of sunshine & blogging…

I have yet to find my blogging niche, or rather, perhaps it’s because I’m not looking for a niche to settle into. In the last year, I’ve become aware that some people blog primarily about photos, motherhood, writing, books, or travel. Of course, there are many other topics that you can write about. But when I started, I didn’t intend to stick with any one subject. Does that mean I’m part of a random niche? Niche of randomness?

For the last few years, a friend of mine has posted photos on FB in an album called “Life is Fun!”. A year ago, I had reached a point where the title of that photo album was capable of annoying me, because I didn’t think life was very fun, at all. I was definitely not looking on the bright side. But as I hunted for a new job, and my opportunity to go to Australia appeared, things began to look different. I mean, come on, what could be more fun than going to Australia?

Then, I began to write my blog, with several things in mind that I mentioned on my “About Me” page. I wanted to write about what I was seeing and doing, so that I didn’t have to write fifty million letters to friends, explaining the same things over and over again. Also, I wanted to gain an interest in writing, again, because somewhere along the way, I’d lost it. I missed writing, but couldn’t seem to figure out where to begin.

And there I was, even before I’d gotten on the airplane, looking for things to write about. Looking for something to hold people’s interest. Trying to find the next adventure. Suddenly, life wasn’t just looking fun, it was looking interesting, exciting, and many other adjectives that I won’t go into. I began to recall how this past viewpoint of mine, that life is an adventure, and if nothing else, life is always interesting. That’s why my friends have always looked forward to my letters about weekends spent at conferences in Pennsylvania, or at Seabrook Island in South Carolina. Or a long, long journal-style letter about my two weeks in Ireland or my month in Indonesia. Because I saw those as an adventure, what’s more, I wanted to share it!

I’m not complaining about being single (really!), but it’s true that there’s an additional pleasure to being able to share an experience with someone, be they spouse, parent, or good friend. Because later on, you’ll be able to go back and say “Do you remember this?”, and they’ll laugh hysterically, remembering exactly what you mean, with no extra details necessary. This is a wonderful thing, the concept of sharing. I’ve always wanted to share my experiences on a larger scale, though, and not just the big, crazy trips to foreign countries, but those hilarious incidents that occur on a routine trip to the grocery store.

It’s also about sharing a laugh with someone. Most people don’t like being laughed at, but they don’t mind laughing with someone. It’s why I’ve never liked it when someone mocks or makes fun of someone, right to their face. I am not suggesting that I’m perfect, never saying something critical of someone. But I will rarely say something publicly that will come across as if I’m making a mock of them. Pranks aren’t my style, because so often, someone’s feelings get hurt, which you don’t notice, if you’re laughing hysterically over someone’s downfall. Likewise, the show Punk’d is not on my to-be-watched list.

Sorry, I’m getting off track. I guess my point is that this last year of blogging has helped me achieve my goals of keeping people informed of my activities and reigniting my need to write, but it gave me something else that I hadn’t expected. I’ve remembered once more that life IS fun, and my friend was never wrong about saying so. And from a blogging standpoint, because there’s always something interesting to see or learn, you only have to look for it. If you can’t find it, you probably aren’t looking hard enough.

There will be days when you’re too tired to think of something, or no matter where you look, everything looks dull. But when you’re writing a blog, it’s like you always have your “interesting camera” on, in your brain, looking for the next story. And as much as I like to take pictures, and share those, it’s always about the story. My blog usually involves words, because I want to explain the story, so you can catch all of the details, entirely. A “Wordless Wednesday” post can be fun and sometimes challenging (also good for a break from writing, for a day), but the real challenge is drawing on the memories or the happenings of the day. And can I get my readers interested in a post about… the weather? Dolls? Flowers?

I started this particular post, intending to tell you about my trip to the local Botanical Gardens, here in Clemson. Since I like to start with a paragraph on a slightly off-kilter subject, and then connect the dots in an unusual way, the niche subject was related. Because over the last year, I’ve regularly made use of my best story fodder… children. If you’re a mother or a nanny, then you talk about what you know and see daily. It doesn’t hurt that the adorable faces of children are an easy draw to viewers (ok, maybe not as good as baby kittens, but you see my point). Now that I’m not working as a nanny, at least temporarily, I don’t have any beautiful kids to show off, or hilarious tales of their little mishaps.

Instead, I must make myself continue to write about what I’m seeing and doing, and if my stats numbers drop, so be it. But I remind myself that the people that keep returning, they may like my photographs, but surely they can’t be skimming over what I write. Because the writing is the main point, even if I stop taking pictures (don’t worry, I won’t). So, back to the Botanical Gardens, it occurred to me that I’ve started to take more pictures of the natural world, of flowers and trees, if only to show my Aussie friends what they look like over here. I don’t suppose they’ll ever be as interesting as kids, but it may improve my photography skills.

