Workshops, Animal Hospitals and Lots to Be Thankful For…

finn as beaver

What a week. A whirlwind two-day workshop in Maine. Finn-dog at death’s door. And The New York Times getting it and not getting it about how and why I slow-blog.

As anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I’ve been on a roller coaster with Finn-dog: from his inexplicable collapse on the driveway Monday night to diagnosis of tumors in the liver and spleen to surgery and now home to recuperate and await the biopsy results. At one point we were faced with the decision of putting him down or trying to stabilize him enough for the surgery. He was that bad. It was no easy choice, believe me. But something about how he was acting and how we were feeling made us follow this path. And so far, so good. He is returning to himself (though he insists that he can eat cat food only ;-)). I have been brought back repeatedly to the final days and hours of my mother-in-law and my father, how we made tough decisions with and for them. Agonizing. Expectedly so. Who knew it would be so hard with a dog? We kept asking ourselves and each other if we were prolonging his life for us or for him. Are we characters from Best in Show? Hmmm….

Fortunately, I also had work calling, a two-day workshop in lovely Damariscotta, Maine.

picture-2 We dove into storytelling and community participation and action and kept to a dizzying pace. I congratulate the good folks who participated in this immersion into disruption and repair–they stayed with me magnificently. Time was too short–and I balk a bit at parachuting into a community, giving a workshop and heading right out again. Follow-up helps. Virtual collaboration, too, via the wiki I have set up for these workshops (please add to it!), but nothing beats face-to-face gatherings over time, ongoing, within a community, coupled with the delights of online interactions, collaborations, creativity. A Center for Community Digital Exploration would be just the ticket.

I was the epitome of the fast. So packed was my schedule that I had no time to wander about the waterfront or take pictures. Not a one. I guess I’m a slow photographer, too, and am loath to pull out my camera unless I can focus with my entire energy on the photos.

Which bring me to that wee article. Of course I love the fact that people are taking notice of slow blogging, and I am honored to be in the piece. Absolutely. And yes, deer and bikes and walks and the pond do figure in my posts, but as threads, I hope, as metaphors and examples of ideas I am exploring about learning, communities, and technology. And why Chris Lott’s contributions to slow blogging never made it into the paper, or Alan Levine’s wonderful, recent forays into this reflective space aren’t there…or Leslie Madsen-Brooks’ Clutter Museum…or..Stephen Downes’ remarkable Half an Hour …or…I could go on and on… oh well. Me in the Styles section? Gotta smile about that.


So here I am, on the threshold of Thanksgiving week with so much to be thankful for–incredible family and friends, and Finn back with us. Rewarding work. Fabulous colleagues. A plane ticket to Northern Voice in February (I’ve been trying to get there for five years)! And a new reputation as someone who has style.


23 Responses

  1. I am touched and saddened about the news of Finn. The immensity of that situation, and the unexpectedness of it never foreshadows facing it. Each time I have passed through that stag of loss of an animal, I wonder (briefly) about ever taking it one again. But looking at the last photo— all those times before are what its all about.

    Best wishes for you and Finn, and the answer to whether it is for you or him shall never likely be clearly answered. It just is. I keenly remember one of the dogs who had a large stomach tumor, and after she died we learned how much pain she likely carried, and never ever showed, complained, etc. That’s what dogs do.

    And Yay for being featured as the New York Times Fashion symbol for slow-blogging, and stop, you deserve it, with all that slow contemplation with lap top by the pond. Surely that is Style & Fashion!


  2. Came here from the Times piece, but you had my attention with the news of your precious dog.

    We lost ours after 15 years just a month or so ago, same tough decisions (“who are we doing it for, does he want to go on, etc.”) until there were no more decisions to be made and it had to be done.

    Here’s my tribute to my pup (below) in case you’re interested. As for yours, I wish him a smooth and quick recovery. May he be back on his diet of non-cat food soon!

    Dog Goodbye:

    Post on “Fast Blogging” (not that I’m not “guilty” of it myself):

  3. The wonderful thing about the NYT story is that I discovered in you, in others, a kindred blogging spirit, and a term, slow blogging, that I had not known before. A term I wish I’d had in possession many long, dark mornings, as I spent literally hours posting a single word-image entry. “Why can’t you get faster at this?” I asked myself. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to.

    Thank you.

