This morning, after my usual comedy routine of getting ready to finally leave the house 45 minutes after I'd planned to go, I stopped to say hello to my neighbour, Bill. Yes, I was running a little late, but it would have been rude not to stop. Because he was shoveling my driveway. Again.
When we moved into our house in the summer of 2005, we joked that the most onerous aspect of the propertied life would be the shoveling, come winter. And we made sure to beat the rush to Canadian Tire in October (sigh) to procure our very own, our very first, family shovel. The occasion of the first snowfall saw both of us head out: one to shovel, and one to take pictures.
In our zeal, we did our neigbours' sidewalk as well; after all, they were very kind people, with children older than we were. It seemed a nice thing to do. We soon discovered that Bill and Helen were also zealous shovellers, usually out together, one of them sweeping the steps and the other clearing the driveway (they are rarely seen apart, and we like to think of them as a model for our own marriage in their quiet companionship). We also soon discovered that, if we didn't get out quickly enough, they would shovel our walk, too. Not wanting to look as though we expected this, we tried to repay the favour as often as we could, and to get out there to shovel first--it was mostly Pynchon, though, as I got pregnanter and pregnanter, if you will. Keeping up with the Joneses meant keeping an eye on the Weather Channel and always keeping the shovel at the ready!
This year, with Miss Baby being the handful that she is, we let the first couple of snows go by without shoveling, hoping that it would just melt. But if you live in Southern Ontario, you know it's been pretty snowy, pretty much every day for the last three weeks or so. And Bill or Helen has shoveled our walk and cleared the base of our driveway without fail every single day, pretty much. And our shovel sits unused.
Their kindness is simple, daily, and material: it is a help that we didn't ask for, but for which we are profoundly grateful. And so, this morning, I stopped Bill as he cleared the debris left by the plow from our driveway, expressing both my thanks and my sheepishness as Pynchon and Miss Baby waved at me from the front window. Bill cut short my effusions, tut-tutting that it was a simple little thing and he was out anyway. So kind.
So this is real life.
But real to me also is this blog and those who comment on it, and those blogs that I read and comment on, too. I've been spinning in my head all day a response to a newspaper article on a Calgary professor's new book on blogging; the article, also taken up today by Bub and Pie, indicates that the author disparages blogging as somehow less than real. The headline in my local paper ran "Bloggers removed from reality" and the article begins "Bloggers are living in a world where emotions may be real but everything else is makebelieve." There's a lot I could take up from this piece (for example, the idea of a monolithic blogosphere, rather than the numerous genres that all make use of a particular publishing format, as if novels and technical manuals were to be analysed together, because both took the form of books) but it's this question of reality that's most sticking in my craw today.
Does the blogosphere shovel my driveway? No. But does that make what I get out of writing and reading here any less 'real'? I started reading mommyblogs in desperation as a new mother--the blogosphere had answers my books weren't giving me, about exhaustion, and feeding, about isolation and desperation in addition to joy and comedy. The blogosphere, I wrote in my second post, allowed me to participate in a social arena at a time when circumstances denied me pretty much every other avenue of interaction. For a long time, nobody read my blog, but I loved writing it--it was a little something just for me, a chance to think and to write, and to think about writing. A dream venue! As I have gathered in some readers (if Bub and Pie can fill a small worship room with her regular readership, as she humbly writes, mine would fit into one of those vans that makes runs to the airports. You would all fit in with your luggage. You are few but you are lovely!)
Like Bub and Pie, what I've given up to blog is television and some less-worthy magazines. What I have gained is a new set of interesting acquaintances I feel might become friends, I have gained a new confidence in my writing voice, I have a fantastic venue for bragging about Miss Baby (!), and I have got lots of good advice!
My neighbours who shovel the drive because we have a new baby are real. But my digital neighbours who laugh at my jokes, tell me how cute Miss Baby is, and lead me to their own interesting stories are real, too. Both make my days a lot more pleasant.