Cranberry Oatcakes

This is, for some reason, the single-most popular blog post on Box 761. Today seems like a good day to revisit it, and make some delicious Kings County Oatcakes.


This recipe is especially for Silas.

I got the basic recipe from a lovely book called Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens by Marie Nightingale (Nimbus). It’s a nice little book. I bought the book to give to my (step)mother as a gift and well, I started reading it. I’ll get her another copy one of these days.

For this recipe, I actually made a mistake while creating the first batch and it turned out so nicely it’s how I’m going to make it from now on…. the original recipe is called “Pictou County Oatcakes” but I don’t know if Pictou  Co. would accept them, with these changes.

  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar (can reduce to 1/2 cup — I did so on second batch)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening or butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup boiling water

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Berwick Weaving Co.

I started weaving in the early Fall of  2013.  A little over a year later, at the very tag end of 2014, it became clear to me that this weaving business I that has been consuming my time and energy should become, well… a weaving business. 

hand/weavingBerwick Weaving Co. was born.

When I started weaving, it was an instant connection for me. I see over and over again in other weavers’ blogs this same sort of… kismet with the craft. Perhaps it’s like that when anyone finds something they love – quilting, or painting, or algebra. For me, it started even before I actually got my hands on a loom – it was the idea of weaving. I saw looms in use and could have watched for hours. I could feel myself learning as I watched. It felt familiar, and new all at once.

I want everyone to have that feeling. Go out, find something that makes you tick. I swear it’s worth it.

also on Facebook

also on Facebook

FYI: that amazing ring on my finger is a family ring, gifted to me by my children, and created by the gifted Joe and Gudi Pach at TerraBijou in their studio in Ratter Corner, New Brunswick.

This joy makes me thankful. These thanks make me joyful.

Happy New Year, all. I like to look back at the previous year and see what I can see.  I like looking at the full arc of that year’s story, somehow.

summer catLast year was a good year for me. I’m learning to take a breath or two, and to just be. I’m learning to grab joy when I see it. I’ve learned there is joy in the doing of things, and in the not doing of others.

I’m learning to chill out. I’m not always successful, but that’s okay. For finally figuring out that it’s all okay, I am thankful.

foggy mountain tipperary

foggy mountain tipperary

Last year I walked the wild Donegal coast, and fell asleep listening to rain hit the roof of our Inishmore Aran Island cottage. We discovered the Roses of Tralee by happenstance, and had high tea in a castle all to ourselves. Last year we drove – gobsmacked by beauty – through the foggy mountains outside of Tipperary.

Last year I went on a road trip to the Florida Keys with my Stepmother. I love road trips, and that one was special. I explored Quebec City with the man I love, wandered PEI with my daughter, and took great day-trips in my own not-explored-enough Nova Scotia with a dear friend.  For these travels with people I love, I am thankful.

I made that!

I made that!

Last year I discovered weaving. I cannot describe adequately how wonderful it is to learn something new. I am a student at heart, and to find something so rich with lessons is a joy. It is a craft and an art, with sometimes tedious lessons in patience (warping, untangling, threading) that reward me with  beauty and accomplishment.  I’m still a baby on this journey, but I am so thankful I saw something I loved and took steps to embrace it.

Speaking of seeing something I love and embracing it, my dear husband Mr. 761 was home for the holidays and though he’s going back to Kandahar next week, he will soon be home for good – waking up in his own warm bed on 01 February with no need to go back ever again. I think 5 years is long enough, no?

For his return, I am thankful. For my life with him I am so very thankful.

For the continued health and happiness of my astonishingly wonderful children, I am thankful. Both have challenges – being in your 20’s is no picnic, and they each have their fair share of stuff to deal with. Having them both home with us at christmas was so great. They are women I would be happy to know, even if they weren’t my children. If I was their age, I’d want to be friends with them. As it is, I’m very proud to have them in my life, and I am reminded daily of their coolness. They’re funny, smart, and beautiful, both of them. For them, I am so very thankful.

Last year I reconnected in a real, warm, and joyful way with a long lost friend. That has been a real gift. There is nothing like the friends one makes in childhood – even with all the intervening years, we reacquaint ourselves easily. New friends are great, but with old ones there’s such a depth to it. For her, and for all my friends old and new, I am thankful.

