I have been writing this blog since June of 2006, which, by my calculations, is more than three years. For a very long time, it was about food. Lately, not so much. When it was good, I think it was pretty darned good, and when it was bad, it was…a middle of the pack food blog that contributed little to the universe, but kept me off the streets for an hour or so most days.
Staring down the possibility of a commitment to NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month) which requires a post every day during the month of November, I have come to one of those wrenching realizations that I imagine I share with pre-altar-jilters, and Sophie, before making her choice. I cannot write about food for thirty days straight. I’m not sure I can write about food for fifteen days, or even a good seven. I might want to, but I might not.
This is not, however, the end. Here is the fable:
A Girl and her Cello: A Fable
[This is of course not a fable, but a straight-up autobiographical story; I just liked the alliteration of “fable” and “fresh start.” ].
Starting in the fifth grade, I played the cello. I started with “Fifth Grade Strings” at Wardcliff Elementary School, added private lessons on Saturdays, and after one major glitch the first year (it took me while to understand the “practicing” thing after years of faking my way through piano lessons because I could play by ear), I was totally obsessed. I practiced hours every day, I listened to classical music almost exclusively, I played in orchestras, quartets, duets, performed at recitals, attended summer music camp, competed with other string players statewide, and fought to win chair challenges from 6th grade through 12th.
I played a Senior Recital in high school, and a solo with the orchestra, and was generally functioning at a fairly high level in a very tough music program that set national standards. I auditioned for conservatories my senior year in high school, got into all three, entered the New England Conservatory in the fall of 1980 and…was back home by January of 1982, a complete wreck of a human being.
It had finally occurred to me that I was good, but not really good, not good like my friends who headed to places like Curtis, Eastman, Indiana and Julliard after High School, most of whom are now professional musicians. I loved music, and I loved playing in an orchestra, but I also got so nervous that I threw up before lessons, and once dropped my bow on stage because I was shaking so hard. It’s a tough business being a professional musician. There are very few jobs to go around, and while I had some technical proficiency and a lot of discipline, I was not driven to play music the way a professional musician must be to survive. You must either be so talented that you can get work performing solo or in an ensemble, or so passionate that you don’t care what you do, as long as you get to make music.
As a practical matter, I lacked the talent and drive to be anything more than a public school music teacher (and public school music teachers who are failed musicians rather than passionate teachers are a curse upon children everywhere), which that was not what I had in mind. As a spiritual matter, I had simply lost my heart for the whole endeavour. It wasn’t a matter of failing (although at the time I was completely demoralized) it was a matter of my whole being seeing what my pragmatic, plan-driven brain refused to accept. While most Westerners will tell you that their “self” is between their ears, people in many other cultures will point to the center of their bodies as the seat of their being; I’m pretty sure my soul got the memo and began resisting while I was still in high school, when the terrible nerves and anxiety began, but my brain wouldn’t let me admit that I’d chosen wrong, that I’d made a bad plan, that I had devoted every atom of my being for seven years to something that might be a wonderful hobby for me, but could not the central feature of a peaceful, useful existence.
I am seeing in myself, these days, the same process: a mental compulsion to stick to the program, and honor my original promise, coupled with a real, deep-seated resistance to continuing. As part of my day job, I often read the heavy-hitters in the food blog world, the equivalent of the Julliard grads who get a chair in a symphony orchestra after graduation. Blogs like Orangette, Chez Pim, David Liebovitz and Smitten Kitchen have it all: the pictures that take your breath away, the willingness (and cash) to experiment, and mad writing skills. Additionally, although there are certainly some fine “niche” food blogs out there, most members of the Food Blogger Pantheon are not cooking for children and following a diabetic diet. I do not want to write about low-carb recipes all the time, because a) it often bores me to tears, and b) that particular niche is already beautifully filled by blogs like Kalyn’s Kitchen.
Having finally understood the lesson I learned somewhat brutally 25 years ago, I know that I do not have the cooking or photography talent necessary for the A-List, and that I do not have the passion to keep writing about cooking, knowing that it is being done so much better in so many other places in the interworld. I will always cook, and love food, and read about food; I may even write about a particularly juicy recipe or cookbook. It is just not my soul. Writing is my soul. [Note to self: figuring that out in high school would have saved everybody, particularly your parents, a lot of time and money].
So, we have a Fresh Start. I probably need to turn myself in to Foodbuzz and let them know that this is no longer really a “food blog,” for starters. Although I’m willing to turn in my badge and gun, I won’t change the name of the blog because I still, always, imagine that I am talking to all of you at my kitchen table. (Not all at once, please; I can really only fit two or three chairs in there). I will just take a leap into the void of being a Blog Without a Theme, which, according to some people, is the very kiss of blog death. And I’m sure as hell no “Dooce.” That niche is filled, too. You’ll just get me, and maybe I will have something to say that interests you, and maybe you’ll shake your head sadly and go back to reading “The Huffington Post,” or” Salon.”
As a callow youth-ette, the opening of a poem by John Keats gave me goosebumps (still does) :
“When I have fears that I may cease to be/Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain…”.
I know that feeling; I know it every time I feel that I have to write something no matter what I’m supposed to be doing, no matter who will read it, or if anybody will read it. I’ve been writing since I was in the fourth grade, and no matter what else comes and goes, it appears to be the grand and sustaining passion of my life. Keats barely had time to write everything that filled his “teeming brain,” but I have the rest of my life ahead of me. Seems like a pity to waste it.