SEPTEMBER INSIDE AND OUT

BOUQUET FLOWER LIVING ROOM SEPTEMBER

The calendar warns the end of summer is near, but so far, summer clings to the leaves. The sky is bright blue. Usually I’m eager for fall, eager for the crisp weather and the foliage.

And the photo opportunities. New England’s autumn is the most photogenic season imaginable. Unless we are hit by tropical storms and heavy rain, it is also the most pleasant.

picture window living room September summer

This entire summer has been delightful. Almost like early autumn and for the whole summer. July and August have had little rain, lots of bright sunny days and clear skies with warm, rather than hot, temperature. You couldn’t ask for better. So I vote for keeping it. As long as summer wants to hang around, my welcome mat is out!

bouquet living room flowers september summer

Denial only goes so far. I took a few pictures of the trees in the woods … and a bright patch of yellow caught my eye.

72-summer-woods_07

Earlier, when we were out in the car, I noticed the edges of the maple leaves are beginning to turn a bit rusty. It’s still warm and sunny. Even a bit humid. Regardless, change is coming. Seasons are non-negotiable.

72-summer-woods_08

THE NEW BOUQUET

bouquet flowers september 2014

The painted daisies finally faded and I emptied the vase. Usually I wait until they are crisp and dry and really depressing to look at, but the daisies were so bright and cheery, it seemed cruel. In the name of kindness and mercy, as soon as they were droopy, I sent them to their rest.

bouquet flowers sept 2014

And what should appear? A new bouquet. Different flowers, different colors. I put them in the middle of the table rather than over on the wood stove.

bouquet flowers september 2014

Now that the late afternoon sun is blocked by our little air conditioner, it’s too dark over there.

bouquet september 1 2014 flowers

When the air conditioner comes out of the window later this month, the flowers can move back to the top of the stove, unless, of course, we are having a little fire in it. I’ve promised myself that this year, I will buy paper logs so we can enjoy at least the look of a fire, if not the heat.

bouquet flowers september 2014

Dam at Whitins Pond

Dam at Whitins Pond

I literally paid in blood for these pictures. I think they are worth it, though I’m pretty sore and have a feeling I’m going to be very uncomfortable tomorrow.

A perfect water lily

A perfect water-lily

Funny to discover this dam after passing so near for more than a dozen years. You really can’t see it from the road, which is where we usually shoot from and I probably heard it, but didn’t pay attention. It’s an interesting dam, not like any of the other local dams.

dam at Whitins pond

It’s not very tall, perhaps 10 or 12 feet. Water doesn’t flow over the dam as much as it comes through holes in the dam, set at various heights in a long crescent. The waters spits out and onto a plateau of flat rocks. I’m not sure what this design was intended to accomplish, but there must have been some special purpose in the design.

Close up at the dam

The old mill used to be an antique cooperative until last year. They recently converted it to an adult activity center. The senior center in Uxbridge is tiny, so this is definite upgrade. The building has been beautifully restored and its location, adjacent to the river and Whitins Pond … well, it couldn’t be lovelier.

Pink-eyed grass by the dam

Getting hits for being relevant

If you’ve ever worked as a reporter — or any kind of researcher — the instinct to follow a story persists. Sometimes, it pays off. For me, the turning point of this blog was when I got thousands of hits on a reblog about hurricane Sandy in November 2012.

November 2012 was something of a super month for bloggers. Between the presidential election and Hurricane Sandy, activity on the Internet was much greater than usual. Even people who were normally not especially interested were hopping online to follow current stories.

The thing was, the article that started bringing in all those hits was a reblog, or more accurately, a scoop. Anyone could have as easily read the same article on its original site. I was not at the top of a Google search. I tried using the phrase everyone else was using and Serendipity didn’t come up. At all. So people were seeking me out. Rather than reading the original article, they came to my site. Even giving me a point or two for attractive presentation, there were more than enough stories on the same subject all over the Internet. I’m not being modest. I wanted to know: why me?

Coney Island post Hurricane Sandy.

Coney Island post Hurricane Sandy.

I decided to analyze what I did better or differently than others. I looked at the total content for days when my numbers were very high. I realized all involved current events that were unusually high-profile. My best days involved Hurricane Sandy (November 2012), the blizzard Nemo (February 2013) and the days leading up to and immediately following the storms. Also the beginning of the new television season, the Oscars (before, after and during) and (of course) the election. And sadly, the bombing at the Boston Marathon (April 2013). Plus every time they play the première episode of Criminal Minds.