The year  had loss too, and while not thankful for that I am nonetheless thankful because, well, it could have been worse. I am sad that people I love are in pain, and I hope that time helps to soothe those hurts. I am thankful that I can have a part in helping. I saw great courage and grace in a friend who died exactly how she wanted. For her, I am thankful. For her caregivers who thoughtfully and lovingly shepherded her though those last years, I am thankful.

For the happiness that is my life in general – I am so very thankful. I know I am very lucky, and I count my blessings on a regular basis. Here’s to a fruitful 2014. Here’s to embracing thankfulness and finding the joy when you can.

Happy Birthday, Sistah!

A while back (in 2010, though it hardly seems possible that much time has passed) I wrote a post about sisters. It was about my daughters as sisters, my nieces as sisters, and about me and my sister.

nancy and kerry 2013Tomorrow is my smart, funny, beautiful sister’s birthday, and I’ve been thinking of her all day. I pretty much said all I needed to in that earlier post, but I want to add that the years since I wrote that post haven’t exactly been easy ones.  It is a sign of my sister’s grace that she came through these past few difficult years of loss and and reflection with that grace intact; with her humour and spirit and twinkle.

She wears a lot of hats – wife, (step)mother, teacher, caregiver, friend.  The people in her life are lucky to have her, and to share their lives with her.  She has always been a touchstone for me; a quiet rock of strength, and a motherlode of silliness. I love her very much.

I am blessed with siblings who I can easily look up to; they are genuinely nice people, and I  germany trip 1998am so very glad that we have one another.

Go forth, and hug your sister today. I love you, Sis. Consider yourself hugged by me. Hope you have a Happy Birthday tomorrow,  and we will see you in the Spring.


The other day I told someone that “I am a weaver”. Then I giggled.

This past summer Mr. 761 and I went to Ireland for two weeks. It was everything you would imagine a two-week trek in a beautiful country with the person you love can be – relaxing and gorgeous and interesting and memorable. We both can trace family back to Ireland, and while I cannot claim an eerie feeling of “I’ve-been-here-before” because of this familial link, I can say that I felt very comfortable there, and could go back in a moment and stay for a long number of moments quite happily.


Malinbeg sheep

There was something about the west that I loved very much; the south-and-west too. Counties Cork and Kerry. Clare and Donegal… oh, Donegal. I loved it there.

I took too many pictures to count – enough to tire even the fondest family members and facebook friends. I kept trying to capture moments in time, because I was so moved.


who can resist their charm?

Everything about that trip was gentle, somehow, even the wild Aran Islands and the lonely heartbreakingly beautiful Donegal coast.

If I think back, years from now, only a few of those pictures will be clear and like-yesterday in my mind. And they aren’t what you’d think, either…. they are not pictures of monuments or castles (which we certainly saw and enjoyed), but are instead of simple homely moments: like the sheep in the road near Malinbeg, or the sight and sound of the looms in that tiny studio in  Annyalla, and the big studio at Avoca, or laughing in the pub in Limerick. It was driving through moody fog-covered mountains and marvelling at hedgerows and holding hands whilst walking together through lonely graveyards, lush rose-filled parks and villages. It was a two-week montage of  quiet unhurried Full Irish breakfasts, wandering aimlessly, and surprise landings. We are very fortunate people.

We tried not to buy trinkets and souvenirs. We tried to travel lightly and keep our one-backpack-each liz christy stole and catunstuffed with stuff. This was made easier when we learned Aran sweaters aren’t made in Aran, and Waterford Crystal isn’t made in Waterford. But there were a few points where I could not deny my urge for things, and those times were almost always weaving-related. We ended up shipping a blanket home (and saved VAT – it was a deal!), and I carried my new Liz Christy stole home on the plane, marvelling at the colours and textures (it is seen here, with my cat Flowerpot who also has wonderful taste).

Near the end of our trip we wandered over to  Swallow Studios, in Annyalla, near Castleblayney Co. Monaghan.  We petted the dog, and watched the weavers, and bought the above-mentioned stole by Liz Christy (and a tiny batik by Louise Loughman). I realized that what I kept coming back to was the textiles. The weaving and looms, and the textures and colours and craft. I started off by joking that we would need to get some sheep for our backyard (still kind of want some btw) but ended up looking to see if there was a way to learn this sort of craft back at home.