  4. As soon as I turned the page in the NYT Style section and saw your photo and the Weybridge caption, my heart skipped a beat. I live and work in the frenetic denizens of Boca Raton, Florida (yes we can in Palm Beach County) and pine for my second home in Bridport, Vermont. I read several of your posts and knew that your blog could be a touchstone for some of my thoughts. My feelings echoed your November 5th posting. That morning I arrived at the Palm Beach airport on the way to Vermont, sporting my fleece jacket with an Obama button. The whole trip everyone wanted to fist bump and share the jubilation. People on the planes were clicking glasses and sharing their canvassing experiences. At JFK, everyone with an Obama button or tee-shirt stopped me and talked about Tuesday night and how they felt. When we got to the Fat Hen in Vergennes, the shopkeepers couldn’t contain their excitement. It was a glorious day all the way from Florida to JFK to Addison County. Even tonight, 17 days after Election day, the moment can be savored like it just happened. I guess this is also part of a slow blog…a little longer to digest the joy.

  5. It has been a long time since I have looked at a blog. It has been even longer since I have last written an entry, or even a comment. I am embarrassed to say that it might have been when I took EL170 with Barbara, which is already quite a few years ago. But for some reason today I decided to check in to bgblogging. I’m glad I did because reading the NYT article made me think about why it’s been so long since I last blogged, and so here I am, reinvigorated.

    I question most why I never wrote on the Small Town Mamas (and Papas) for Obama blog. It is something I feel passionately about. I would probably be described by most as quite political. So why didn’t I take the time to write a post? Or even a comment? I didn’t know until I read the article. As a writer I need time. I like to think about what I am writing, take the time to let my thoughts wander until they arrive back to what I am writing about. Writing is cathartic for me in that sense; I am thinking about everything while allowing my thoughts to be slowly articulated. It helps me work out what I am thinking by forcing hundreds of thoughts into words dictated by punctuation.

    So why have I not been blogging? The answer was clear after looking at the slow blogging article. Time. That precious things which, as I finish my last semester of college, seems more and more fleeting. When do I have the time to sit and really think through my thoughts? I am in a big city, and I run back and forth from my apartment to my school numerous times in a day. If I have 15 minutes to myself I am lucky. I like to be busy, and I rarely regret making my schedule as full as it is. But sometimes I forget that I need to think out my thoughts and write them down. I need the time to ruminate, to really weed through everything and organize.

    I should have, perhaps, learned this lesson from Barbara’s class. I think I did. But time passed and things piled up and somewhere along the way I forgot. I’ve been reminded. So the question is, now what?
    Will I recommence blogging? I don’t know. At this point I’m not sure that I have the time – perhaps such is the life of a student. But I’ve been reminded of the importance of taking a moment to really just be, to look around me and appreciate, and then to give myself the time to really think about what I am seeing, feeling and hearing. So I too say thank you. I learned many things about writing and about myself from EL170 and from Barbara, but perhaps this simple idea is, in fact, the most important.

    On another note, I will be sending my best wishes to Finn. Anyone who has met him even for a short moment knows what a special dog he is. And congratulations on being the centerpiece of the NYT article. It is wholly deserved!

  6. Barbara,

    I’ve always like your style 🙂 Happy to hear your going to NV, making it ever more important to me, and congratulations on the piece—seems like you are something of a digital Thoreau 🙂

  7. Barbara,

    My heart goes out to your family and Finn. As you know, we lost Woody about six months ago, and we still feel his loss everyday. Tonight Pete teared up–wept, really–during Bolt. I’ve spent some time in an animal hospital this week, too, as I accompanied a friend whose beloved cat has been having seizures.

    It’s tough, this living with animals when our lives tend to be so much longer than theirs, and when their lives enrich ours beyond their length.

    Big hugs to you. I also want to hear more from you about Damariscotta.

  8. Wow, so many wonderful responses within a day–from some of my own mentors and from readers new here! I know that I often say that I am really writing for myself here, to push past the murk of half-formed thoughts into something more tangible, but that is only half-true. I also write to contribute something to the conversation, in my own rambling way. To get this kind of response in a less than 24 hours shows me both the power of that venerable newspaper, and the power of slow-blogging. Yay!

