Monday, September 30, 2013

The Space Between The Stars

Honey, I'm home.

In the last month, I've been high and low, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, I've been close to home and across the water, I've been alone and seen old friends and new. I've never strayed too far, though. I read all your comments and have responded to many, though not every one yet.

I did almost all of the things I usually do: Went on walks with my family, took countless pictures of my cats and quite a few of my feet, wrote notes on books I'm reading, on the ideas they spawned, thoughts they gave rise to, and yeah, I also followed Ariadne's tangled red thread around the internet.

What I didn't do was spend hours in front of the computer. My interest in facecrack, or endlessly reading the papers online, was pretty minimal. I read a few of my favorite blogs, but not the ones I peruse when I'm procrastinating.  I wrote a few long emails. Got lost in some research once or twice. I checked in and then, quickly checked out. I even took an internet sabbatical for five days, checking only for weather a few times,  a couple of emails, once out of necessity and once out curiosity, but always hurrying away from the next click.

And what did I feel? An emptiness, a longing? A relentless question itching for a quick, dirty, delightful Wikipedia answer?

One of the things I figured out in the past few weeks is that though the internet is addictive, and it's easy to gorge on its smorgasbord of articles and pictures and stories, though it's a huge maze that you can easily get lost in, for what seems like days (and there are quite a few Minotaurs!), once you finally emerge, nauseous and blinking into the light, it's easy to leave behind. That is if you can walk away.

Once you leave the internet, you pretty quickly forget it ever existed, save for the convenience of finding a recipe, the future rains and winds, how your friends and loved one's are doing. But of course, there are other ways. They were always there, just waiting for you to get back: the cookbooks, the horizon, the phone, the letter...

Maybe I don't have an addictive personality, or maybe I'm just a born quitter, but giving up bad habits has always come easy to me once I actually decide to quit them. Smoking, TV, coffee gone... At least for a time. I still dip into coffee on trips, and watch hours of shows on DVD in the winter and when I craft, but I don't have to have them each day, at regular intervals.

The longer I quit things for the harder it is for the addiction to return in full swing.

One of my favorite authors, frequently featured here as well, Lauren Groff, takes a month long internet sabbatical once or twice a year. It sounds so tempting. I think though, that to start with, I'm going to take first one, then two days offline each week. It sounds so easy, so little, but I think we all know it's big.

And what did I miss, you ask?

You, silly. And this space.

I missed having a writing assignment, be it self-imposed, a couple times a week. I journal, I write fiction, but this space is sort of my uncharted place, somewhere to write quick, but composed, complete pieces. There's a wildness and unpredictable-ness here that comes from the perfect storm of having to forge personal writing into a cohesive form.

This format is rather well suited for my recreational writing needs. Not to mention the delight and nostalgia I already feel combing through the archives. I can only imagine how sad I would be not to have such a good, illustrated record of my family's future exploits. I won't tell you I haven't felt a little lost without it.

However, the concerns I shared with you about blogs, blogging, micro-blogging, how feminism relates to them, collective narcissism,  the personal and the public, are still very real to me and I haven't quite wrapped my head around them.

I'm still figuring out how much time this hobby should take, how much love I have to spread for bloggers I enjoy. What the limits are between a healthy online life and addictive behavior?

I wish I could return with some sort of a statement, a manifesto of what I plan to do with this space.

All I know is that there's a compelling argument, made by many of you, that one way to solve the problem is to be a counter-force to that which one finds unnerving and wrong, and that maybe this space has been just that, regardless of my doubts.

If anything, your comments made me feel like there's a near universal exhaustion with our current media overload, the cult of cute, the skim read, the unmitigated glossing over of our online selves, at least among my readers. Frankly I'm a little surprised by how few differing opinions came out. I hope you know that I would welcome them. I like a lively debate.

Know also that I never meant the piece to be interpreted as reproachful towards you. I wasn't accusing you of skim-reading, lack of commenting, or frivolous social media use. I simply think that often an effective (and in this case heartfelt) piece of writing needs to not be written in "I statements". That a writer should be able to use their own experience to at least attempt to speak for a wider constituency than an army of one. The meaning of "you" depends on the context and I do hope you caught that.

