Thursday, September 14, 2006


I’ve been asked to provide a blog on the theory and practice of blogging for an online publication called “Reconstruction.”

Okay. I’ll be methodical and do it list style.

1. I started out on academic listservs and discovered that I wrote too much and too idiosyncratically to suit some readers. A blog solves that problem.

2. I blog to network with other bloggers, the way I did with favorite posters on listservs, some of whom have been friends for a decade now -- though I’ve met very few in person and have had hot arguments with several.

3. Blogging is a retirement strategy to help keep me structured and disciplined. If I don’t post daily, there are even some people who will send me a chiding message wanting to know what I’m doing. I’m in a tiny village where few people even read very much, so I can hardly go to the grocery store and discuss literary theory. But I can do that online.

4. I have one of those “hundred monkey” minds that chatters constantly with a steady stream of ideas and images. When I was preaching, I tapped that for Sunday mornings. I especially enjoyed the year I kept a Methodist pulpit warm and preached from a lectionary. There is a group somewhere who organizes the church year into three series of Bible readings: Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospel and assigns each to a Sunday. The idea is to read through the whole Bible once a year, but I took the challenge of trying to get all three assigned readings (which are often sort of related in theme) into one sermon. It was fun.

When I dream, I move through the ideas as though they were movie plots. “Snow dreams” are the best. They come late on mornings when I’ve gotten slightly chilled in the night and are usually about urban settings: elegant shops, conferences on university campuses, long silent hallways, formal enclosed gardens, beautifully carved wooden chapels, and -- for along time after Bob's death -- a mill: empty, dusky and echoing though the wheel was turning, and sometimes it had a pulpit. I finally figured it out: my mother's favorite saying was "the mill of the Gods grinds slowly, it grinds exceeding fine."

Blogging is halfway between dreaming and preaching. I usually have an idea to pursue or at least a theme, but I’m sometimes surprised by what comes onto my mind-screen. (Actually, I keep three blogs because they are three separate interest categories: I write quite a bit about Bob Scriver, to whom I was married in the Sixties (, and I write about English teacher stuff (merryscribbler, Those are a little too specialized for most people.

I’m getting between 400 and 800 hits a week on "prairiemary," but nearly hit a thousand when I began to write about animal control. I write a lot about Blackfeet because I came back here to be with them as I grow old. The Blackfeet who are off the rez (about 8,000 people) are more likely to follow me than the ones right here. (Also about 8,000.)

5. Words are my paint. The computer is my grand piano. I often have the impression as I sit here that this is the elephant-ivory and ebony keyboard of a piano. But I can SEE the “music” and revise it as much as I need to. Any art form demands practice and blogs are my scales.

6. It's like ice-fishing. You get a little tug and you don't know WHAT will come up through the hole in the ice but you sure do hope the hole is big enough! Old friends, famous people, total surprises, show up in the comments or in references to me on other blogs.

7. Blogging is entirely practical when one is writing and posting what might be chapters of a “blook.” I’ve already published one blook via “Print On Demand” at (“Twelve Blackfeet Stories”) and have about three more lined up as soon as I can devise decent covers for them. Publishers in general see me the same way that the academic listserv pedants did: too unconventional, too much, not saleable. Publishers in the specific have auteur complexes and try to impose their personalities and theories onto my work, though they are forty years younger than I am, have not had this life experience, and can’t spell.

8. Though I resent the hell out of these self-important “professionals,” I still think it’s smart to know what they’re doing and what they think. I can eavesdrop on their blogs easily enough.

9. Here I sit on a rainy eastslope-of-the-Rockies day we have yearned for the past hot and arid month. My back-bedroom-converted-to-an-office is piled with the kitchen-midden of a compulsive downloader and newspaper clipper, plus DVD’s, rulers, a binding machine, all the wonderful clutter of little instruments that desktops accumulate.

My window looks out on my rough little backyard: the clothesline that my neighbor uses more than I do, the shaggy lilac, the wild mosaic of poplar leaves translating itself bit by bit to bricolage on the uncut grass. It is all soaked, rich with yellow ochre and the last of the green. Just to my left is my tortoiseshell cat, an aggressive little female I sometimes call “the velveteen lizard.” Today she’s playing odalisque under my desk lamp with her fat tummy and pink paw pads turned up to the warmth. This is a good life. She yawns, showing off fangs. It's not entirely an innocent life.

10. Why do I think I have to go to ten points? Good subject for a blog. Is it because I have ten fingers, ten toes?


jo(e) said...


De-lurking to say that I used to read your posts on the ASLE listserv and was delighted to find your blog.

Cowtown Pattie said...

Mary - this is a delightful post! I am envious of your way with words, truly.

Your mother's favorite saying - spot on.

DarkoV said...

When at a loss for words to explain the inevitable "You still do that...", I'll be pointing folks in your general direction and to this specific entry.

Beautifully done.