    Alan, from seeing so many of your Dominoe stories, (and seeing your photos of Skinna in Iceland), nad my gosh, you are cogdog and CD Barkley, after all–you know how I am feeling during this rollercoaster of emotion with Finn. Sharing your own experience with these tough decisions helps a lot! Thanks!

    M, welcome to bgblogging! Thanks so much for the link to your lovely tribute to your sweet dog and to your post about slow blogging. It’s great to find those kindred spirits out there!

    Beth, I am delighted to have you venture over here, and I have now ventured over to your blog, a beautiful mix of image and text. I have long known that there are many writers in the nooks and crannies of the blogosphere writing fearlessly, making the accusations some would make about blogging being all fluff and narcissism quite ridiculous.

    Linda, Thanks for your post-election Vermont story. Bridport?! We’re neighbors! I love the picture of your travels following the election and the spontaneous celebrations everywhere–what a hopeful picture!

    Elena, yay! I love it when my old students turn up here. To have you, a serious writer in your own right, find your way back to old bgblogging, that means a lot. What you are feeling about the tug of time resonates with me. I think we all feel it. Blogging these woven, sometime meandering posts, is a way for me to pull out of the fray for a moment and to try to think about what’s going on, and how I write and take pictures. That it also connects me to so many fabulous people makes me try to write better than I can, better than I would if I were using a paper journal, say. Whether you decide to blog ever again or not matters not; if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work–but you can be a blog visitor!

    Jim, That you will be at NV is terrific news! I can’t wait to see you (and your mad-brilliant merry band of edupunkers) bring down the house. A Digital Thoreau–ha!

    Leslie, several times these past days I’ve thought of your journey with Woody. To have Finn back–for now at least is such a gift. It reminds me to pay attention every day–not to miss a bit of it!

  9. How our animals tug at our very heart strings.
    Much more to do with our core than blogging and stuff.
    Yes, the papers do tend to get things slightly askew.
    How much time blogging takes and (mostly) what fun it is — and how it cuts into the time we should be doing other things.
    Best to Finn.

  10. I put on a jaded front about animals and pets, but the truth of it is that it’s a protection mechanism borne of a few heartbreaking and scarring experiences. Knowing that I’m in no position to have pets now (logistically and with my allergies) touches on a kind of sadness that I don’t want to think about too much. I don’t know how to respond to what you have been going through with Finn, other than to say sincerely that thoughts of his recovery and long health are in my heart in what is, for me, prayer.

    As for the NYT article– I was glad that you were at the center of it and that it wasn’t wholly clueless. You blazed the trail and I smiled seeing the notice being given at all! Though I figured you probably didn’t spend a lot of time blogging thoughtfully at the edge of a pond.

    Having not attained enlightenment yet, my ego smarted at having spent so much time (during a very busy week) answering her questions and followups, only to have nothing included except being part of a group of “academics” and my pointer to Dawdlr. But I was most frustrated by the placement (fashion?) and the lack of more links to help people understand what it is all about. I hope they come here and explore more!

  11. That’s a great photo of you. But I too wonder about what you said in the last paragraph. Why is the piece in the Fashion and Style section of the paper? Why not Technology or Education? Hmmm.

    Did you find out how they came to write this piece? It seems somewhat out of the blue.

    Not a fair comparison, but on the Sloan-C listserv they often talk about how online learning is covered by the press and it has literally taken years for there to be a reasonably informed reporting of what is going on and that still may be more the rule than the exception.

  12. Elizabeth, Thanks for commenting–it is good to know others go through similar moments with their animal companions and their blogging!

    Chris, thanks for your kind words for Finn. The biopsy results are bad, so we will give this guy one heck of a final weeks/months he has: he can chase every squirrel on the land, swim in every pond, leap through every field until he can’t.
    I suppose because it was in the Style section (as Lanny points out) means that it as about lifestyle rather than what we’re getting at in our blogging explorations. I guess it means that Vermont trumps Alaska as a cool place of contrasts! When slow-blogging makes it to the tech section, you’ll rule!

    I was contacted by the reporter who had come upon slow blogging through Chris Lott’s post, I believe and then found me. She was interested in whether I thought slow-blogging was a recent phenomenon in response to the crumbling economy, to the excesses of the fast. And so her interest was timely. and for the Styles section. Next time someone will write, I hope, about the value of slow-blogging for building ideas through the weaving we all do of one another’s ideas and our experiences and noodling in an ongoing dialogue with self and reader.