I feel a bit sheepish really. I live in Nova Scotia, after all. I don’t know why it surprised me that a quick google search while standing in the hotel in Castleblayney showed me a multitude of weaving/textile artisans and workshops right near my house back in NS. But it did, and I’m glad.  When we got home, I started off with a day-long workshop on weaving with a rigid heddle table loom called a “cricket loom”. I looooved it right away.

But I need to back up a bit first. The workshop was at a beautiful farm wool shop  called kitty purlGaspereau Valley Fibres, a short drive from my house. A shop that I’d never heard of, because yarn at that point kinda scared me. You should go there, or to it’s “townie” sibling The Wool N Tart (try the lemon tarts, they are delicious). It has a great selection of natural fibres and equipment for spinners and weavers as well as knitters. (They also have a resident cat, “kitty purl”, whose picture I put here for the sake of symmetry with the cat pic above.) It’s like a candy store, but with yarn.

Why did it “scare” me? I seem to lack the requisite coordination and concentration for knitting and crocheting – they seem mysterious and… knotty. It feels like a secret society that I needed to be inducted into at an early age, or never. My time for that seemed to have passed me by, and I cannot think in three dimensions with knitting. Perhaps someday, but those crafts just don’t speak to me.

Weaving does.

cricket loom

pic from internet of cricket loom

So, I took the workshop and gave myself a week before I went and bought the cricket loom. I’m so glad I did. I spent the next few weeks in  a frenzy of learning to use it, to be comfortable with the set up, and reading about weaving. I made some nice things, if I do say so myself.

It seemed at first as if it might be the loom for me. But then…

Then, one day I went online and saw a used floor loom, and it was pretty much no time at all between seeing it online, and having it set up and… looming in my sun room. It is of uncertain provenance and I’m finding all sorts of lovely quirks about it. When I walk in that room, it smells of birds eye maple, canvas and… loom.

my loom

I own a loom, y’all.

This loom and I are still getting acquainted… it’s a much more complicated animal than my little cricket, but very much worth it. I took three days of study with the wondrous Pia Skaarer Neilsen of Wonderous Woolerie, a weaver/teacher/fibre artisan and it was the best thing I could have done. Thanks to her, I am armed with at least enough knowledge to if not fix a mistake, to recognize one. Perhaps more importantly, she showed me how joyous it can be to do what you love.

I have found that I love the methodical, contemplative nature of weaving. I love the textures and colours and feel of it all. I like the alchemy of making fabric out of yarn. I love the calm deep concentration necessary to warp the loom (put the strings on it), and the creativity that flows out of playing on those strings with other colors and textures.

I love the process, and the mechanics of it; the tension and pulleys and gears and levers. I love (but don’t yet really understand except in a very rudimentary fashion) the notation  – the musical score, if you will – of weaving diagrams. I love the arcane and somehow Dickensian vocabulary: heddles and harnesses and beaters and castles and lamms.

I love the way it’s making me learn something new, at every turn. Think about it – when was the last time you really learned? It’s wonderful, really. My brain is firing in so many different ways all of a sudden. I’m happy to return to using my hands and my brain, after so many years of pretty much ignoring my need to make and do. It feels really good.

I sometimes dream of it; I problem solve loom issues in my sleep, or at least try to.

weaving at pias

I’ve met so many great people in the course of this new adventure: weavers and spinners and yarn people. Artists and craftspeople and funny previous-owners of looms. They have been, to a person, joyful and thoughtful and generous. This was, I think, a very lucky direction to have taken, here in Nova Scotia by way of Ireland.

That lovely gentle trip to Ireland brought me all of these gifts; I didn’t even know that I needed this, and now I wonder how I could not have known.

I am curious about other people – what have you discovered, like this?


Their tops are made out of rubber/Their bottoms are made out of springs!

There’s a phrase that has been running though my mind lately: count your blessings.  I’ve been feeling as if I turned a corner a while back; I no longer seem to feel like  a delicate little flower, or a victim of something. Nor, really, do I feel like a “survivor” of anything, though  surely I have survived.

