I am home. I have been to central Pennsylvania, to Montreal, back to central Pennsylvania; I alighted in Fairwater for a day and a half, then went off to Baraboo for two days of the Wisconsin Writers Conference where I did two readings from my farm writings and twice made my presentation on "Lorine's Toolbox." And now I am home.
Here follows a report of my travels east. Truth has many faces: you can check my version of events against reports from Rachel, Lorianne, qB's photos, Leslee, Leslee again, mole, mole again, and Dave.
As always, it was good to travel, it was good to come home.
I was one of a swarm
of bloggers who showed up in Montreal on or about June 2-4 for a meet-up. That's what you call it, I guess, when a group of bloggers who know each other over the internet get together for real-life-face-to-face conversation, a blogger meet-up.
If I have to explain it to you, why I drove to central Pennsylvania to pick up fellow blogger Dave Bonta and his friend The Sylph and why together we headed north to Montreal - if I have to explain it to you, you won't get it. Either you understand, I've found, or you don't. Explaining it won't enlighten the unenlightened. It's that you get it, or you don't get it. And admittedly understanding doesn't necessarily prove one is a better person; nor does not understanding prove otherwise.
I arrived in central Pennsylvania early enough that Dave and I had a day together to spend exploring Plummer's Hollow where he lives, and Tyrone, and State College. Dave showed me the power pole where the local bears communicate with each other; I did not actually get to see a bear, but Dave and his niece did, after I'd returned to Wisconsin. Dave showed me the vernal pond that was now a dry depression in the woods. I saw the trees that an ice storm brought down a few years ago. Dave regularly writes about Plummer's Hollow on his blog, and in my mind I had formed a picture of the terrain. Now, having walked ridge and meadow, I know Plummer's Hollow in my very muscles. My knowledge of the landscape of Dave's home is different now, fuller, though not necessarily any better. A writer brings particulars into sharp relief on his blog: reading Dave's, I have seen Plummer's Hollow in sharp relief; now I have also seen it in its variegated green entirety.
On our way north to Montreal, Dave and The Sylph and I camped Thursday night at Letchworth State Park in New York. The gorge is said to be the Grand Canyon of the east. It is a grand old gorge.
We put up our tents at our campsite and Dave got scolded by a pair of Cooper's hawks. We walked park trails. We watched the lower waterfalls. We saw Ma Merganser and four little merganserlings swim against the torrent of the waterfalls, to feed on rocks nearby. We visited a Seneca meeting lodge on the grounds, and the cabin that had belonged to the daughter of Mary Jemison - Mary Jemison being a white woman held captive by Indians, who lived out her life in that culture. We got dampened in a bit of drizzle during supper, as darkness came on. We slept.
We arrived at the edge of Montreal about 5:30 p.m. Friday evening. There was plenty of traffic, but not much in the way of road rage. Oh, we did see a fellow shake his fist at someone who cut him off - it was just like in the movies - and a bird got flipped in return, but that was about the extent of it. We weren't in Los Angeles.
We discovered that the youth hostel where we intended to stay had lost our reservations. One doesn't always recognize good fortune in the guise of such a predicament, I know, but this was good fortune. The woman who told us they didn't have our reservations and didn't have three rooms for us called to a "sister" youth hostel down the street, which did have three rooms, with a separate entrance, with a bit of a living room with couch and table and chairs, with its own bathroom. It was on the ground floor, and you entered beneath the concrete stairs that led to the rest of the youth hostel above. It was as if the Clan of the Cave Bear had been offered its own private cave. We got what we wanted and didn't know to ask for.
We were late getting to the hotel where we were to meet up with the other bloggers and look for supper. Those other bloggers, they were very patient folks and waited for us to show. Or was it, as was the case much of the weekend, bodies at rest tend to stay at rest? In any case, we were not too late for supper.
Where would we eat? We swarmed the Latin Quarter along Rue St. Denis and found The Thai Restaurant. That was its name - The Thai Restaurant. It was upstairs and they had a table for the ten or eleven or twelve of us outside on the patio. They had beer and coffee and wine to fuel our conversation. I ordered Pad Thai, which dish, you know, is humankind's single greatest culinary achievement; or else I was Thai in some previous incarnation. (I would have Pad Thai again on Saturday and once more on the drive back to central Pennsylvania from Montreal. This, I've been told with some assurance, is a clear sign of a complusive personality - Pad Thai three times on one long weekend.)
The Thai Restaurant found a table for the ten or eleven or twelve of us, as did several other restaurants over the course of the weekend. The waiter or waitress cheerfully brought us individual checks. I fell in love with every waitress I saw - oh, speak French to me. That French attitude you hear so much about? We didn't see any evidence of it, not in the restaurants, not in the stores, not on the streets. Montreal was a lovely place for a blogger meet-up.
Saturday was rainy, which did little to dampen our spirits. We swarmed the Old City and found a place under an awning that would let us sip espresso or latte or tea while it rained, and nibble Indian fry bread with cranberries, and talk. We were served by a fur-trader's wench, in costume.
Talk. That's what bloggers do when they get together, you know, these strangers, these virtual friends. They talk, and they become face-to-face friends. We are born into certain families and as much as we might love them we didn't have much choice in the matter; we fall in among friends in our communities, often from a limited selection to choose from. But a blogger meet-up of this sort is like attending a happy family reunion with a family you have carefully chosen for yourself.
How do you know these guys aren't axe murderers, some people might want to ask. I don't know. How do you know the guy you're going to see about the used car he's advertising isn't an axe murderer? You don't. You make your choices and take your chances.
Meeting face-to-face with a bunch of the bloggers you read regularly is everything like meeting a bunch of your friends for a few beers after work. Except that we who have never before met probably know each other better than you know your friends. In person, these bloggers are as they appear on their blogs, only more so. More intensely so. More profusely so. More colorfully so.
So what do you do for a whole blogger weekend? You eat. You talk. You sip espresso. You walk in the rain. You talk. You eat. You watch other bloggers take photographs. Not photographs of normal, ordinary reality. Photographs of patterns of shape and line and color. Of disembodied reflections in store windows. Of staircases and naked mannikins. You talk some more, eat some more, have more coffee. You laugh. You laugh a lot.
And, damn, all of a sudden it is Monday morning and time to face reality. Time to head back to central Pennsylvannia to drop off Dave and The Sylph. Time to think about heading for Wisconsin, about going home, back to that other reality. Saying good-bye is difficult. You've got to do it, and you do. With promises of another meet-up, some other city, some time in the future.
Watch for us in your neighborhood. You'll know us when you see us. We'll be the swarming bloggers.
Dave Bonta on swarming here. So different from our adventure, yet so much the same?