So, there are days when I feel like apologizing for taking MORE pictures of flowers, or MORE pictures of food. But you write (or take pictures) of what you know and see. And what’s more wickedly humorous than to make people hungry? I assure you, some of my food pictures have made me hungry enough to go back to a certain restaurant, a second time in one week. Also, I’m suffering from a lack of potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce, so any food I eat while going through withdrawal must be forgiven. Bogey’s, how I miss you.

I don’t think I have a serious endpoint to my discussion of blogging, but if my own blog and WordPress were a person, I think I would hug them for bringing me back to a more cheerful viewpoint on life and writing. My blog will not be ending any time soon, because as my regular readers will have noticed, my blog has never been JUST about my adventures in Australia. It’s about my adventures in books, movies, and everything else that I come across.

Sometimes I think that the word “adventure” might not be the right one, because I can get so sunk in my rut that I don’t go out looking for new things to do and new places to see. But every step out of your door should be an adventure, Tolkien’s Bilbo Baggins once suggested, and I would happily get swept away into something unexpected.

Over the next few months, I hope to not just show you the inside of stores and what I’m eating, but to get back to my discussion of books. I have two book posts that I’ve been dawdling on. I’ll be leaving on a road trip, about a week from now, that will take me up north to Maryland and Pennsylvania, back down to the beach in South Carolina (Seabrook, here we come!), and then BACK up to PA to visit a few more people. Then, I’ll return home for some rest and job hunting.

If I get my act together, I’ll try and show you some of the natural wonders in this area, though the funny thing about living in the Upstate of South Carolina is that if you drive an hour north or south, you enter a different state, so some of “our” natural wonders actually belong to North Carolina or Georgia. I want to visit Issaqueena Falls (tallest waterfall in the southeastern U.S.) and Turtleback Falls (anyone for sliding down waterfalls?). I have high hopes of going to visit the Biltmore Estate, in NC, in the next month or two, and I haven’t been there since I was in high school (when we went three years in a row).

But back to sharing about the local sights, our local Botanical Gardens are quite large and very beautiful. Some people will recognize the trellised walkway from some family photos of ours (posted on FB), taken two years ago. Likewise, the Caboose Garden, where we also posed for that photo shoot. When we were little, we liked climbing on the caboose, just as much as we liked running down to the duck pond, to toss bits of bread to the ducks.

On this particular outing, my goal was to take as many pictures of flowers as possible, but I especially was looking for some azaleas, since I missed out on the widespread blooming of these beautiful, colorful flowers. Also, I had noticed that the magnolia trees were in bloom, but if I wanted to capture any pictures of the magnolia blossoms (which smell amazing, by the way), I needed to find a branch that was close enough to the ground for me to see. Thankfully, this wasn’t too difficult to do, as magnolia trees often have low-growing branches, and it was such a brilliantly sunny day that none of my flower photos needed any “enhancing”.

Also, that’s one of the reasons they’re the best climbing trees in the area. Pine trees are too full of sap, but oak trees have branches that are too high to reach. I’m not sure if you can get an idea of the height of that magnolia tree from my pictures, but let me assure, they can be colossal. And you can climb from the bottom to the top of the tree, with only a little swaying of the tree top, once you’re up there. No, I didn’t do it today, but I’ve done it when I was in my early twenties.

I found my pink azaleas (if you’ve never seen them before, they’re a little bit like the shape of the lilies, and bright pink) and my magnolia closeups, so I was a happy camper. In my attempt to get a close shot of the water lilies, I discovered a male Mallard duck reclining in the shade. He was watching me so closely, as I took his picture, therefore I kept my distance (didn’t want my day remembered as the one where a duck attacked me). I found the water fountain by the pond to be an odd addition to the scenery, but the new benches by the waterfront were great for any family that wanted to take a day to visit the ducks. Also, when we were younger, we would come and stare at the giant “goldfish” that always seemed to be sunbathing in the water.

Truly, I hope you have enjoyed the flowers, and I hope that you’ll keep coming back as I continue my search for the next adventure, or share what was “just plain int’resting” to me. Maybe you’ll find these things just as engrossing as I do!

P.S. If anyone’s wondering why I want my blog to be more about the writing, and yet I post my pictures in a very large format, it’s because that’s how I prefer to look at them. There are many blogs that I don’t even take the time to look at, because I have to click on more links to see the picture, of the small size of the picture doesn’t give you a really good idea of the content. Basically, I follow my own personal preference for large photos (when they’re my own pics), because in the end… if I’m satisfied with what I’ve written and how my blog looks, that’s what matters. There’s a reason I named my blog what I did.