole yard. Sometimes I pocket a couple of Ziploc bags and walk down the block to the neighbor’s yard and pick raspberries—or drive out to the commercial berry farm and do the same thing. Some cool mornings I turn on the ceiling fan and make boiling pots of jam and seal it up in blue jars I’ve found in secondhand stores with new screw lids. I feed the fish and brush the cat and fill the bird feeders. All of this is my work, although it doesn’t officially qualify as such. I am not paid for it and it has little value in the common marketplace—and yet this kind of work is true for me, real in a substantive way that the professional work I’ve been paid for (modifying web sites, providing computer support, even teaching) never really attains. I have a product. I am grounded. I am in and of the world.
A friend of mine, while she was in school full time working toward her Ph.D., also worked day in and day out raising two children and keeping a spotless showplace home. Meanwhile her husband went to an office and did work that brought him prestige and a sense of value in the world along with the paycheck by which the family lived. In the common parlance, my friend was not “working”—and yet she worked harder than just about anyone I know. I have to state, although it is not a novel concept, that there is something wrong with this focus— not even material so much as consumerist, catering to a marketplace mentality. Somehow it makes us less human. We value less and less the manual and soul pursuits in lieu of the labor of the intellect. Unless we are plugging our minds into the mainframe in order to contribute to capitalist venture, what we do has little perceived value.
And it isn’t that I consider myself somehow superior to the work the majority of my culture holds in esteem. I’m simply trying to shake off my own assumptions. These are all things that I am saying to myself, over and over again—lest I continue to devalue what is humble and real in my life:
This garden has value—the salad and peas and beans I harvest from it feed my life as well as my body. Crouching and sweating as I struggle with weeds and breathe in the sweet exhalations of humus feeds my soul. This laundry I pull hot from the dryer or fresh off the line on a bright day restores my heart, fold by fold. This is the necessary flip side to the “virtual” world I build with words and thoughts and images. This is the anchor and tail of my traveling balloon.
once upon a time I used to kind of blog sort of. after I started splitting my infinitives with abandon. before that I hatched and hosted, erected and let crumble web pages. before that and after that were poems and then not any poems any more. maybe someday. here and there essays unwound, and the odd boil-infested academic paper worked itself up. lo, of yore the right hand alone scribbled letters on paper of different heft and hue, the graph, the blue and oniony, the soft creamy cotton rag. spirals unto infinity of narrow-rule close writ. and then email and email and email ad nauseum. oh microbloggery facebook puffs.
who can say where it will end? but at least some controls are in place– such as the ability to set commenting to neighborhood-only or friends-only– so that when some person comes along and makes a vox account simply in order to leave comments promoting their online business, I have the ability to approve or delete such dreck.
beyond that, the job is up to the rest of us– to maintain the vitality of the connections that we make in this space.
just re-watched vanilla sky. each passing moment is another opportunity to make things… I’ll say meaningful.
(oh, I know— I’m busy posting about sashes and generic cough medicine. sometimes finding the meaning is a bit of a stretch. rule #1: use your imagination.)
so I decided I wanted to photoshop up a spiffy little “Embassador of Vox” sash for karen, just, yknow, because it’s so her (and, uh, yeah, this is the sort of thing I do at 3 a.m.).
so I did a little google image search for a sash image I could manipulate…
and ended up just getting all waylaid– because sashes are some freaky &$^*(%#@, man…
and now I do have to go to sleep before my brain implodes. so no sash for karen– but really? honestly? it’s for the best.
sometimes I want to have something coherent and profound to say but just don’t.
not that that stops me from opening my big gob a good portion of the time regardless. ;)
lately this blog seems to be doing a lot of skating along the surface of things– mostly pictures and media posts and not a lot of commentary. i should perhaps count this as a boon, as I well know how durned bogged down in words I can get. just that I find it odd, kind of unnatural, like some sort of holding pattern. well, maybe there’s a change afoot. isn’t there always a change afoot? a foot achange? step-ball-change.
one change is that I’m trying to have less insomnia, because it is insalutary. except here I am, hello, awake. I blame navarone time. well, not really. I blame the cat and also the profound and irresistible appeal of the internet. and also the dog who seems to have figured out how to snow me into thinking he reeeeaaally needs to go out, even at 3 a.m. when apparently he doesn’t all that badly.
sometimes it seems my life is one long series of distractions that don’t really amount to much. uh huh. like I said, sundayitis.
there’s been a lot of talk around my neighborhood in recent weeks about people’s dissatisfaction with recent vox interface design releases, culminating lately in some notable member defections– by no means the first or last of their kind, simply the latest, though sizable, wave– which can feel to those of us who remain behind like vital rents in the communal fabric we’re engaged in weaving. I’m not altogether certain how I feel about the current sea-change– I mean, the departures do affect me, I feel, like others, the ozone remaindered in their wake, but I’m undecided entirely how worked up I care to get about it all.
because I’ve so been here before. and before and before and before. in web years, I am one thousand years old.
the persistent problem with new media is that “new” modifier. after awhile the hot new thing cools off, and geek exodus ensues– bright and engaging minds inevitably depart in pursuit of the next compelling venue. the avant garde ebbs and then… well, after that only time will tell what happens next– if the business plan is sufficiently well-grounded, the userbase broad and stable enough, the gadget perseveres and becomes the norm, customary tool of the masses. to some extent the tenor of the conversations may change, a general and perhaps subtle proletarianization of the media. inevitably this affects our relationship with the medium, because what we do here is integrally connected to the company we keep. but better or worse I for one cannot say. the writing we do here may be organically interwoven with the words of the community in which it dwells, but we also write for ourselves, as individuals, down through the small hours of the night or in the quiet bright of afternoon. while it’s true that much momentum is made by reference back and forth and the subdural conversations threaded through comments, it is still, as it has ever been, just another skin on that thing we have been doing online for so many years now: writing our thoughts into the ether.
for me this remains a good place and way to do it. for me, whispering into the dark and half-light continues to have its appeal. this skin, this vox incarnation of the micromegaphone for thought, continues to feel elegant, easy, and right– for me, for now.
and, lo, I am well again. worked a full day, if not entirely at full throttle, at least upright and largely functional. thank you for all your kind well-wishes– they indeed helped me to feel less alone and self-pitying in the midst of viral misery. and thank you for bearing with these posts from the depths of kvetchdom– it also helped immensely to have an outlet for rampant spleen during hours in a close room. and now– onward into brighter and disease-free tomorrows! may all your immune systems persevere, nasty contagions pass right by, and spring bring in its warmth and bright resurgence swiftly to us all. xo.