Archive for the ‘internet friends’ Category

As you know, about 15 years ago, I started my first blog. As I’ve noted before, it was part of a project undertaken by a number of other people, and it was there I met my first blogger friends, a small, tight-knit group. I met Deloney through this project, although a search of that blog shows his first comment to me was on my last post of that blog, back in December 2007. He said, “… I do want you to keep writing. Anything at all.” I was always going to write. But his encouragement helped.

Blogging and commenting on each other’s blogs meant that we talked about our lives and our history, and I believe our characters showed through in what we chose to write, and the way we wrote it. The comments sections were where we often came together as a small community, supporting, encouraging, laughing, and occasionally crying. We all went on to write in different blogs and projects, though one or two of us have fallen by the wayside in more recent years, and continued our support of each other that way.

Deloney, sadly, had a habit of deleting blogs he was finished with, denying us the option of going back and re-reading his work. He wrote beautifully, small prose poems that eventually became a book, The Songbook of Haunted Boys and Girls. He had a naughty streak, dropped in the occasional sexy reference, and flirted outrageously in the comments with the women in our small chapter of writers. Though to be fair, we did our share of (safe, virtual) flirting back!

I’ve just found a comment he made, “Mali in a bikini on Christmas Day?” that made me laugh. We didn’t share photos at the time, so he didn’t know my bikini days were long gone!

In my Friends-Not-Yet-Met series, I wrote a Deloney edition. It’s worth popping over to see the comments too:

“This is an ode to Deloney, he who is the master of the microblog before it was known as the microblog, the true expert in saying so much in so few words who always manages to convey the chill Canadian air or the smell of the bakery downstairs or the taste of something simple prepared with love, haunting us in a brief paragraph at most two; Deloney, who manages to flirt with a literary wink or nudge but is often more blatant than that, shocking but delighting his harem of blog readers giving us all a naughty shiver down our spine … or maybe even somewhere else. Gasp.”

Fortunately, that small group from those early days kept in touch, in various ways – social media, or other blogging projects, or private chatting options. Each time we would find one of the others in social media or elsewhere, we would “come out” as our true selves, as so many of us used pseudonyms in our blogging identities. This was a big adjustment. We had got so used to Deloney, talking about his fire escape, the bakery downstairs, and the summer days of his youth, exploring and delighting in girls, his cats and his Mlle Vague that it was a shock to know that he was not actually debonair Deloney, but was, in fact, Wayne. Although earlier, he had noted that “Over the years I’ve morphed into my invention Deloney.”

My online friendships have occasionally delivered surprises/shocks. They emphasise both the best of online friendships – when we celebrate with our friends and offer support and love when times are harder – and the saddest – that physical distance when we want to help someone going through a hard time, or hug someone with joy. I’ve seen new relationships, immigration for love, adoption (of children, and pets) and births, the growth and development of my friends and their children, house repairs, relationship breakups, the whole gamut of life experiences.

But nothing was more shocking than waking up almost four years ago and reading that Wayne’s beloved Beth had been suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumour and had only weeks (27 days, it turns out) to live. We grieved for him. With him. But that is when he started slipping away. From his online friendships, from his real life friendships too, it seemed, and from joy in life itself. Grief overtook him, and although he tried to recover and find a future, it was very difficult for him. I learned this weekend, from another of my blogger friends, that Wayne has gone. News that I had feared, but nonetheless news that was still an awful shock.

I wrote this when he published his book:

” … These little slices of life are sweet, never bitter, always moving, often funny, and sometimes risqué. They stay with you – haunting in the very best sense – and always leave you wanting to know more.”

Deloney, you were loved and adored, and you will always be a part of our group. You’ll haunt us in the very best sense.

I hope he is at peace now, with Mlle Vague at his side.

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She doesn’t really belong on this Friends-I-have-not-yet-met list, because, you see, I have met her. She’s Slovenian, and truly puts the LOVE in Slovenia, reaching out to give and receive love. She taught me to love Slovenia too, as I would never have gone there if she hadn’t been, at the time, a Friend-Not-Yet-Met (so, clearly, she does belong on this list after all).

A beloved wife, friend, aunt, and dog’s best friend. A true linguist, for more than three months, she wonderfully commented on my Lemons to Limoncello blog in Italian to help me practice mine.