When major events occur, I write about them. Not one story, but a series of posts. I start with an article that covers the main story, then add to it. If the initial story was reblogged — often the case — I add graphics and photographs. I add commentary and analysis. My additions are typically longer and more detailed than the original. I don’t alter the original author’s text and I always give credit, but I build on it.

Nemo blizzard, February 2013

Nemo blizzard, February 2013

In this case, the original post was a reblogged (using ScoopIt) standalone post. Using it as a jumping off point, I followed a trail. I gathered pictures, stories about hurricanes and other storms. I wrote about them from my perspective, if I remembered them. Then, I asked Garry — my personal treasure trove of first-hand experiences — to talk about his experiences during the Blizzard of 1978 and other storms.

New York during the The White Hurricane, The Blizzard of March 11, 1988

New York during the The White Hurricane, The Blizzard of March 11, 1888

I roamed the web to see what was happening in various places being hit by the storm. Although I focused on Sandy and it’s impact on Coney Island, I discovered many other places along the coast which were equally affected. I posted what news I could gather about these areas.

I kept gathering and adding information, especially photographs, historical background and apocryphal stories. I just did what I always do when something interests me. I get into “bloodhound mode” and I followed the scent. The circles kept getting wider and including more locations, more events.

I eventually included stories not directly related to Sandy but which were thematically related. Other monster storms have paralyzed the Atlantic coast, some relatively recently. I love history so it was fun digging up historical information. Research can keep me glued to the computer for very long stretches. It’s how I learn.

I googled “hurricanes past 100 years East Coast” and could have filled an encyclopedia with the results. Research became stories. I hunted down historical photographs. I remembered stories I heard from relatives and friends about storms. My husband covered every storm to hit New England for more than 30 years, so he is a nearly bottomless repository of great first person experience.

Stranded cars on Route 95, Blizzard of 1978, Boston.

Stranded cars on Route 95, Blizzard of 1978, Boston.

I ultimately produced a series of stories over almost a week.  News, mood  and background stories, data, photographs. I stitched them together. Each post was separate, but they formed a continuity. One thing led to another. When I thought about this storm, I remembered other storms, wrote about the storm that hit on my birthday in 1888 … and I offered facts, stories, and historical background, sidebars, and photographs.

The combination worked. Folks came to read one story and stayed to read many more. Some of them signed on as followers. It turned out that I didn’t have such a huge volume of visitors, but everyone who did visit stayed and read as many as five or six stories. A lot of hits.

Since then, I have more visitors on a regular basis and most of them read at least two or more stories. It’s not complicated:

  1. Be current. Don’t ignore major events. You don’t even have to write the stories yourself. Which brings me to the next point.
  2. If you don’t like WordPress’s reblog format, try ScoopIt. It seems a waste of time to write an essentially identical story when someone else has already done a great job writing it. Being relevant doesn’t mean you have to write it, but at least include it by reference.
  3. When something signficant or interesting is going on in our world whether it’s a national election, a hurricane, tsunami, the new television season or the upcoming Oscars, pay attention. You don’t have to write about just that subject, but maybe you shouldn’t completely ignore it either.
  4. It’s fine to march to the beat of your own drum, but it’s good to also pay attention to what the rest of the band is playing. If you march alone most of the time, occasionally it’s not a bad idea to join the chorus … or sing counterpoint.
  5. If you can’t be relevant because there are no big stories, be entertaining. Use those lemons to make delicious lemonade.
  6. Include lots of photographs.

Ivory towers can lonely. If you want company, you need to associate with the rest of the world and pay at least some attention to what interests them. If you write entirely for yourself, it’s a diary, not a blog.

September Memories

When snow covers the woods and the rivers and creeks are crusted with ice, it’s pleasant to remember just a few months ago when the leaves were bright and the waterfall running free. These photographs are from early September, West Dam in Uxbridge and nearby Mendon.

 

30,000 hits … Go figure.

It seemed appropriate — what with getting all these awards during the last few days — that this is the week I hit another landmark. On November 9th, I passed 20,000 hits and today, exactly 3 weeks later, I hit

30,000

From February 2012, through the end of September, I gathered 10,000 hits. It took me a slightly more than a month to get the next 10,000. On November 9, I was at 20, 783.

