My heart sank when I remembered that the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge was coming around again. Not because I dreaded it: on the contrary, I had loved every minute of it the first time around; but because this Spring I was on sabbatical and would be on a research trip out of the country for the entire month of April. There would be work to do, continual movement, and uncertain availability of wifi. But simultaneously, my heart fluttered and rose up: what a lark it had been last year, dashing off new posts between drafts of students’ term papers and dreaming them up during tedious end-of-year meetings. I would do it!
For better or worse, I did. Choosing “Traveling Light” as a theme to match both my movement and my subject matter, I promised myself that I would neither let blogging interfere with my work nor with my interactions with real people. I’d rather not reveal whether or not I kept that promise, but suffice it to say that I completed the Challenge, if a few late posts and one hasty space-filler at the end of an exhausting day can be overlooked.
The month, my travels, and the Challenge came to an end all at once, casting me ashore safe, but strangely bereft. This past week, no longer traveling light but alternately drifting and drowning in a state of sleep-deprivation and a stack of unpaid bills, I have tried to reflect on it all, but I don’t have enough distance on it yet. Here’s what I have, such as it is:
First, no matter how often I told myself that I could and would simply give it up if it interfered with my work or my interactions with family and friends, it took on an imperative of its own. Many was the night I found myself staying up writing into the wee hours so as to be able to post the day’s story while keeping my promise to myself to focus my days on the task at hand. My family and friends were caught up in it too. Realizing that if they couldn’t beat it, they needed to join it, they came to me with suggestions for topics that could dispatch the thing as speedily as possible. My cousin Jacky, for example, came up with “Quiet” for Day Q, so that I would be able to dispense with words and simply post peaceful pictures. If she hoped that I would take the hint and simply quit blogging, she was too polite to say so.
Second, I found Tell Me Another and the blogs of other participants with similar themes and shared life experiences gravitating toward each other: a storey of stories, written by an expatriate whose daily posts expatiated on the different places he had visited or lived in; galeriaredelius, the blog of a jewelry-maker who circumnavigated the world through the Internet, visiting a different online art exhibit each day; the cross- and trans-cultural reflections of people of Indian and/or British origin in blogs like Drifting Traveller; in calmgrove, the shared childhood love of books, read in places far from the “home” of the writer; Smidgens, Snippets, and Bits, a loving, painfully honest blog by the full-time caregiver of an husband with a chronic disease; aliceinbloggingland, who chose Memory and memories as her theme; and, to my delight, saltyspring, a wide-ranging blog I responded to without realizing that the author was none other than my sister!
Third, the Challenge gave me the joy of random discovery of excellent, innovative writers I might never have encountered if not here. As a young mother, the author of abundance in the boondocks is in a different stage of life from mine, but one that I read and remembered with a pang of recognition. As a flamboyantly imaginative persona whose writing is not afraid of walking on the wild side, the author-narrator of The Essence of a Thing set off sparks in my dull, academic brain.
Fourth, at a time when I felt that my blog had reached a plateau, A-to-Z brought me new readers and followers. Tell Me Another had just under 200 followers when I first announced my intent to take up the Challenge, and now, barely a month later, it has 250 followers. The daily visits spiked, a welcome development; though they started to drop again even before the month was out (perhaps others were getting as overwhelmed as I was) and I will have to see whether there will be any long-term effects on the blog’s traffic. Still, I will be grateful if I emerge from this experience with a reciprocal relationship with even one new blog. Last year, that blog was Finding Eliza, still one of my very favorites.
Finally, it was the hard traveling of the Challenge’s co-hosts and helpers that allowed me to travel light. Thanks to Damyanti Biswas at Amlokiblogs (also doing the A-to-Z Challenge on Daily Writes), who first suggested it to me back in 2012, to Arlee Bird, who dreamed it up in the first place, and to all the others who worked eight days a week to make this global initiative, 2000 bloggers strong, run like clockwork all month long.
Here’s an annotated list of my A-to-Z posts:
Travelling Light: A-to-Z April Challenge Theme
in which I introduce my theme
Air Travel The start of a month-long journey and also the A-to-Z April challenge
Baggage About excess baggage, both literal and figurative (Written in transit)
Culture After 24 short hours in a new country, some observations about the culture as I see it as well as on Culture in general.
Deutschland (or Germany?) On stamp collecting and nationalism, by no means just the German version.
In the Eurozone Decentering Europe (is it really a continent?) and reflections on the EU
Food, Bremen-style lavishly illustrated post on the German—or at least the Bremer—diet, as I have been experiencing it
(On not knowing) German The embarrassment and unevenness of this for an English-speaker, when so many Germans speak English so well
Holidays, religious and otherwise, and the cycle of life and death
Interior Design The joys of beautiful, functional, and human-friendly design
(Leaving on a) Jet Plane On this song, others like it, and the two different senses of “jet”
Kuchen a German institution: no explanation needed
London without Lily contemplating returning to a London without this dear person in it and realizing the magnitude of her influence on me
Monuments The problem with monuments and why I prefer markets
Nostalgia When is it harmless and when toxic?
Oh, to be in England For the English colonials, “Home” was always England; the beloved (and clichéd) original and the hilarious send-up
Pardon the Liberty (but I plead pure exhaustion) Unable to write a new post, I beg pardon and list previous ‘P’ stories
Quiet The rush and tear of travel is graced with moments of peace
Railways, Real and Imagined Chasing trains, in reality, and in my mind’s eye
Swagmen While I hit the road by choice, I have a home to return to; these people, past and present, do not.
Tea While I’ve been known to be a bit of a tea snob, in the end it’s all about the company
U and Non-U Images of nature and reflections on class, occasioned by a visit to the royal estate of Sandringham
Variations, Variety, Vocab As Doris Lessing once wrote, we’re all made of the same stuff
Walls Do they really keep the peace? For whom, and at what cost?
The Challenge of X The beauty of x is that a) it’s unknown and b) it can be what you want it to be.
Yellowcake and other Euphemisms The nuclear power industry is both global and local, as are the production of yellowcake and the (ab)use of language to dress a wolf in sheep’s clothing
Zindagi Here’s to life! Let a thousand flowers bloom!