To close out the old year, WordPress, the host of this blog, kindly e-mailed me an annual report. It’s so bling-intensive that it’s crashed or stalled Firefox every time I’ve tried to open it, but still, I appreciate the thought. This was the first paragraph:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,200 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.
7,200 is slightly less than half of 15,000, the official year-round population of Martha’s Vineyard. 7,200 views does not mean 7,200 people, but the year-round population of Martha’s Vineyard looms large on my psychic map and NYC subway trains only flash into existence when someone mentions them. However, I now know that it would take 12,5 trips of a NYC subway train to carry the year-round population of Martha’s Vineyard.
Carry it where? Good question. As far as I know, NYC subway trains cannot cross bodies of water without the aid of a tunnel or a bridge. No tunnel or bridge currently links Martha’s Vineyard and the mainland. Either we have to limit ourselves to a subway sightseeing trip around the island, or we have to figure out how many ferry trips it would take to transport all of us to Woods Hole. Someone else will have to do the math on that one. Feel free to base your calculations on the carrying capacity of the entire SSA fleet, but don’t forget there are only two slips in Woods Hole and Vineyard Haven, one in Oak Bluffs.
So 2011 was a good year for me, and From the Seasonally Occupied Territories has been an important part of what made it good. On January 1, 2011, I wrote in my old Bloggery that 2010 had been “a year of continual, monumental unsticking.” When 2010 began, I had a horse and drove a Mazda pickup. When it ended, I was out of horses and driving a Subaru Forester. I’d also crossed the Atlantic for the first time in 35 years.
This was all good, but Discord was sitting at the head of the table, glancing my way and making me nervous. “My writing isn’t going out into the world,” I wrote, “it’s not replenishing the energy it takes to do it.” This was serious. For most of my adult life, I’ve thought of writing as my reason for being in the world. As 2011 began, I was running out of steam, out of faith. The great unsticking of 2010 seemed to be clearing the way for something, but what if there was nothing there? “The only thing I know how to do is turn it over and over and over again,” I wrote.
Reading that on New Year’s Day 2012 — well, it’s enough to remind me that if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you’ll often find yourself in the right place — especially if you started off with no idea where the right place was or whether you’d know it when you got there.
At the end of January, I finally got myself on Facebook. Among my many surprises was how local it was. I started finding out about concerts and readings before they happened instead of afterward. I friended and was friended by Vineyarders I’d only known by name before, if that. I discovered new depths and dimensions in people I thought I knew. All of this communication was happening in words and pictures. Maybe words were important after all? Facebook is like the grapevine, and at the same time a virtual salon or coffeehouse. We are each other’s audience. That’s what I loved most about Martha’s Vineyard during my first decade here: the local theater scene, the music, the way it all flowed through the newspaper where I was working. I thought it had disappeared for good. I was wrong.
It was that feeling of having and being part of an audience that inspired me to start this blog in July. I linked each new post to my Facebook profile. People read them! People subscribed! People commented! No, we’re not talking hordes here — nowhere near enough to fill an NYC subway train, or even a single car. But when you’ve been afraid you’re living in a bell jar, any evidence that words are passing through the glass is hugely encouraging.
In August, I learned that the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, a local conservation organization, was suing Ben Ramsey and Nisa Counter over a parcel of land in Chilmark. The more I learned about the case, the angrier I got. Especially infuriating was the one-sided (to put it mildly) treatment it was getting in the local papers. Aha. I can write, I’ve got this blog — if the newspapers won’t tell Ben and Nisa’s side of the story, I will.
“Land Grab,” the first installment in what has turned out to be an ongoing saga, attracted more than 460 views in a single day. That remains this blog’s all-time high, but all my posts on the subject have been well read. (Links to all chapters of the Story Thus Far are appended to the most recent installment, “Slantwise.”) I’m beyond thrilled. My writing is going into the world. It’s doing its part in the fight against local injustice, and it’s pissing some people off. After I pointed out the flaws in its coverage of the story, and provided a link to my blog, the Martha’s Vineyard Times banned me from posting comments and erased all my previous comments on the subject. More recently, SMF’s attorney gave Facebook pages and blogs as her client’s reason for not agreeing to mediation. The reason is completely bogus, but I’m proud anyway: since this is the only blog that’s been covering the case, I think she means me.
I’ve written about plenty of other things in this blog’s first six months, from the laundromat where I wash my clothes to the fight to prevent a totally unnecessary roundabout from being constructed at the blinker intersection, from the spirituals choir to the Artisans’ Fair to the newly reincarnated Pit Stop. Thanks to the blog I’m paying closer attention to my world, and the writing is more than replenishing the energy it takes to do it. What next?
P.S. for those puzzled by the title: Hogmanay is the Scottish celebration of New Year’s Eve, and I never met a pun I didn’t like.