I had been reading and commenting on Language Hat, which I greatly admired, for a while before Steve and I first met, which happened in New York City in February of 2004. That same day I noticed that the New York Public Library - in honor of the Hat humself, I'd like to think - was hosting an exhibition called "Russia and the World." Thank you, too, Steve, for the link yesterday on your blog - there was a real spike in my stats as a result!
Ten years? It seems like just yesterday that Beth started a blog so literate and humane and open-hearted that I was immediately sucked in, and quickly got my wife addicted as well; we felt so close to her and her husband that we invaded their home on our visit to Montreal in the summer of 2004, and as I wrote <a href="http://www.languagehat.com/archives/001531.php">here</a>, they welcomed us, poured good wine into us, and made such good conversation that we hated to leave. Her series of posts about her father-in-law (which I wrote about <a href="http://www.languagehat.com/archives/001605.php">here</a>) were so affectionate and affecting that I feel closer to him than I do to some members of my own family, even though I never met the man. Her stories about moving to Canada and learning the ways (and language) of her new city were often amusing and always thought-provoking. And she continues to be open to books, art, the life of the spirit, and above all her fellow humans. May she and her blog continue to grace this fallen world for many more years!
Maria Benet was one of my first blogging friends; we grew closer by working together on the Ecotone Wiki, a collaborative project in writing about Place via monthly themes; it began in 2003 and ended in, I think, 2005. We also collaborated with other online friends on a poetry anthology, Brilliant Coroners. Maria, a very gifted poet and essayist, has continued her blog, Small Change, ever since, as well as creating several other online projects; she's the author of a full-length poetry collection, Mapmaker of Absences, and A Month of Haiku, available as an e-book download.
Ten years ago, when Beth and I first “met” as we were both mapping in words the territory of the nascent blogosphere where we landed, I came across a quote by William Gibson, the cyberpunk science fiction writer credited with coining the term “cyberspace”:
“I’ve found blogging to be a low-impact activity, mildly narcotic and mostly quite convivial, but the thing I’ve most enjoyed about it is how it never fails to underline the fact if I’m doing this I’m definitely not writing a novel – that is, if I’m still blogging, I’m definitely still on vacation.”
It may be that for some of us in the ensuing 10 years of blogging a lot of novels and books we planned never got written. But plenty were written as well, among them Beth’s own Going to Heaven, (Soft Skull Press, Brooklyn, 2006) the story of Bishop Gene Robinson and the debate over ordinations of gays and lesbians. And while she was also “still on vacation” blogging, Beth, through reaching out to other bloggers, created Phoenicia Publishing, as a bridge between the best of the pixel and the inked words and images “that illuminate culture, spirit, and the human experience.”
Ten years ago, we were pioneers in “space,” often teased for the enthusiasm we had for how blogging was going to change the world. Ten years later, the world has joined us in throngs, and though the world itself doesn’t seem to have changed in all those way we dreamed of it through blogging, our explorations and collaborative inspirations have changed us. Ten years make for a lot of archived posts; but they also make for deep bonds of friendship that have endured, even if they first saw light in the illuminated screens in a world of pixels.
If blogging, as William Gibson had us believe, is being on a vacation, then I hope that “Cassandra” will keep enjoying hers for another 10 years and beyond, so that we can enjoy the conviviality that widened and deepened our worlds, off and online, through Beth’s explorations here.
Rachel Barenblat, who blogs at The Velveteen Rabbi, is another close friend who starting blogging about the same time I did. From the beginning we've shared many thoughts and learned from one another about our different religions, about spirituality, and the Middle East, and I know from personal experience that Rachel well deserves the honor she received in 2012 when she was named a "Rabbi Without Borders" fellow. I've been privileged to serve as her editor and publisher for two books of poetry; 70 Faces:Torah Poems, and Waiting to Unfold, her collection of poems about pregnancy and early motherhood, which will be published by Phoenicia in May.
Meditations on art and practice -- explorations of spiritual life -- essays and photographs illustrating extraordinary people and lives -- the interplay of shadow and light. These are some of the things I come to The Cassandra Pages to find. Many of the scenes I've glimpsed here have entered into my heart and my consciousness, and stayed there. I feel as though Beth's father-in-law (may his memory be a blessing) was a longtime family friend, although we never met. I feel as though I have walked the meditative and musical paths of Lent and Holy Week, although I am Jewish and inevitably experience those holy days from the outside. Beth brings a keen and compassionate ate to our world. I am grateful for ten years of The Cassandra Pages, and for the friends I've made and remade through its pages.
And there's a very thoughtful response to my blog anniversary post over at Lorianne DiSabato's Hoarded Ordinaries. Lorianne takes up a topic we've discussed often over the years: as writers and creative people, what is the "real work"of a lifetime and how does blogging fit into that definition?