It occurs to me that even taking into consideration all of the crap that made up the past 4 or so years, there was a lot of good. So yeah, I can take stock and count my blessings and now that I am on the other side of it I can even fall prey, some days, to the danger of minimizing it all.

So really, it’s a matter of perception. What angle I feel like looking at it from?  Is it really that simple?

Yes it is, and… No, it’s not. Sometimes stuff is just crappy, and it was. My daughter was in chronic unrelenting pain. Neither of us had any sleep; the help from the community was sporadic and often counter productive (though my friends were and are amazing), and it didn’t matter what I did, I could not take her pain away.  That was awful. It was awful that we tried so many things, and although things are way better now, I am not even sure what worked and what didn’t.

Time, I think, helped. Time healed and soothed some of her angry nerves, and time allowed us to heal our emotional hurts and to quell our fear. Time allowed her to wean herself from a grossly toxic, close-to-irresponsibly-prescribed massive cocktail of drugs that would fell a person twice her size. Time allowed us finally to sleep, to heal in that primal way that only sleep can do.

It hasn’t entirely stopped me from feeling helpless sometimes, though it did allow me to create a situation where there are other people on the front lines of it all – something that helps soothe that worry that I can’t do it all. (Time has also shown me how jaw-droppingly stupid it is to think that anyone can do it all. Jeez, the ego involved in that little martyrdom story is something I don’t feel like exploring overmuch.)

Recently my amazing daughter (the eldest, not the younger, who is equally amazing) gave a speech at a panel discussion  where she talked about what it’s like to be a 22-year old woman living in a nursing home. It was so very well done – delivered with  eloquence and clarity, and not a little humour.  She was talking about what it feels like to be a sort of “one-off”:

tigger 3“I’m kind of like Tigger… Yay I’m the only one!

and then some days I think…

Oh. I’m the only one.

Gawd. The pathos in that last little sentence, with it’s little hiccupping skip of self-recognition…. I will not sugarcoat it. It brought me to tears that after all she’s been through (and make no mistake – it was always way worse than what I was going through trying to “fix” it) that she has found a home, but it is one in which she still sometimes feels like she’s a sort of one-of-a-kind.

She wants what we all want – community, and belonging, and a home. She doesn’t want to be in a home but rather wants to make a home, just like all of us do. She’s getting there – she has shown a gift for making connections with people, and she has undeniable charisma that helps her to make new friends easily. In the inventory that is her life, the stock on her shelves is undeniably one-of-a-kind, and all the more precious for that.

One thing I’ve done in the past year or so is to start to learn to be still. To stop… bouncing (to continue the Tigger metaphor).  Being still, for real – not just wanting to be still, or having a pious pretence of stillness, but a real honest to goodness attempt to stop has helped. I have the incredible luxury of having the time and space to  find that quiet inside me; I do wish that I’d been able to do so  a few years ago, but the sheer volume of *noise* inside my head made it too hard. It will be, I think, a lifetime’s work – to find that stillness, and to embrace it. Once you’re still, you see that there is a universe of blessings to count. I promise – just try it.

I think, too, that the stillness I seek is not entirely there yet –  it’s the process of listening to the swirling in my head, to acknowledge it, and embrace it, that brings it closer. That is what quiets it. Acceptance of the messy noisiness of it all – acceptance of the fears and random tantrums and (here’s the hard one – the joy).

same sad story

serendipitously found platitude

It may be as simple as finding blessings to count. I’ve made a bit of a fetish lately of recognizing the beauty in small things and rejoicing in it.  I’m smelling roses (and peonies and hyacinths and dirt and wet doggy and the wondrous food in my kitchen). I’m just embracing it all, or trying to. When I get caught up in bullshit that really doesn’t matter, I forget that in the grand scheme of it all, I am just a small Tigger, trying to make my way, and that I can choose to be happy that I’m the only one, or I can be… well, sad that I’m the only one.

I can choose to be happy, or not.

What I know is that I keep learning things from my daughters – my brave, lovely, resilient daughters. They are their very own individually perfect fierce bouncy Tiggers, and they are beautiful for it.  They are indeed what I count as my most blessed blessings, and it is from them that I learn to be still, and to bounce.

