Perhaps it’s because I’m still new to blogging that I haven’t lost the sense of wonder yet. It’s summer here and things are kind of nice late at night.
I was sitting at my computer in a room with a big glass window. The city skyline was spread out in front of me glittering like a long necklace across the empty river.
I was reading a blog on a topic similar to one I’d written the previous week–Cafes and the city. I suggested to a fellow blogger (who had said he couldn’t work in cafes because he found them noisy) that he could sit in the park and write if he felt disturbed working in cafes so much.
Summer. Empty benches. Park. It all came so naturally to me.
Then his reply came. He would if he could. He was in the middle of the “deep darkness of winter”.
I had a sudden change of perspective. A snowy park. No leaves on trees. Bitter cold. Moonlight shining blue on the snow at this very moment I had my finger on the typewriter. Some winter wonderland at night.
Then he wrote again. He said he was in the library.
Shift in perspective. Library? What kind of library?
Perhaps a library in a very cold place with small windows and wooden panels and very old, ancient books and an even older librarian in monocles. People shaking the snow off their boots as they entered.
No. I didn’t seriously think that but imagination did wander. And when imagination wanders, it tends to think of the person at the other end as the opposite of everything you are. With the small adjustment of a modern computer and keyboard hidden somewhere in that scenario so it won’t jar with the image.
Yesterday, another blogger asked if I was Canadian. I can’t think why but I did go over the details I’d mentioned in my blog to check what could make him think that. His imagination also must have wandered. He’s either Canadian himself and felt some camaraderie with me or the opposite of Canadian (whatever that is) and thought I was for some reason.
Blogging. It makes the world unfold in strange ways and makes different worlds intersect.
There are others I’ve interacted with. I read a blog last week by a mommy who was writing as her kids were dangerously balancing themselves on the window sill playing a game. A commenter same day liked my blog. I found her profile said she was a reverend. A chef at a restaurant wanted some feedback on his writing in the comments section. Someone somewhere had found my blog searching for “business suits for dogs” (can’t think why anyone would look for that–they were the Google search terms on my stats page). He’d come up with my It’s a Dog’s Life.
People I would never have exchanged writing and reading with in my regular life.
It’s been a strange experience seeing the views of the blog by country unfold one by one. For me, at first it’s usually the US. Then it slowly shows the UK, then Canada and then a lot of other countries unfold. I know that all of that is not necessarily accurate since there could be many countries that use proxy servers in other locations. My technical knowledge is not strong enough to understand how but that only deepens the romance.
There’s many countries I’ve seen and many I haven’t. As I sit at my desk here, I imagine someone in a three wheeler auto rickshaw in Kolkata half sitting, half hanging out of the front seat next to the driver, deftly manoeuvring his knees and hands through the rush hour traffic so neighbouring cars don’t hit him, taking a glance at my blog on his smart phone screen. I see a high-level executive on the back seat of his car in Mumbai interrupted while reading the blog as he yells at the driver to overtake the car in front. I see a bored student in Lexington, Kentucky, looking up from his Calculus worksheet during his late night dinner at Chipotle looking over the pictures on my blog as he waits for his study group to arrive. I see people in London, in Toronto, in innumerable other places.
Then there’s many places I’ve never seen. They are fixed in my mind like still paintings before I have to shake myself off from my reverie. A rice farmer in a paddy field in Indonesia. Folks in pointy hats next to unloading ships in Singapore (this must be from some British Victorian sketches I’d seen somewhere), a woman in traditional dress at a tea ceremony in Japan (that’s probably from the package of an expensive brand of tea I bought from an upscale grocery store), a man with a big animal standing next to a tree in Botswana. . .
Of course, rationally, I know these are not the people reading my blog. Many don’t exist at all outside my stereotypical imagination. These are only personifications of my ignorance thrust upon those statistical numbers.
But somehow I was writing for them. I was writing for the guy standing next to the loading docks in Singapore telling him what the dogs were like in New York. I was telling the guy in the auto rickshaw what cafes looked like in New York in case he liked to have a look and ever wanted to come. I knew those people who were in university libraries in the US (or the UK, or Canada) would know immediately what I was talking about when I mentioned libraries that had ceilings three stories high, escalators and walls of glass. What study groups were. But there would be many who wouldn’t know.
I was wrong. Perhaps the guy in Singapore has libraries with better escalators and newer glass than the ones I saw here. Perhaps the guy in Kolkata was going to his study group meeting that day. He had seen more places in the world than I ever did. Perhaps you, who are reading this now, have ridden innumerable auto rickshaws and didn’t need that scene painted so vividly and thought it was a redundant detail.
Who am I writing for? Do I even know my audience?
One day I had a comment from a woman in New York. She was fascinated by my blog on cafes. She worked in direct marketing, lived in New York, but had never been to a cafe. She was very happy with me for having painted a picture for her about life in a cafe, so to speak.
I was surprised. I never realized that people who were so near could also be far. There were many who had never dropped in ever into the realm of my experience and needed the details.
Then again, being on the internet makes one think one has the world in one’s hand. A blue ball that fits in nicely into the palm of your hand that you can speak to. That it’s patiently listening.
There are so many spots on the map on the stats page always dark for me. In my case, it’s most of Africa and South America and a big part of Asia.
I’ve been thinking of the blog as a great genre for conversation. But as far as those parts are concerned, I’ve been talking to myself while they, certainly, have been talking to themselves. In a language that’s not English. In a medium that doesn’t involve a keyboard and a screen. In a voice that does not require writing.
Or perhaps my concerns are far away from anything they are concerned about. Or ever were. Or ever should be. Or perhaps they just think I’m boring.
Even the people from the parts that are highlighted are probably mostly people like me, who can and like putting ideas in sentence, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into grammatically consistent wholes, putting ideas out there by being able and willing to click a box and compose a blog.
That’s a very small percentage of the world, I’m sure.
I wonder who my audience is and who isn’t. Guess I’ll never know.