  13. I am glad the story appeared, no matter where it got lodged. Blogging is, in the end, a choice we make, a decision that we will spend our time in the quiet, typing forward, erasing backward, sifting photographs until something seemingly true arises from the fissures.

  14. I did start writing my blog partly as protest against the digest form of communication that other IT professionals seem to crave but I abhor. However, that is not a sustaining reason. The importance of dialog with self and then bringing that out in the open to interact with the stories of others seems like the key. But I assume that need has been with us way before the Internet and will continue long after blogs are a bygone form. So the mystery for me is why slow blogging is still comparatively rare. It’s as if most people are denying themselves of their own narrative.

  15. Oh, Barbara — I am so sad and sorry to hear about Finn. He is incomparable. Give him a good long pat for me. I’m thinking of him (and you, of course).

    (On the style front, for what it’s worth, I think you lead one of the more stylish lives of anyone I know! I agree with the comment above about the article perhaps being more suited to technology/education — but don’t sell yourself short; you very much belong in the style pages, too!)

  16. Hi I came to you from the hills of Wales via the nyt article which I suspect would apply to me and my blog too! I blog to reflect, sometimes on my garden and my vegetable growing, sometimes on broader issues and it is certainly not fast! I didn’t know it had a name and, as you say, the article both got it and missed it. I have a lot of sympathy with the slow food movement so if the wider movement encompasses reflective and thoughtful blogging that has to be a good thing.
    I hope your dog is on the way to recovery!

  17. Beth, I do agree, and I am grateful to have new readers and for those readers to journey through my blog to others. Finding others who weave together photo and text is a gift.

    Lanny, You are a slow-blogger of the deeply intellectual sort, I’d say. I agree about the need to use language, writing to understand the world is nothing new. But that we do so transparently across distance as ongoing dialogue without the onerous filtering of journal or book-editing process which would take the life out of the kind of free-wheeling, expansive noodling we do here. I think people don’t have the time for these sorts of practices–it’s too bad, for I wonder what would shift for us culturally if everyone slowed down enough to explore their own narrative inextricably intertwined with those of others. It is as rich a collective-intelligence experience as I have ever had, an incubator of creative projects, of my work in the world. And because of sharp readers like you, I don’t get away with much, either!

    Katie, thanks for the encouragement on the style front.;-) Having former students such as you now as my peers out in the world, participating in f2f writing groups with me and then here on the blog, well, that’s something that couldn’t have happened in pre-blog days.

    Elizabeth M from Wales, Thanks for hopping on here and letting me know about your slow-blogging. I look forward to following along! Finding co-horts across the globe makes me hopeful that this little movement, be it slow-food, slow-blog, slow-community can contribute to the larger conversation about our future.


  18. Just popping in to let you know that you are in my thoughts and prayers regarding your beloved Finn-dog. Warmly, Cathy in NY ^..^

  19. The times being what they are, I expect that many people are examining their own closely held assumptions. Some may find slow blogging a welcome ways to work through those issues. It’s good they have such a great example to emulate and that you’re able to talk about personal loss with deep feeling but openly.

  20. Oh Barbara, I’m so sorry to hear the news about Finn-dog’s biopsies not looking good. I’m so glad I had a chance to meet him when I did. What a fabulous dog.

  21. Hi Barbara, I just found out about your blog through another blog’s review and I’d like to know if you’ve taken up that bicycle commute yet. If so, I’m sure you find it a great place to collect your thoughts. Moreover, I invite you to join the Slow Bicycle Movement. Don’t let the Manifesto fool you, it’s nothing too serious, and obviously updates are rare :).

    Best wishes for Finn-dog’s recovery and cheers,

  22. Thanks, Cathy and Leslie for the kind words about FInn. He’s doing pretty darn well right now–what a spirit!

    Lanny, it’s remarkable, really, how many slow bloggers have commented or emailed me or linked here. There is some absolutely riveting blogging going on out there! Yay!

    Marc, great idea, the Slow Bicycle movement. My husband is a serious cyclist; I am a plodder. I do hope that in the spring I find my way to choosing two wheels instead of four. Gotta get some cool baskets for my bike first, though and let the snowy-icy season pass.


  23. […] work Jon has been doing with the site is pretty awesome, and reminds me so much of the work Barabra Ganley has turned her focus to with community digital […]

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