Reading the Archives

October 10, 2012 @ 8:18 pm | Filed under: ,

A thing I love to do, when I encounter a new blog I like, and sometimes with blogs I’ve been reading for years and years, is to go back to their very first posts and read all the way through the archives. Blogs are like memoirs, but rougher, less polished, wonderfully raw. It’s like poring over a photo album from the ’70s—our photos now may be cropped and filtered, beautifully lit, but our blogs reveal the messy business of life just beyond the frame. And I love that.

I love experiencing the development of a voice, reading along as day by day a writer grows more confident in her manner of expression, her point of view.

I love the conversations, the small-town feel of some comboxes, a warmth and familiarity that grows from people meeting up in the same place week after week.

I love watching how things change over time—the toddlers become teens, and the blogger’s interests and concerns shift direction; or there’s a move, a new job, an upheaval. Sometimes there is a tragedy, and I grieve invisibly for people I’ve never met, people I think of at odd moments because a bird or cloud or phrase reminds me of them.

That’s another piece of it, the associations. Reading a blog for a long stretch means you form connections between people and the things they love. The word ‘knitting’ brings specific people into my mind. Or: Quiet. Skipping. Selkie. Choir. Butter. Valentine. Crows. Homespun. Trillium.

Sometimes, the best times, there’s a reciprocity, and a blogger—or commenter—becomes not simply someone you read, but someone you know. A friend.

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15 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. sarah says:

    This is one of the loveliest posts I’ve read in a long while. I feel so blessed to have made some real and beautiful connections online. Just this week I was smiling with someone over the fact that we’d known each other for about ten years! Never met, but didn’t need to – our hearts met. (Actually, I believe you may be acquainted with the same person.)

    To watch the changes with children, also … this is especially lovely because for us adults it can be surprising to think ten whole years have gone past, we don’t feel all that different – but a decade ago the children were just toddlers and we were worrying about all kinds of things at which we are now old hands, and some of us are even sharing our sagacity with others just new on the mothering path.

    I remember when I first encountered some bloggers; for example, Lesley of Small Meadow Press, I would lurk at their site, too awed and enchanted to say anything very much. And then a word is dropped, a smile given, a friendship delicately grown – and now they bless my life in so many ways.

    I’m sorry for rambling on so – although I know you won’t mind 🙂 It’s just I read so often about how the internet is a negative influence on our social selves, how friendships made online aren’t real, etc, and yet I have been so very lucky, met so very many wonderful people, had true and meaningful engagements with them, listened as people cried, laughed over old jokes, received advice and support … and sometimes it’s just a passing thing, a nod and a smile to someone who likes the same movies as you, or the change to say thanks to a favourite author. Connection doesn’t have to be forever to be worthwhile.

  2. MelanieB says:

    Oh yes! I love reading archives. I love seeing the story unfold and getting that deeper sense of person and voice. I love reading my own archives as well and seeing how my own voice has changed and my story too. My blog is such a different place than it was– was it really seven years ago?

    I often think it’s a shame that there is a blogging culture which makes it poor form — and sometimes actually impossible– to go back and comment on old blog entries. I notice you haven’t closed comments on those old ones and sometimes people stumble across them and do leave a comment and they show up in my feed reader and I have a little moment of peeking back into the past. It’s the one thing I love about going through my spam filter. Sometimes I get caught up in reading my own old blog entries after a spammer has slapped some icky comment on them.

    And I know what you mean by the associations. The other day I somehow stumbled across The Lake Isle of Innisfree and reread it. Do you know I’d forgotten somehow that it was the source of your header quote. What a delight to see that familiar little phrase again in its original context and to have it carrying all the weight of Here in the Bonny Glen with it. My mental image of Yeat’s isle with its bee-loud glade now has overlaid that blog picture of your children. I love Yeats all the more for seeing him afresh through your eyes. And now I see that even though the line you use doesn’t have the bees in it, that it is the perfect poem for you. I also can’t see a honeybee buzzing around on a clover flower in our backyard without thinking of you and your bees.

  3. Penny says:

    Beautiful post, and so very true. Makes for some nice neighbors, in a virtual sort of way.

    I love your ponderings.