So what’s next? Dunno. But for the first time in a long while, I’m kind of excited to see. I’m interested to see how (re)learning to count my blessings is going to change things. I believe quite strongly that by concentrating on different things, by taking the time to learn how to be mindful, I am altering myself in profound ways. I am mindful, too, that to get to this point I had to go through all that other stuff.

I am not going to say it was a blessing that my loved ones were in pain, or that my being reduced to a fearful ball of raw nerves was a good thing. From this side of it, I most fervently suggest that it was awful and I wish it hadn’t happened, but I do see the irons forged in that fire, and I warm my hands on the embers that remain.

I started this post by saying I don’t feel like a survivor, and that is the case. I say this because really, what did I survive? Life?  Life isn’t easy, nor fair, nor is there a grand plan. I take pleasure in that knowledge now, because I have figured out that trick – to be still and reduce the noise. I’ve figured out that taking stock is necessary, but that silence is almost a necessary component, in order to allow for the counting. When you’re doing it on the fly, you lose count, lose track, become distracted. When you can take a deep breath, a moment is all you need to help you bounce back.

And that’s the most wonderful thing about Tiggers – they bounce.

364 Days…

It has been 364 days since my father diedlove lee

364 days is a long time, and it has been a busy year – a year of loss and healing and working and (re)building. It has been a good year.  In some ways, these last 364 days have been good because of what happened on that 365th day.

Does that sound odd? I suppose it does.

It seems to me that it’s not all that odd, when you think about it. When you are there, holding someone you love,  helping them through their final days and witnessing them leave the earth, you start to get a bit of perspective. Death is sometimes something we pretend doesn’t happen, or maybe it’s something we fixate on, with fear.

But as sure as taxes, we’re all going to die someday, sooner or later.  I do not know when my time is up, and I absolutely hope it’s not any time soon. I’m not going to waste my how I will always remember himtime being afraid of that, or of much else for that matter. If the last 364 days have taught me anything it’s that we need to just continue on – loving, and creating, and accepting.

Loss is hard, and I would very much like to have him back here, bitching about how the Beloved Patriots didn’t make it to the Super Bowl. We miss him, and mourn his death. Some days it comes back to me, fresh, because I realize anew the finality of it all. He didn’t have an 80th birthday, and this new year is the first one since 1932 that he wasn’t on the planet.  I have only once (thank goodness) unthinkingly grabbed the phone and with the idea to call him.

I’m grateful I knew him, and grateful that I was a part of him. In the past 364 days many people have told me just how much of an impact he made on their lives, and that’s very powerful. I am left thinking of my relationships with the family I have left, and hope that they know how very special they are to me, and that we are all in some way connected to one another through him. That’s a big deal, and nice to think about. We all leave a legacy, you know?

So yes, I miss him and wish he were here. But I have no plans to have a little cry tomorrow, or even to commemorate it with much more than a nod to that 365th day’s passing. I’m just going to hug people I love, and be grateful for all that these past 364 days have taught me.


I remember, vividly, the day I turned ten. My big present that year – the one I really remember – was that I was finally allowed to cut my hair a bit. Every day was a struggle with my mother tugging at my hair and trying to put it in a pony tail. Always a “high” ponytail. Always with ribbons that matched my outfit.

Big fat yarn ribbons. Completely uncool and colour coordinated.

big. fat. yarn. ribbons.

So yes. Hair was a site for a power struggle between my parents and me. Eventually I won, and on my tenth birthday, in the dappled sun of the backyard, my mother grasped my single down-to-my-bottom braid and snipped it in half.

Such freedom! It didn’t matter that it was uneven, and crookedy (um, don’t try this at home. Go to a hairdresser, people), and kinked from being held in check with the braiding.

Oh! It danced around my shoulders and it was blissfully free from the heavy ordeal of daily scraping with a comb, the daily chore of accidentally-on-purpose losing the damn ribbons….


I’m sure I got other presents that year; I vaguely recall wanting Earth Shoes more than anything else in the world. I do not think I got them.  (Hey, don’t judge – it was Rexdale Ontario in 1975, after all. What else was I going to want?)