She loves her summer garden and cooked us lunch using her home-grown produce. She and her husband recommended driving a mountain pass that, she casually mentioned, she had cycled once (or even twice?). As we wound around sharp, steep corners up, up, and further up again, I thought she must be crazy, though, in truth, she enjoys exercise and appreciates being out in nature.

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I’ve had a lovely hour or so, immersed in the lives of the initial x365 bloggers, back in 2006 and 2007. Even ten years later, events of the last weeks have shown strongly that we still have a role to play in each other’s lives, that we are important to each other, and that we feel each other’s joys and, sadly, our sorrows.

Most shocking to us all was when our dear Deloney suddenly lost his Mlle. Vague. Some of our group wrote the most beautiful tributes to her and to him (here, and here), which are beautiful whether or not you know him. Susan in particular talks about grief and love, and should be read. I am not so eloquent so I have written privately, and I continue to hurt for him. But it’s not about me. There’s only so much we can do when we live on the other side of the planet , but I hope there is some comfort from knowing that others are thinking of him across continents and oceans, especially if he’s awake in the wee small hours and feeling alone. I see others of our number, or friends of friends, reaching out to him, and it warms my heart and restores my faith in humanity.

Lali is blogging again, which makes me happy even if I’m not always able to keep up with her posts. Most recently, talked about things she misses from her life in green Vermont, and it reminded me how exotic some of my friends are, when she refers to her childhood in Spain and South America, or life with deer, bears and an ermine. Now, whenever I think of Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, which I saw on display in Krakow four years ago, I’ll be thinking of her. Like several of my very brave friends, she suffers from a chronic and painful condition, and as she remembered the person she was when she could cope with her outdoorsy and active lifestyle, I just wanted to hug her … carefully,  gently.

When Lali or IB write about Vermont, I always think of an AFS friend met in Thailand and again briefly in Delaware at Sharon and Chai’s in the 1990s, and when Dona writes of her family memories that never fail to touch me, I think too of other AFS friends last seen in Thailand in 1981 who live near DC, and other bloggers I’ve met through my other blogs who live there or nearby. I love it when the various parts of my life intertwine

Another of our x365 group has reappeared on Fb, after a difficult time, and I am happy to see her again, but sad to think of what she has been going through, and wish we could sit and talk over a coffee, though I’m sure she has plenty of people doing that with her too, not least another of our x365 number who lives in the same city, and who regularly brings another unvisited city to life for me.

On the brighter side, the lovely and clever Indigo Bunting wrote a birthday limerick for me that has made my day. I also was amused to find that, in her quarterly list of birds (that has taught me to be more observant, and to appreciate and love birds along with their crazy names), there was a Greater Yellowlegs, which made me smile. In another internet life, I was given the nickname Legs, and those said legs are Greater rather than Lesser, and although they’re not yellow, they are very pale and would at least glow in the dark as does (I imagine) the Greater Yellowlegs.

IB wrote a birthday limerick for Helen too, in which she bemoaned Helen’s absence from our blogging community. I concur. It always makes me happy when Helen pops back in to comment. She staunchly resists social media, where even Mrs S has returned to our fold, but if she tried it, she might learn to like it. And when I think of Helen I think of Deloney, and another blogger friend “met” more recently who lives in their city, putting it firmly on the map of places I must go before I die, because there are people I must meet before I die too.

Vesper and Craig have both also had birthdays this week, as have friends in the UK, met on the internet and in real life, and in-real-life friends from here are also marking another year on the planet, so it is not simply birthday season in New Zealand in October, but globally in Mali’s Sphere of Family and Friends. On the Libra and Scorpio cusp, there are so many people I love and admire, and I love to be reminded of this.

Birthday boy Craig lives in Florida, and when – as lately – things happen there, I often think of him in the same thought as I think of the friends I met through student exchanges in 1979 and 1980 in New Zealand and in Thailand respectively, who also now live in Florida, and who all talk about storms and space shuttles and post photos of manatees and sunny beaches and alligators.

These links around the world, born on the ether and solidified over the years, or born in real life and maintained on the ether, make me happy and sad, they educate me and delight me and sustain me, and add to the richness of my life. Our hugs may only be virtual, but our love is real. I am so very lucky, and so very grateful.

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