    (and PT is a big hit here, btw :))

  4. Megan D Neal says:

    I’m just coming out of lurker mode (I’m usually too intimidated to comment: I feel like a kid peeking through the railings at the grown-ups’ party! 🙂 ) to say that this post moved me. I love the way you express yourself.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Oh best post ever! Those ‘friends’ you speak of – I knew if right from the first post I read and remember that post distinctly. Cherry cobbler always makes me think of you.

  6. Ellie says:

    I can’t imagine what my life would be like, without the friends I’ve made through blogging.

    I still enjoy going back through the archives, just once in a while, of one or another of my long-time favorite bloggers — or my own! I am so grateful to have the written records 🙂 the connections, the conversations.


  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    Hearing from you all has given me such a smile this morning. 🙂 Megan, I’m really happy you said hello—comment anytime! But it’s also nice to know you’re out there, reading. 🙂

    Melanie, what a lovely story about my beloved Innisfree! The original name of my Tumblr (where I collect links for sharing and reference) was “Bee-Loud Glade.” At some point—I don’t remember why or when—I changed it to “Out of All Hooping,” after my favorite quote from As You Like It.

    Sarah, I think of that so often too, when I’m reading these laments about ‘shallow internet relationships’—so opposite what I’ve experienced myself. I have real, strong, rooted internet friendships stretching back more than 17 years now! I can date them because I’m still close to some women I met on the AOL “Baby’s Here, Now What?” board back when Jane was born in 1995. 🙂 And my discussion-board friendships, very real, treasured; and friends like all of you, formed in the blogroll. But also, gosh, the internet has provided much closer contact and renewed relationship with friends I’d lost touch with (or been in touch with only sporadically, but we loved each other dearly all along) ages ago!

  8. Fanny Harville says:

    This is a lovely description of the peculiar intimacies and pleasures of blog reading. Also: I love the tag on this post!

  9. Melanie B says:

    Oh! I remember the Bee-Loud Glade!

  10. Melissa Wiley says:

    It’s still there, under the new name. 🙂 Many of the articles I’ve linked there also show up here in my sidebar—if I liked the look of the Tumblr widget better, I’d just feed it into the sidebar instead of taking the extra step to bookmark shareable items at Diigo (which is what supplies the “Caught My Eye” feed right now). Or maybe not—I tend to share a broader range of links at Tumblr, because part of its purpose is to be a mental scrapbook for me, so I can keep track of Things I’ve Read on the Internet.

    My greatest ongoing internet quandary: where to share things! Facebook, Pinterest, G+, Tumblr, Twitter…you’ve heard this from me before. Sometimes I find myself yearning for One Platform to Rule Them All, One Platform to Bind Them…but we all know what kind of trouble THAT means!

  11. MelanieB says:

    I’m still getting something from you in my Google Reader with shared links. Is that the Tumblr? I’m not even sure where I got the RSS.

    Even better than One Platform to Rule them all, I’m currently enamoured of Dom’s recent idea that social media make the jump that email did when it suddenly became a way of talking not just to others within the Prodigy or CompuServe of AOL universes; but those became merely service providers. And now AOL is mostly a portal through which you can communicate with anyone on any network. What if Facebook, Twitter and the like were merely gateways of choice as Gmail, Yahoo. Hotmail, etc are today? You could post to any social network and gather from any social network because they all spoke a universal language. If they could only play nice with each other then we wouldn’t have to choose, or, rather choice wouldn’t be so fraught because it wouldn’t limit our possible audience in any way any more than using Gmail limits the number of people I can send emails to. (I don’t have all the technical lingo that he uses to describe it; but it seems like a marvelous way of reframing the question.)

  12. Melissa Wiley says:

    That might be the Diigo feed. There’s an RSS button in the sidebar under the “caught my eye” widget—maybe you subbed at some point?

    I like Dom’s vision and wish were a possibility. It seems like the major social media are moving in exactly the opposite direction—closed platforms and apps.

  13. Karen Edmisten says:

    Oh, how I love this post! I am speechless with love. Yes, and waving a big hello to you, Lissa, and all my other real friends who gather here. 🙂

  14. Joann says:

    Hello, dear Internet friend of nearly 14 years! Loved this post.

  15. Melissa Wiley says:

    14 years! It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? 🙂