The other day I passed some time thinking about this blog—how it has sat untended, and how my silence here might relate to my departure from the place that inspired it. Watching the dust settle, mouth shut, fingers still.
There are bloggers who post several times a day, compulsive diarists, collectors of flotsam and jetsam pertaining to a pet topic or obsession. I've often wished for a single obsession to write about, and suspect that I write, when I write, in search of one.
With these thoughts in the back of my mind I went with my husband to a birthday/housewarming party for a friend. I found myself in the kitchen with this friend's sister at one point, and reintroduced myself to her—I had met her years ago at another birthday party, also for her sister. All of a sudden she said, "Oh my God, aren't you the one who was renovating your house?" Yes, I had worked on a house, but we had sold it and moved to a neighboring town.
"I think I was on your block today!" she said. I said again that I'd moved, that if she was on my block, it wasn't really my block anymore. Her saying "your block" brought on a flood of memories of the old neighborhood and of the old house, which I drive by now and then, and think about now and then, but not all the time. I suppose I'm oriented to the present.
"No, not your block, your blog," she said.
Oh. Oh. It seems she had spent an hour on this blog, despite not being much a fan of blogs, reading the posts tagged the house. The homonymy of the two words, block and blog, the one a physical and the other a virtual place, nevertheless both "sites" one "visits", had an eerie effect on me. I thought of The Poetics of Space, a book I wrote about early on in the life of this meandering essay about a house, a family, and a lifestyle, and the domestic spaces we make and that make us.
Bachelard's book is largely about memory, and at the time I was renovating the house we have now left, I often experienced a superimposition of my future departure of and nostalgia for the house upon my actual experience of living in and working on the house. It was the same doubling of attachment and loss that Roland Barthes wrote of as defining the moment of falling in love, and as a result of those twin processes, I was in mourning for the house long before we put it on the market.
What are the odds of a physical neighbor (and stranger) becoming a virtual neighbor (and friend) in the way that happened between me and this woman? What are the odds of someone who lives geographically close to me searching the vast internet and pulling up jottings by me that speak so strongly to her? That she remembered my photograph and first name from the blog and put them together with my three-dimensional self strikes me as just as unlikely. And yet we can all cite many examples of such internet serendipity by now.
I'm grateful for this encounter with a wanderer up and down the blocks of my blog. The incident gives me new appreciation for the poetics of space, and even better, made me want to write here again.