The beginning of 2013. New ideas, new projects, new roads to discover.
I’ve taken some time to think about blogging, biking, photographs, the whole narrative. About what I do and why I do it. Early last year I read a post by one of my favorite artist/illustrators, Tommy Kane (who is often on his bike, looking for things to draw). When I read the post, it felt as if he had pulled words right out of my head … he said:
“Why do I keep going, you might ask? Well, the answer is simple, I just can’t stop. The truth is, when it comes to my art, I have no real goal in mind. I’m not really heading anywhere. I’m not sure what I’m trying to achieve. Maybe I’m just searching for a brick wall to run into. Once I do that, then I can take a long needed rest. … So for now I ‘m going back to what I do best, making drawings of buildings and objects for no apparent reason whatsoever.”
While I hesitate to think of myself as an artist, or even a “photographer” (in that official label-y kind of way), I know that I am compelled to create, like Mr. Kane – “for no apparent reason whatsoever”.
My family can attest to this habit that often drives them nuts; I have to make things, I have to have a camera at hand, I have to take photos, I have to write down little bits of thoughts, observations and ideas. Some of it has appeared on this blog, much has not.
Keeping a diary was something I started when I was a child, and I’ve never outgrown the habit; the format has just evolved. My great-grandmother was a diarist, my grandfather was a painter and prolific letter-writer who kept carbon copies of every page he ever mailed. I am now custodian of these things. I suspect I have inherited a genetic component.
My photos and other “bits” (including this blog) have just been added to the archives, and my now hoard includes of boxes of prints, shelves of journals, notebooks and albums, clouds and hard drives filled with digital files – evidence of an addiction to creating and recording, and a compulsion that I am sure some psychologist might have a field day analyzing.
There are likely as many reasons to start a blog as there are individuals. I think it is often a combination of exploring a topic or subject, and the urge to create something. “Putting it out there”, so to speak, may be inherent to the creative process; it is the voice of the creation.
In the beginning, I think I justified my own decision to “go-public-and-blog-about-it” with the the idea that maybe I could inspire someone to get on a bike. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you want to ride a bike, you will; if you don’t, you won’t. I don’t think pretty bikes, pretty pictures or just the right words will change a mindset. If you happen to be leaning over the fence of “could I/should I?”, there are many vocal and more effective advocates and cheerleaders out there who can provide advice, reviews, instruction and analysis on every aspect of cycling to help you decide. There are groups and clubs to join (real and virtual), lists to subscribe to, pledges to sign, rides and events to partake in … it’s a very bike-y world out there.
Whenever I find myself in very bike-y cities – places with lots of people on all sorts of bikes – I most admire the everyday-ness of the cyclists I see. It’s just a way (granted, sometimes a necessity, but usually a more enjoyable one) of doing something, getting someplace.
When I have watched cyclists in these places, or when my husband brings home photos of people on bikes in China, I always think: I seriously doubt this guy writes a blog about schlepping big loads of stuff on his rickety old bike, even though I find it incredibly fascinating. To these people, it’s nothing extraordinary. To these everyday cyclists, to photograph or write about it would seem as ridiculous as writing a blog about doing laundry or brushing your teeth. (Although I have no doubt someone could put an incredibly creative and artistic spin on either of these… and find a way to blog about it).
Over time, my enthusiasm to get a message across through blogging transformed into, well … whatever it is now. Kind of a jumble of photos, thoughts and personal narrative on the beauty of what I see out there; an extension of this lifelong habit (obsession?) to create and record.
Most bloggers, artists, photographers, writers, etc., want to have their work noticed. Most want to be known, at least to some degree or within some social or professional circle. They want their work to be recognized for an endless range of reasons – from being able to make a living, to personal or professional validation, to inspire change or action, or simply (and sadly) for personal notoriety and self-promotion. The irony for me is that I have always been averse to much of this. I have no agenda and recognition typically makes me uncomfortable. I don’t need validation; I could care less whether it’s good work or complete crap – I just need to do the creating, the recording.
All of this makes it pretty ridiculous for a person like me to even have a blog in the first place.
So. Maybe I have found my brick wall. I have decided that I simply want to ride my bike.
I will always take pictures, I will always be fascinated by bicycles (and cows and old barns). I will always be compelled to create “stuff”, and will continue to fill boxes and bookshelves with my cycling (and my life’s) flotsam to be entertainment for some future curious grandchild who may be induced to become the new custodian. But I don’t need to publicly blog about it or illustrate it, or to advocate, review or analyze something that is ultimately so simple and so basic – just riding a bicycle.
Keeping a blog has been a wonderful exercise; I have learned much and I have grown. But it has also taught me that the narrative I am compelled to keep can be archived in a less public space. It is enough for me to write privately on paper, to stash the results in journals and albums on the bookshelf, and I think it may ultimately be more liberating, more honest, more creative.
I now understand the things that will always be a part of me – and those I can let go of. This is the beginning of a new chapter for me – as just a cyclist, a person with a camera and a notebook, and not as a blogger. I’m retiring. I’ll leave the site up … until I don’t. For my friends who still want to see bike-y and other pictures, I intend to continue with my Flickr stream and you are welcome to come and look; it’s a convenient repository and organizational tool (and remains a compulsion).
To my friends and family who have read and looked at these posts over the years … thank you all for all of the kindness you have so generously shown to me. Thank you for seeing things in my pictures that I had never noticed. Thank you for understanding my words even when I didn’t always know what I was trying to say.
Thank you for riding along.