I can't say I wasn't flattered and honored by how many of you felt the need to tell me they read the post from start to finish. Know that you are more focused readers than I am some of these days. And that I salute you for it. It's grand to know the word-girls (and boys?) are out there.

And it was a little unnerving to read the goodbyes some folks construed us as saying, kind of like attending one's own funeral.

Perhaps it wasn't evident from what I wrote that I just needed a sabbatical, a little space. That we're not braking up.

I have a lot of love for this blog.  It's brought me great things in this life, friendships, new ideas, books, music, self-knowledge. All of which reach into my real life by now. This may be a parallel universe, but it spills over into the physical one every day.

The best of these spillages for me has of course been a posse of real-life buds, soul mates, sisters-by-another-mother. Know too that these tight relationships are not some exclusive club as a few readers confessed to feeling like, but rather something that could happen to any of you.

As Heather so wonderfully put it in her comment, perhaps this sense of ennui with the more superficial aspects of the internet will lead people to reject it in their hearts and focus on what's real here.

It was good to have my oldest internets friend visit right in the middle of my sabbatical, to give some much needed perspective, possibly in the form of trying to explain to one of my local friends how we actually met. I believe the words "an internet subculture where women post pictures of their daily outfits" were used. It was kind of hard to tell between all the hysterical laughing.

It still never ever seizes to amaze me how out of something so frivolous, could grow a community of women who've seen each other through brake-ups, new loves, babies, the joys and sorrows of a very real life.

If the only thing I ever got from this venture were the relationships, all the relationships be they intimate or tentative, longterm, or short, deep, or casual, it would have all been worth it a thousand times over already.

This much I've figure out, so far, with a little help from my friends: I want to continue to use this space and what little influence I may have to put forth the stuff I believe in.  To put the political, environmental, radical into the personal.

At the same time, I want to remain true to the roots of this movement, subculture, whatever: this blog is the journal of my family, my brain children, my weird relationship with my hair, my herbal expeditions, my love of 90s DIY culture, my dream with looking like "that 70s teacher". I don't ever want to feel like I can't talk about something just because it's silly, or pretty, or pretty silly. All I can hope is that I can put these obsessions and personal interests into a wider context than just "I got this new cute dress on Modcloth."

And for the record: I think I can. It's in the cards for us.

I won't promise to stay forever, or not to wander into the woods again, or hide in the dark for a while. And I wont promise particular content, or a publishing schedule, when exactly I will return and how often, but I promise you this: stick with me kid and we'll figure it out together. And probably have a pretty good time doing it.

There's also a lot of excitement in the cards right now. The stars are aligning in all kinds of wild constellations.

Come what may, I hope you'll be there with me.
'Cos here I am.

ps. I also  got my html on and cleaned house. How you like it?


  1. You're lovely - I love breezing back onto here when I've had a hiatus because I know I'll have a good 3 or 4 solid, silly, beautiful posts of yours to read and enjoy with a coffee (or with whooping cough as it happens... how VINTAGE of me right?! an illness one only expects from Dickensian novels) - enjoying the seasons with you is a joy because your connection to the world around you just emanates from the pictures you choose to take and show us. I'm with you miss M - all the way from Cambridgeshire - have been for over 6 years now, Katya Xx

  2. mmmmm. yummy post. i had a feeling you'd be back today, and i love the way you take us down to the core of it with your writing. unlike the maze of the internet, this post is like a labyrinth, winding down to the center, from activity to stillness, from thoughts to simple being.

    our institute has recently gone through two trainings re: bill plotkin's work (school of lost borders, animas valley) and his recent book 'wild mind'. it's rich and complicated, what he does, but a lot of it involves re-wilding the psyche and soul, and he does a lot of wilderness therapy. one experience he has people do is to wander out into deep nature with a partner, and to pick a place where you want to tell your story...of your wounding or heart truth. you sit with your partner BEHIND you, with nature in front, and you speak. nature, the mystery, the vastness is the primary witness, and the partner is the secondary, who mirrors you at the end with brief encapsulated sentences. i immediately thought of our blogs, and sisterfriends, and the importance of the conversation that you wrote about in your last post. writing a blog post for me is important medicine, and the healing comes in part from putting it out there into the mystery, but doubly so by knowing that y'all are at my back, in support and mirroring. you are one of those important witnesses for me, and i aim to be that for you too.

    i'm so glad you're back. love you!