Vividly, I remember going bravely into school the next day, hair swinging, and feeling proud and a bit anxious.  Miss Fox (who wore mini skirts and who turned into Mrs. Smith, after she got married) touched my hair and said to me “Joanie, you are a whole decade old now!”

A decade.  A whole decade.
And wow. It was a long time coming, that first decade.

On the other hand, this past decade has flown by. On Friday, Mr. 761 and I will have been married for ten years. Ten long and lovely happened-quick-as-anything years for which I am so grateful.

In some ways it was very hard. Anyone who reads this space knows that some days that decade took about 20 years to pass. On the whole, though?

Nothing. Like the blink of an eye.

It is, I think, because I was in the right place for me; with this family I’ve taken on, who have taken me. This place, where I could make a difference and be changed in the process. This place, with my partner, and my children.

It wasn’t always easy and I’m no saint. I’ve done things that maybe I’m not so proud of, but on the whole I think we’ve all come out the end of this decade much better off than when we started.

A decade ago, our kids were almost-9 and 11. The changes I can see in both of them leaves me breathless. In that way, this decade has been both so very very long and yet over in a heartbeat. How can those sweet things be these lovely grown women now? How can they have changed so drastically when we, their parents, have hardly changed at all?

A matched set

We have, of course, changed. We’re older and a bit fuzzier around the edges, but I know that speaking for myself I am so happy to have stood in our backyard ten years ago and married my one true love. I won’t go on and on again because I’ve written about it before. Suffice it to say, marrying him was the best idea I ever had. Marrying them was the best idea – and make no mistake, they came as a matched set.

This decade has seen drastic changes in my life –  a marriage, two children, different jobs, and the loss of people I love. It has been work as well as joy. Out of those ten years, Mr. 761 has been in war zones for 3 1/2 –  almost 4 – of them. Not ideal, but we’ve managed, and taken the good out of each circumstance.

In the dappled sunlight on this side of the last decade, I feel freer, like something is dancing around my shoulders. Like that braid, cut so long ago, we might be a little uneven and crookedy, but it feels good, and I’m happy to be unfettered by constraints.

Thank you, my love, for our lives together. Happy Anniversary.

Look at us, a whole decade old!

She only likes me for my body….

That was a search term that got someone to my humble corner of the internet yesterday.

It’s more interesting than “cranberry oatcakes” but I’m befuddled over how this search term sent someome to me. It feels racier than I tend to think my blog is. Is there something I’m missing? Some secret sexiness that I haven’t intended but through some strange alchemy appears on search engine results?


terrific image by my friend at

What’s interesting about this is that I had been intending to write about my body today.  The last time I wrote about my body, it was because someone had searched for “fear in a box“… I like this, it’s like a game – search terms appear on my stats page, and I have to find a way to wrap them into my  Box 761-iverse.

Not sure what to do about this one. There are all sorts of tortured conceits I could twist about – my own body consciousness, my feeling invisible in the world because of it, my thinking it might be kind of nice to be wanted for my body, the beauty of my big brain…. blah blah blah.

But you know, I’m kind of bored with the whole thing. I’m eating better, I’m trying to be more active, and I’m overweight. I want it to disappear without my having to exert myself. It won’t.

The boring truth is that as with anything else, only time and effort will fix it.

I prefer to think about this as being from some other perspective. Say, what if my husband wrote that search term?  Let me tell ya, I like him for more than that… don’t worry, my love. You keep writing blogs like this and you’ll have nothing to worry about.


Life is good, my friends. I’m feeling lighter and happier than I’ve been in years. My family is happy and whole and healthy. I’m taking great big gulps of this and savoring every moment. I’ve spent the past too many years waiting for that “other shoe” to drop. It’s not that I don’t still, in my secret self, expect another shoe… it’s just that all of a sudden I don’t really care.

I’m fairly sure I can take whatever that shoe throws at me (man, I wish I had an editor. They would tell me that was not a great sentence). I’m sure that even if another shoe does drop (oh, I get it. It throws a shoe at me! phew. oh… wait.)….

Ah hell, I’ll just go barefoot from now on. That way, if a shoe drops, I won’t need to wait for the other.