At 11:38 pm — right now — I am at 30,044, which is just about 10,000 hits in three crammed weeks.

When there’s a lot of stuff going on, people come looking for more than information. We all want explanations, validation, confirmation that what we believe is right or what we disbelieve is wrong. Those of us who put ourselves out there gain a certain amount of popularity, maybe notoriety or at least a degree of attention in return for fending off a lot of flak for having expressed opinions with which others do not agree. I try to back my opinion with facts, at least as far as I am can establish whatever facts exist. In the end though, facts are slippery as eels, subject to innumerable interpretations. Statistics are easily twisted to support virtually any position. Numbers are neutral, but what we do with them is not.

November 2012 was a newscaster and blogger’s dream. The richness of the available subject matter for a writer was unlimited.  It gave me a lot of room to stretch my writer’s wings, to try writing about things that would normally not fall in my purview.

The dreams of writers and reporters inevitably are built on events that are someone else’s nightmare. Sometime since the advent of electronic media has come to dominate the news industry, news no longer means information about current events … what’s happening. It used to be that news might be good or bad. News was merely “new.” It was the newness that counted, not any predetermined content.

It’s different now. Today, all news is bad news. “If it bleeds, it leads” is the unofficial motto of newsrooms around the nation and probably the globe. Violence and death draws an audience. If a story has a happy ending, it’s likely relegated to feature status or considered “not newsworthy” and thus completely ignored.

Lacking fresh disasters, the next hot ticket in the news biz are scandals, financial crises, sports, weather, and anything happening to a celebrity. These days, we have celebrities who are famous for being famous. They’ve never done anything noteworthy. They don’t act, sing, play an instrument or invent things. They aren’t politicians or scientists. They are nobodies. I hope I am never desperate enough to write about any of them. Since I have pretty much no idea of who is currently famous, I’m unlikely to write about them. Most of the time, guests on talk shows are strangers to me. I can’t tell one from another. Neither can my husband. If you are looking for the latest gossip, I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere. I have neither information nor opinions on the subject.

Election day 2012I plead guilty to enjoying lively discussion and controversy, though I require civility however much we disagree. I figure we should be able maintain the same level of manners in public disputation that we would demand of a 5-year-old. That has turned out to be an unreasonably high expectation when issues of national importance were under discussion. No kindergarten teacher would allow such appalling behavior from her charges, but we not only tolerate, but actually encourage worse behavior from public figures.

As angry as I have been about policies and issues, I have been far more upset by the bad behavior of public figures, many with advanced degrees slinging mud, calling names, and clearly trying to incite violence. There ought to be limits, there ought to be a level below which we will not sink. Watching “Lincoln” yesterday reminded me how uncivil our public behavior has been over the years. The difference between then and now is the presence of electronic media that allows everyone to immediately see — in real-time — how ill-mannered we really are. It used to be a dirty little secret; now it’s an international embarrassment.

The sheer energy generated by so many major events occurring at the same time helped me gain an audience at a faster rate than I could have done had there not been so many important events occurring. There was Sandy, the giant storm. A storms is inherently uncivil. Storms have an excuse. They have no brain cells, just mighty wind, rain or snow … so a storm has an excuse for mindlessness, but what excuse can there be for people like Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck?  Perhaps they too lack brain cells. But more likely, they simply like a conscience and the level of manners required of a pre-schooler.

I get a reasonable number of regular visitors these days. I’m not exactly viral but I have an acceptable following. The number of visitors rises and falls according to some invisible tide over which I have nominal control . When Serendipity’s visitor count first popped up from 70 or 80 on a good day to over a thousand, I figured it was a fluke and would fizzle. As I expected, the visitor count has leveled off, but apparently people who initially dropped by for a particular post continued to return for other things. I am more inclined to trust the new, steadier numbers I get now than the wild up and downs surges of early and mid November.Here, Griffin!

It’s harder to find relevant, exciting content when there are no super exciting events in progress, but I try to stay relevant, try to find interesting subjects. Maybe make a few people laugh or at least smile. I like offering historical background for whatever is going on, the rest of the story we didn’t get in elementary school. Understanding the world is easier if you have the perspective of history. Context counts.

Thanks for reading, thanks for being my friends and making me feel that I’m still a real live part of the living world.  Let’s all hope that this year is going to be a better one than last year. Maybe less full of news, but more full of joy!