When I started blogging, I knew little about it. I did not know anyone else who had a blog or even how to find other bloggers. I just knew I wanted to keep an online journal and blogging seemed like an easy way to do that.
As time passed, I discovered others out there writing about some of the same things that interested me. I found Tipper at Blind Pig and the Acorn writing about her Appalachian roots; I found Small Pines writing about his desire to escape New York City for the quiet of the Adirondack mountains; I found Suzanne at Chickens in the Road discovering what it is like to live on a small farm in West Virginia; I found Becky at Twisted Fencepost writing about life in her rural area and occasionally about her West Virginia heritage. I found Dave at Appalachian History, sharing historical documents and rare stories. I found Glanbrydan's weblog and Lee and Rowan and the Weaver of Grass in the England and Wales. And I found Susan in Ireland.
Susan's blog instantly attracted me. Her witty style, droll humor and frankness combined with her ability to neatly target insights that startled me at the same time they had me laughing and nodding my head in recognition made me an instant fan. I've been following her writing for two years and still find it as fresh and surprising as I did when I first stumbled on her posts. Life in Ireland isn't all green men in tights and beer (although maybe there are more green men in tights visible when there's more beer). It's much like life in these states--trying to make a living, care for children, deal with bad weather, get published... (Well, the last might not be on everyone's list, but for bloggers it seems to be a goal for most of us.)
One day when I opened her blog I saw a muddy river that immediately said 'West Virginia' to me. Was Susan in my state? She was, it turned out. A few months later she was back again and this time we were able to meet her and her family when they came for a visit to my house. It was more fun than reading her blog, and that's saying a lot.
Sometimes people question the value or depth of online friendships. Can you really get to know someone well if your only means of doing so never or seldom includes face to face meetings? I am here to tell you--yes, you can. For almost 15 years I have been a member of Storytell, an online storytelling group. I've met well over a hundred members over the years, have stayed at their homes or had them stay at mine. Our friendships are real and abiding. The same kind of friendship developed with Susan.
So when I shared my terrible news about my son here, I knew it was a community of friends who would read and respond. Who would know what devastation such a death could bring and who offered shoulders and words of comfort.
The other day Susan wrote a post titled Inspiration and Ford-itude about our internet friendship and once again her insights--this time about me and my family--caught my breath.
Thank you, my friend. When we meet again in person, I will be looking for that big hug. And there might possibly be a bit of beer (or wine) to share along with our stories.