Image of bare feet on the beach

Another great photo by my friend Patty. Click here to see more of her work.

The blog is dead. Long live the blog.

The other day someone said to me that  “most folks don’t read blogs, but that’s okay.”

No, I don’t think it is.

My husband writes the very funny and very illuminating Justdfacsmaam blog, a look at the d-facs (dining facilities) on Kandahar Air Field. He has managed, for three years, to find funny, sweet, angry, smart, slightly bitter and fascinating things to say about the food over there and I think that is more because he is himself funny, sweet, angry, smart, slightly bitter and fascinating than it is because there’s anything intrinsically interesting about, say, chicken ass.

He could write about anything in a blog, and I would read it – because he’s good at it. I’m learning about his world when he’s away from me, and he’s communicating with hundreds (thousands?) of people though it. If I called him every day and asked “how was your day?” I wouldn’t get this level of detail, or the weird immediacy that comes from a focused blog post written in the heat of the moment.

When I started this blog, it was a way to send him letters from home, in a way. I started it off with a couple posts about how much I love him. We don’t write letters, and although we write emails all the time, they aren’t what they used to be. We skype now, instead of writing long missives, or text, or “like” one another’s facebook posts…

Sigh. I don’t even write a journal anymore. I wrote tons of drivel into my journals as a young woman, and though they were private and nobody every looked at them (that I know of) the writing of it served a very good purpose. Self-therapy, problem solving, facilty with language, exploration… all of it was eased into being by the writing-down-of-it all.

For years I’ve been posting photos of food I’ve made on Facebook; every once in a while I put some up here on the blog, but always seems too… what, formal? I like that it’s immediate on FB, that I don’t have to write a lot about it, or sit at my laptop – I usually just post it from my phone. But it occurs to me that I should put it up here too, for a few reasons – several people just mentioned it to me, and I feel like FB may be going downhill fast. Do you feel it? The slow rise to almost obscene amounts of kitty cat videos and Takei memes, the increasing number of ways to muddy up what used to be a fairly simple interface?

What’s starting to take precedence is the convenience of the medium, not the message? I must want convenience, so Twitter would make perfect sense, right?  But I have never really cottoned to twitter, though I have an account (@box761) and use it sometimes, but it doesn’t feel like my medium. I really just use it when I’m on the road and don’t have wifi, or if I want what I’ve blogged to show up on Facebook. When I use Twitter on my iPad I really like the interface, but on my laptop it seems stupid and at the wrong speed – like,  driving somewhere to go for a walk.

I found this using the “next blog” button.

I like blogs. I really like them. Sometimes when I have too much time on my hands I go to blogspot and just keep hitting the “next blog” button to see what comes up… I could spend all day down that rabbit hole. It’s a good way to see into people’s lives without having to, you know, talk to anyone. I like that anyone can write an autobiography now; it’s not just something “important” people can do. Anyone can, and does. I love it. I also like taking walks at dusk because you can see in people’s houses – I’m not a voyeur, really, it’s just that I really like knowing how people construct their lives. I like seeing who hangs their pictures too high over the sofa, and who prefers ambient light to overhead, and who’s watching tv at 6 pm. I like hearing them chatter out back if the weather’s nice and I like waving as I go by if they see me passing.

I know that people who don’t know me might come across Box 761 and wonder what the hell I’m doing, writing about my dinner, and my dogs and death and how much I adore my husband. Hell, even people I do know might wonder why I do it. Maybe I’m writing you all letters. Maybe I’m trying to make sure that we know one another when we meet on the street; we’ll know that my cat died or that I had cranberry oatcakes or that you went back to school or ate chicken ass in Kandahar. It’s all about knowing each other, even if we’re strangers.

I’m not sure, really, but this medium feels just my speed. It feels sufficiently old school that I don’t have to rush, it’s largely narrative but has the added benefit of being able to link, and illustrate on the side. Some days I want to writea bout things that I think are really important – it’s vital that I write it down. Those days, I don’t care that “most folks don’t read blogs” because it’s the writing that’s important to me.  Catharsis?  Other days I really want to share – look what I did/made/saw/read!  Those days it’s like talking to a friend; the unhurried sort of conversation we all had before we got so frigging busy and old and interested in our phones. The only time my blog doesn’t “work” for me is when I’m trying to get people to read it. Those times I’m inauthentic and ingenuous and I pander.

