* I'm posting my monthly newspaper column on my blog again as I did last month. This month I owe a special Thank You to Rosie at Corners of My Mind blog who graciously allowed me to make reference to, and use part of the information from her delightful post of Thursday, September 18, 2008: "A Walk at Baslow". Thank you Rosie!!
The Traveling Front Porch
This morning, after a welcome dose of invigorating coffee, I went with a new friend for a leisurely walk in Derbyshire, England. It was cool and misty, so with jackets on we set off down the path to Chatsworth Park, crossing a picturesque little stone bridge under which flowed the gray waters of the Derwent River. We walked alongside neat rows of thatched cottages, passed through the revolving “kissing” gate, and walked down worn paths that to this day retain some of their original cobblestones. At this time of year in England, cool autumnal breezes bid summer goodbye and the trees are resplendent in burgundies, reds and golds. We continued walking until we could see the roofline of stately Chatsworth House, visible just beyond the tree line. Chatsworth is a beautiful English country house often used in period movies such as “Pride and Prejudice”, in which it became Pemberley, home of the dashing “Mr. Darcy”.
After this pleasant morning stroll, I hopped over to New Mexico to see Jo’s latest pastel painting; stopped by Oxford, NC, to see Lin’s newest watercolor masterpiece, checked in with Jeanne in California (who has a husband, four dogs and would rather do colored pencil art than housework. Hmm..... not a bad idea!) and enjoyed a brief visit to the Blue Ridge mountains where Ann’s fresh pastels and soft colored pencil art brings back warm memories of wonderful vacations.
Do I have access to a Lear jet? Ha! Not likely. Nor do I have a Star Trek style transporter to instantly beam me from place to place. What I do have is a computer and a blog list. Blogs where friends, family, neighbors and strangers (who sometimes turn out to be friends you haven’t met yet) can drop in (almost instantly) to talk and share their lives. If you’re not familiar with blogs and blogging, here’s a quick primer:
“Blog” is a contraction of the term “web log” and is variously defined as:
- an online personal diary
- a news outlet
- your memo to the world
- a journal that is available on the web
A blog is basically a website that’s updated regularly. The newest information shows up at the top of the page so you read the most recent post first and as you scroll down the page you read the older posts. A “post” is an entry on the blog. A blog usually includes text, photos, and links to other blogs and websites. A blog can be themed around a particular subject (such as a hobby, an occupation, a sport, politics, news, etc) or just simply be a casual collection of a person’s thoughts and observations. The activity of updating a blog is “blogging”, and someone who keeps a blog is a “blogger.” Bloggers usually have a “Blog List” - a list in the sidebar on their own blog that has links to other blogs they like to read - you can click on the links to go to those blogs. One of the nicest features of blogs is the “Comments” feature. When you visit a blog there’s a place where you can leave comments to the blogger (“I like your art work”, “Where did you find that lovely poem?” “How did you get that particular effect in your painting?” etc) and usually the blogger will respond to you. Then you can respond back to them. If there’s an area of mutual interest you might end up getting to know this person and a neat thing happens....you make a new friend .... and most of the the time you’ve never met them!
Earlier this year I participated in a Virtual Sketch Date. A lady named Rose, from Texas, was the originator of this project and it’s basically a group of artists - some professional, some amateur - who select one photograph each month and everyone draws/paints that image. It’s amazing to see the widely different interpretations of the same image by different artists. Everyone completes their sketch and on the appointed date they upload it to their blog. It’s lots of fun visiting from blog to blog to see the results. At that time I was new to blogs and blogging, so I didn’t have a blog... and, honestly, didn’t think I wanted one. Sure, it was fun, interesting and even educational, but I just didn’t have time for a blog. Rose encouraged me to start my own blog, pointing out their advantages, especially if you’re an artist: most art bloggers are very generous about sharing their tips and techniques, some even post art demos so you can see art being made step by step; you get feedback on your own art; you get inspiration - visiting art blogs is like going to an art gallery! - and you also get encouragement as you read of other’s art struggles that often parallel your own. I’ve been reading blogs for almost a year now and had my own blog since May 2008. Most of the blogs I subscribe to are art blogs, but there are a few non-art blogs on my list that are interesting, informative and a delight to visit .... like Rosie’s blog. Rosie lives in Stoke on Trent, in England, and it was her post about her early morning walk in Derbyshire that I enjoyed so much and described to you at the beginning of this article. Her interesting narrative and accompanying photos almost make you feel like you’re there too... sort of like taking a walk with a friend.
For years now I’ve thought it a sad thing that the time honored tradition of sitting on the front porch with family, friends, neighbors or “new folks” has pretty much died out. I see new homes being built and most of them have a generous front porch with inviting rocking chairs and colorful plants. But the comfy rockers are usually empty.... neighbors and friends are nowhere to be seen.
Before I left Rosie’s blog, I left a comment thanking her for sharing her morning walk. As I clicked to go to the next blog, I realized that the tradition of visiting and sharing on the front porch has not completely died out after all. In part, at least, it’s just taken a different form... we now visit through blogs. Of course a blog doesn’t take the place of in-person visiting, however, it does have its own particular advantages, one being that it’s a neat way to make new friends from all over the world- friends that you’d probably never have met otherwise.
So, make yourself a cup of coffee, find a blog or two that you like and start reading.... there’s a comfy chair on front porch waiting for you!