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I’ve had a lot of conversations recently with other bloggers (as well as some committed non-bloggers) about the pros and cons of what this thing is that so many of us are collectively doing. So finding this quote in the “Up Front” section of the Sunday Times Book Review seemed well timed.

Leah Hager Cohen wrote the cover review ov The Mercy Papers by Robin Romm, a memoir about the death of Romm’s mother. The Book Review editors added this sidebar about Cohen herself:

Cohen has written extensively about her mother on her blog, Love as a Found Object, which she started in 2006 “in a state of serious mortification, giving in at last to my agent’s urging. I hated the ugliness of the word ‘blog’ and the kind of self-involvement I associated with blogging. But then I found myself wondering whether it could be a space for playing and working with the idea of my mother’s illness.” Cohen pointed out that Romm uses the metaphor of death as a boat trip, as the dying person floats away: “It’s funny because I often think of my postings as little paper boats. I launch them when I click ‘publish,’ and then they float off, beyond my control, perhaps to capsize or disintegrate. I find this loss of control only slightly scary, and vital.”

I resonate with a lot of what Cohen says. I hate the word blog–it IS ugly. And I remember when the self indulgence, “love me, love my dog, and every stupid detail of my life as well” impression of blogging drove me from engaging for several years. My feelings changed of course. Now I view this ever expanding, loopy, overpopulated cacophony of voices that is the blogosphere as an endless beach where you go to find the treasures that float in.

Cohen’s little paper boats work just fine with that image. In my mind I see exquisitely crafted, delicate vessels, with lights that flash on and off at night, filling the horizon with wonderment. And oddly enough, all that imaging brings me right back to some of my favorite lines in all of poetry (thank you, Wallace):

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As the night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Oh, Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker’s rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

boats

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Blogging is its own kind of neighborhood. You share the road, the same convenience store, snowstorms and sports teams. When someone suddenly moves away and leaves no forwarding address, it’s like you lost something that didn’t really belong to you but felt like it did.

So here’s celebrating the return of a former denizen of my blog ‘hood, David Marshall. His previous blog, Joe Felso: Ruminations was one of my favorite hang outs. David is a man of many parts, with a strong voice for both the visual and the verbal. He is a teacher, a poet, an artist, a philosopher. His postings were always meticulously crafted (students, take note) beautifully tuned and content rich. What stands out and makes David particularly special for me is his ability to be a well defined presence and yet humble, opinion-rich while still open, a delicately balanced blend of hard won wisdom with the ever teachable “don’t know mind” talked of in Buddhist texts.

His new blog is Signals to Attend. This is his description of what that name signifies:

The title of this blog comes from the Howard Nemerov poem “The Dependencies”:

Change is continuous on the seamless web,
Yet moments come like this one, when you feel
Upon your heart a signal to attend
The definite announcement of an end
Where one thing ceases and another starts…

Nemerov uses a spider’s web to meditate on times we awake to the world and recognize, at least momentarily, “intricate dependencies / spreading in secret through the vast fabric / of heaven and earth.” The essays on this blog arise from similar incidental discoveries, anything that lights synapses between one mystery and another and remakes the world.

Welcome back, DM. We’ve missed you!