  3. Hertta lähettää kisuille terveisiä!
    Kivaa,että et kadonnut täältä kokonaan,vaikka senkin vaihtoehdon kyllä ymmärtäisin.
    Hiljaisuutesi sai minut itseni heräämään siihen,kuinka helposti blogejakin niin kuin muitakin "nautintoja" elämässä alkaa pitää itsestään selvyyksinä,eikä aina osaa olla tarpeeksi kiitollinen niistä.

  4. Yippy! I knew you wouldn't be able to stay away from us for too long :) Ha ha! I'd love to hear about what you've been reading. I've been in a bit of a NYTimes Bestsellers rut... not that its not fun, don't get me wrong, but I always love book recommendations from trusted readers. Actually, your last post kind of inspired me to write a post. I started a draft, but haven't quite gotten up the courage to finish it. I think soon.

  5. I enjoy your blog but I also agree parameters are important. Your post is a lovely frame to the picture you are creating. Thanks Linda

  6. Aw, so so well said. Happy to read this post :)

    Haha! I'm pretty sure I kept the internet subculture explanation rather vague at first but it was quite hilarious as we started to explain exactly what it involved. There really is no way for it not to sound totally ridiculous. Ha! and I loved Ronnie's enthusiastic and encouraging reaction combined with that big smile and that Hey girls, whatever floats your boat look in her eyes... classic.

    Love ya!!!

  7. ahahahahahahahahahahaha "an internet subculture where women post pictures of their daily outfits" .....ahahahahahaha; oh god how I loved that explanation. How silly it sounds and yet how flippin fruitful it proved to be in terms of real friendships, mine with some of you women included!!!! You are not one of the fake-ies Milla dear, love you for that, love your smile and your words and the rest. xo
    p.s.And you know....I have been considering putting up an outfit pic, haven't done so in such a long time it seems.

  8. Oh welcome back dear Milla, what a delight to hear your unique voice again! I thought you would be back some time next year, so it's a lovely surprise to find this post today :o)

  9. It's so good to have you back. It sounds liberating to take a month away and then to realize that you want to stay with this space. A newfound appreciation. You have a whole crew of followers who really love reading your words.

  10. And yes, the new design for this space is wonderful!



  11. "Katsos, on niin paljon väkeä, joka ei sovi kesään, kevääseen ja syksyyn, hän sanoi. Kaikki hieman arat ja kummalliset. Muutamat yöeläimet ja oliot, joita ei huolita mihinkään ja joihin kukaan ei usko. Ne pysyvät piilossa koko vuoden. Ja sitten kun on rauhallista ja valkeaa ja yöt tulevat pitkiksi ja kaikki ovat nukahtaneet talviuneen - silloin ne tulevat esille." (Tuu-tikki, Taikatalvi)

    Introverttien mielessä on ihmeellisiä, yksinäisiä salaperäisiä polkuja, joita reunustavat eriskummalliset juttelevat kasvit ja eläimet. Puut tulevat lähelle ja vesi kuljettaa. Toisten ihmisten kohtaaminen on samalla kiehtovaa ja ihanaa, ja toisaalta hämmentävää ja väsyttävää. Joskus ne polut risteää ja se on parasta ja helpointa. Voi sanoa tai olla sanomatta, voi vaikka lukea saman kirjan, ja se siitä. Toisinaan voi kirjoittaa pitkästi tai puhua iltaan asti.

