Clock & Bell

When I think about some of the memorable parts of my years writing online, I’m usually most nostalgic for the earliest years: 1997-2001-ish. But recently, I fell into a different sort of nostalgia spiral. I forget how it even started, but I found myself missing the way blogging was just a handful of years ago.

A paint-chipped corner of a table

In 2008, when I was living in Calgary, I started a new blog called Clock & Bell. I’d started it because I felt I’d been getting too personal on my other, main blog, and wanted to take a step back. This will become amusing shortly. At first it worked. I posted whatever: snippets of my day, little creative writing pieces that I had no intention of doing anything more with. For example, this is an entire entry, from September 1, 2009:

And when the teenagers descend with their seagull voices, I seek sanctuary in the bookstore across the street, decorated as I am with owls. I pick the dustiest books and take them home.

And this is from September 12:

There are two women sitting on a balcony, wrapped in blankets, drinking slowly from mugs. They are looking at a laptop, propped up on a chair and then on two cushions. They point at it, gesture and laugh. It makes me miss when all my friends lived in the same city, though we have never done this exact activity.

I am talking to one of these friends on the phone as I notice the women, so it helps.

They are inside now, and their left-behind scene – chairs, cushions, draped blankets in red and white, discarded mugs – is so picturesque but there is really no way I can photograph it without looking a creep.

I am frying potatoes, spring onions and tomatoes for lunch. Contemplating coffee to go with it though I haven’t had a drop of water all day. I’ve spent a lazy morning reading, forgetting to hydrate.

I also used to post photos of scenes (with subtitles on) from movies like An Angel at My Table, Breathless, and the 1972 Solaris. Not because I’m a huge film buff or anything, but I suppose because they were pretty, or thought-provoking. I sort of wanted to do that with my writing too.

(Side note: GODDAMN do I miss the Calgary Public Library’s killer DVD selection.)

Then, in 2010, two things happened. My husband and I were stranded in Europe because of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, and a week after we returned to Canada, we moved across the country.

Plants through a steamed-up window

Maybe for those two reasons, my blog started to ease back into feelingsy territory. I talked more about my life, what I was actually thinking and experiencing. Still nothing too personal, but just more. I was feeling both unsettled and excited about that new stage of my life, and I wanted to sort of ping the world and talk about it. “Hey, is it just me?”

Sometimes I didn’t write anything, though. Sometimes I just posted photos. Exploring Toronto, visiting my parents at my childhood home with a frequency I had missed during my nine years in Calgary. I’m a nostalgiamonster, so returning to my hometown and sometimes the actual home I grew up in was a never-ending source of things to write about and photograph – especially when I bought my first DSLR.

A rainy backyard

People followed me from my old blog to the new Clock & Bell, but I started to get new readers too. It was so much fun to chat with people in the comments, to read their own blogs, to do my daily tour around my blogroll. I discovered so many great blogs then, and they were updated all the time, and there were great discussions in their comment sections too. I met one of my closest-ever friends through a random blog comment.

(Oh, one other thing: I don’t know how widespread this was, but people used to send bloggers stuff. And not the way we think of it now: companies sending bloggers free product in exchange for a post. I mean readers used to send little gifts, little tokens. For example, a copy of a book that a blogger said had been her favourite in high school, that the reader had come across in her local thrift store. Nothing flashy or creepy. I thought it was sweet. It might seem odd now. On Instagram recently, I participated in a candy exchange with a popular blogger I used to follow a few years ago. We all photographed the candy we got and wrote nice things to each other; it reminded me so much of those older days.)

By no means was I one of the more well-known bloggers, but I did have quite a few readers; more than any of my previous blogs ever did. While I enjoyed meeting so many people, my old reticence started curling in behind the scenes.

Is it because I’m Finnish? Or is it something else that makes me always want to pull myself back? At some point, I started to second-guess everything I was writing. None of it, of course, was anything I would really be embarrassed by. But I guess after a couple of decades of writing online, I was getting a little paranoid. By that point, blogs were everywhere. Everyone had one. Sometimes more than one. When I started writing on my very first website, the internet was still seen a little bit as a place for freaks. I could say anything and nobody I knew would read it – or if they did, hey, they were on the internet too so they couldn’t judge.

In 2012, I wrote:

This blog has most definitely evolved since 2008. Slowly, I found myself opening up more, revealing my life more, even clearing the final hurdle of the internet-privacy-wary: putting up pictures of myself. And for a while it was great. I love blogs that do that, that find the balance between the personal and the arms-length. But over the past few weeks, I haven’t been feeling it. I couldn’t tell you why. I just get frustrated by everything, even that I have pictures in every entry now, even though I love photography. I find myself struggling for things to write about. I am a writer, but that isn’t displayed here to my liking. But if I go back to the way I used to write, will I disillusion the readers I have, whose comments and general presence I really enjoy? I’m no blog superstar – and I would vomit a million times if I ever became one – but writing things you guys like to read is so important to me.

A self-portrait in a mirror, 2012

A few weeks later, I shut Clock & Bell down, and started this blog. I posted whatever: snippets of my day, little creative writing pieces that I had no intention of doing anything more with. Basically: full circle. And even here I’ve started to write more personal things, and then I start pulling back.

Over the past couple of years, though, I would have some reason to revisit Clock & Bell, and then remember why I liked writing it, and wonder how things could have turned out if I’d kept at it. So I did the next best thing, and imported some of my favourite posts from there to here. One thing that is really a downer, though, is that I never thought to take a screenshot of it at any point. And I honestly have no memory of how it used to look! Archive.org is no help either, because in a fit of internet privacy anxiety, I actually got my site excluded from theirs. Overall it’s not a big deal, but it would have been nice to see it again, and remember all those people and all those conversations. Oh well.

I think it’s kind of funny that this blog, the one I kept at arm’s length and mostly in a time when people started to move away from reading blogs, is the one I’ve written in the longest, in my whole life.

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