Meh. sometimes the lure of site stats is too irresistible.

“My friends all think that I should go into English because I’m so good a [sic] trivial pursuit. I don’t know, something artsy anyway.”

When we were going through my father’s things after he died, we found file folders full of cards and letters, old business cards and little bits of paper. Each child had a folder – he’d kept it all. Letters I’d written to him at 13, bitter funny letters about highschool, letters asking for money, apologizing for things… There was a crazy amount of stuff there, and I couldn’t really even remember writing most of them. They were lovely and embarrassing and so while not more “real” than the texts I receive from my daughter (you can fit a lot of nuance in 160 characters), they are more lasting.

I shredded most of those letters – the nature of the relationship was that many of them were angry-young-woman letters and they did not travel through the decades well. What I’m left with, though, was a lingering feeling that we were closer than I remember and that if in the intervening years we became more distant it might be in part because I stopped writing those letters….  Communication methods changed – I emailed, I phoned, I wrote cards on birthdays and when he was ill, but no more letters.  In the late ’80’s – enraptured by the technology – I faxed a few.

My mother did the same – I have a small cache of letters I’d sent her that she’d saved, and cards she received at my birth and kept.

Sadly, I don’t really have that much for my kids to find, filed away once I’m gone – they’re digital babies and all the information is either on the hard drive of my laptop, in old floppies and flash drives and vhs tapes, or ephemera – texts and emails and “likes” on Facebook. I have saved things, of course, but there just isn’t as much.

What I liked about those ridiculous letters – my juvenilia, such as it is – was that they were about the day-to-day, not just historic events. They were full of details about normal, ordinary things. They were chatty and authentic and guileless.  I remember being genuinely annoyed when stamps went up to 17 cents. Outrageous! Yesterday I went into the post office to send a card to a relative in Georgia (hey Ruth!) and I didn’t even know how much a stamp would cost! ($1.29 CAD, btw…. more outrage!)

I’m most emphatically not a luddite. I am usually an early adopter of new technology, and I tend to absorb it into my daily life fairly quickly. Perhaps I’ve done so a bit too quickly…. when a blog feels old schoolit means I may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

letters to/from parents

When I’m talking about writing but the word “technology” comes out as a synonym, there might be a problem. I adore my ebooks.  I am eagerly awaiting the chip in my head that will make reading as simple as, say, wiggling my nose like Samantha on Bewitched.

But I also like paper. I like paper books, and paper letters and photos that are printed out onto… paper. I love it all. I like stuff I can hold in my hands, stuff that feels silky, or crackly, or musty. I like it all, because I love the act that engendered it – all of these people, leaving bits of themselves on paper for anyone to read and see them… it doesn’t get much better than that.

I want to write more letters. I want to get more letters. I have a childhood friend who isn’t on Facebook, doesn’t read blogs, isn’t on twitter, and frowns on letters that aren’t handwritten. I don’t think I’ll go that far, because it’s well… kind of annoying. I find writing letters to him feels like I’m repeating myself, because there’s so much back-story that I have to write, because he missed my most recent fb status update.

I’m also going to keep reading blogs, and writing them. There are some days when I read a blog and it feels like commenting is too time consuming. Really? What am I, the Queen?
I will reconsider my sloth, and consider the price of entry a comment that shows I see their bid, and raise it. Let’s see what we’ve all got in our hands, eh?

What’s written in blogs isn’t always of import, but it’s almost always important.  People are writing letters out to the world. Anyone could find it, and read it – they could walk by and see if my tv is on, or what kind of art I have hung (at just the right height) on my walls. Sometimes, though, it is of import – it’s life and death out there, it’s loss and fear and a place to say all those things we can’t write in letters any more because well, we don’t write them.

Blogs like this and this and this and this are out there. This one’s even about letter writing, how can you resist? 

Read them, people.

Let’s all keep in touch a bit more, shall we? I’m going to make the effort to write more comments, and connect. I might even print out ones I like, so they don’t get lost. I can’t leave my kids my WordPress subscription list, or my bookmark files, can I?