    Luulen että sun blogi on sellainen polku sinulle. Joskus sillä hypellään huolettomasti, purot pulputtavat uuden mekon kanssa kepeästi, toisinaan mennään hyvinkin syvälle, siihen mikä ihminen on. Taidan uskaltautua pieneen kehoituksenpoikaseen... vaikka se on varmasti nykymaailmassa vaikeaa, koita olla vertaamatta omaa nettiavaruuteen luomaasi pikku maailmaa muiden vastaaviin. Blogi voi olla kuin still-kuvista koostuva pienoiselokuva. Tai tarina. Ja sinä olet ohjaaja, käsikirjoittaja, ja kaikki roolit. Jokainenhan sitä sitten lukee ja katsoo omien lasiensa läpi, toinen ottaa pinnan, toinen syvemmät jutut, toiset meistä ottavat ne molemmat, koska sellaista ihmisen elämä on. Ja pienessä eskapismissakaan ei ole koskaan ollut mitään pahaa. Sitäpaitsi tähti omassa elämässään saa "vetäytyä julkisuudesta" ihan silloin kun tahtoo. Sehän tekee vaan hyvää.

    "Mutta kenelläkään ei ole hauskempaa kuin hän itse itselleen järjestää." (Hemuli)


    Kiitos kauniista vastauksesta mun edelliseen kommenttiin. Voidaan vaihtaa ajatuksia "kirjeitse", oikein mieluusti. Mä en ole facebookissa, kauppa ainoastaan, mutta voit lähettää postia sitä kautta, yhteystiedot löytyy facesta :).

  12. glad your back friend! the internet would not be the same without you :)

  13. So funny. Mike and I were just talking about how shockingly easy it is to get over the internet addiction once it goes that way (Conversation stemming from me losing my phone and not having one for two weeks) Not crazy, but now days, a LONG time to be without that kind of connection. I didn't get or make phone calls. No texts, no web browsing. For me, instagram is my biggest time sucker. A noted addiction that pops up when I'm bored, have some time to kill, lounging at the park, ect. However, after a couple days without it I just kind of got over it. King of a relief to be reassured of how simple it is to pull back when needed.

    Now coffee, I won't even think about forsaking.

    I really liked this post. And your photos. Makes me wish I could craft and netflix gorge alongside you in the winter. That's one of my very favorite treats for myself when the rest of the house has gone to bed.

    Oh,and I agree with you on the general reasons for keeping up a blog based on personal happenings. For me, it's just another way to scrapbook all the stuff we do as a family, the photos I love, the places we visit, all that . . . And when time allows, it's nice to sit and write something - even if it's about a new pair of shoes :)


  14. So glad to see you back Milla! I'm glad your little internet vacation worked out.

    When I was away on vacation this summer for two weeks I was in an area that had no internet access; I thought it would be tough to live without but it turns out I didn't think about it a single time. All of those evening hours I would have spent browsing 'the beast' were instead spent cuddled up in front of a wood stove, reading, collecting wild things, and exploring the night. It is so productive for people to realize how much time we really waste on this thing and putting a limit on it is an amazing goal.

    Your lovely posts are always worth the wait anyway!

  15. I don't comment here often (have I at all? I think so) but I check for new posts here a few times a week and I'm always glad to see them. I like reading your words and agreeing nearly 100% with every single thing you write and seeing how you live. I'm glad you're sticking around. And so shall I. Quietly, maybe, but still here.

  16. You are a joy to read and your space here is lovely.

  17. Me too! I'm here! I'm here!!!

    Milla, I just adore you. That's it.

  18. You had a lot to say here.
    And I read it all.
    But what I really want to tell you is utterly unrelated: You have such a lovely, straight nose.

  19. Milla i have been reading through these writings of yours. i must say that it is so good to take breaks from the world of Internet. I find that these days I even forgot to use the computer, if i have something else to do. But running a Etsy business, does not go together with taking too many days of the internet, not If one wants to make living with it. But those computer free days just give your mind a break and give new ideas. Your words are important Milla, you have so much to say, wise thoughts and you have made me feel differently towards certain things etc. If ever you come to Finland, i would like to meet you. Delila