Blogging Journal Musings


Dried biwa leaf
Dried loquat leaf in front of my apartment door

Something happened in the blogging world that I had been inhabiting up until sometime around the end of last year. After two years of intense dedication suddenly the magic petered out. I even considered pulling out the stoppers and letting the air out of my own blog. Obviously I haven’t gone that far, but for some reason I have never been able to regain the momentum or enthusiasm I used to have. Maybe it is because I have tired of living vicariously in a digital world and have taken more and more to the world outside my door. I know that another part of the reason is that the close interaction with various like-minded bloggers, some of whom have become friends, seems to have evaporated. Even when I leave comments on many of their blogs or post my own essays there now rarely seems to be a response. People with whom I had had almost daily contact for those two years drifted away like autumn leaves.

Losing this connection to these people has, though I have been unwilling to really acknowledge it, hurt quite a lot, in part because I’m not sure if it was something in my own actions or words that caused the dwindling of interest. Until recently I thought it was just me, but in speaking with and reading a few people it seems the waning magic spreads further than just my own fretting mind. Maria of Alembic mentioned to me in an e-mail that she sensed a dying out of interest in blogging, too. Anne of Under A Bell recently wrote about not feeling the magic any more. Several people I used to read religiously have closed shop and disappeared into substantiality. So it isn’t just me.

When I stare at the blog entry screen now so often it feels like narcissism, pretending to reach out into some kind of network, when really what I am staring at is an opaque mirror, not unlike that of the Evil Queen in Snow White. When the computer lures me often I cannot extricate myself, the cobwebs of interactivity drawing tight around the silence of my solitude and need to speak. It is hard to formulate the truth that in spite of the hours spent cranking out words no voice emanates from the opposite end.

Like Anne I’ve been retreating to books and handwritten journals (and hopefully hand-written letters, as I have promised some friends!) and daily waking at dawn to hunker down among the wild flowers and stock-still vitality of the sprouts in my garden, sometimes poking my camera lens among the leaves to record the lives of all those little creatures that go about their business with full-fledged abandon. I find that I’ve badly missed the chill of the dawn air, the slow drawing of the deep sky, the whisking of dove and duck wings past the edges of the roofs. And, of course the unmistakable gaze of the rising sun…

The blogging world opened lanes with people I would never have gotten to know or speak to without the internet. I still hope to get a chance to meet many of them in person some day. But when the voices begin to die away it is like the rain, I have to forget the effects of their singular passage, and perhaps I, myself, must learn to fade away. If there is one thing that the internet has taught me, it is that not only is life impermanent, but ultimately there is nothing you can touch, either.

Journal Living Things

He’s A Girl!

Pepe the Red-eared slider
Pepe the Red-Eared Slider A few days before the identity crisis.

Pepe, our seven-year-old Red-Eared Slider, has been living with us since we first moved back to Tokyo. I found him (and his former sister Isabella, who died several months later) in a dirty tray at the side of a local pet shop near where I work. The tray had been heaped with baby turtles, half of them dead, and I was so taken aback by the apathetic treatment of the little creatures (Japan has a truly abominable record when it comes to the treatment of animals… you can go into any pet shop here and find endangered species curled up in cages… I once saw a fennec fox sleeping in a tiny cage. Needless-to-say visiting Japanese pet shops is so distressing that I avoid them whenever possible) that I decided there and then, without much thought for the consequences, to save at least two of the babies before they could die, too.

I hadn’t known that Isabella was sick, and the months that followed we watched her die a slow, labored death as her breathing faltered and froth constantly poured from her nostrils. We couldn’t find a veterinarian anywhere who would handle reptiles and so the only recourse I had was to seek help from the then very spotty Internet, through the help of reptile-lover, and expert, Melissa Kaplan. There wasn’t much that we could do, except to make Isabella’s last days as comfortable as possible.

Pepe survived, however, and graces our living room to this day. He’s put on weight. When you pick him up he feels like a large round stone, more than 20 centimeters long. He spends his days basking on the rock in the aquarium, chowing down on turtle pellets, cabbage, white shrimp, and the occasional slice of banana, and, of course, hours and days and weeks endlessly sleeping. Turtles have the basics of life down to an art and use no more energy than is necessary. I’m always amazed that with virtually no exercise Pepe puts my weight-lifting skills to shame, and when the mood strikes him he can react like lightning.

Since I spend my days working at home I’ve often had time to sit and observe him and learn bit by bit the nature of turtles and how they might perceive the world. I never knew, for instance, that when turtles move about in the water they constantly drink the water, tasting it, and since turtles are air-breathers, they can’t use smell underwater as a sense, and so seem to have evolved taste as an alternative way of locating food and making their way through murky water.

I always thought, too, that reptiles, being cold-blooded, don’t carry their own body warmth, but in winter, when Pepe sidles up against the aquarium pane, the glass fogs up with his exhaled breath and a white jet billows out just like someone drinking a cup of hot coffee.

So you’d think that with seven years of watching him I would be pretty up on his identity. After all he sits there staring back at me day in and day out, no matter the weather. So what a surprise when I looked in the aquarium the other day and spotted a white lump deposited on the back side of Pepe’s sunning rock. I poked it and discovered that it was soft, like the plastic outside of a mayonnaise tube. It was round, like a mushroom. I picked up the object and nearly dropped it. It was a turtle egg!

“How the heck…?” I said to myself. I looked back at Pepe and just stared. “Pepe, you’re a she? Why didn’t you tell me?”

Pepe said nothing, of course. She’d been vindicated, finally, after all this time of my calling her a him.

“But how did you…?” Yes, lay an egg. I mean, as far as I know Pepe had had no nightly trysts at all in the aquarium-bound existence she’d been subject to all this time. I know that Red-Eared Sliders can only mate once they reach a certain size and that sexual maturity is not determined by age, but by size (also, in general, Red-eared Sliders’ sex is determined, while they are still egg-bound, by the temperature the eggs are reared in: cooler temperatures produce males, and warmer temperatures produce females. Many paleontologists believe that the demise of the great dinosaurs might have come about because the cooler temperatures brought about by a large meteor hitting the earth might have produced too many males and not enough females), so it is highly unlikely that Pepe could have had her eggs fertilized while in that filthy tray in the store.

Later someone educated me about females producing unfertilized eggs, including the revelation that the chicken eggs that I buy in the store are all unfertilized eggs. Shows you just how out of touch with my own food sources I am!

I like to pride myself on my knowledge about animals, but then people like Pepe come around and remind me of just how many surprises I am apt to encounter in even just one representative of a single species. I could probably watch that immobile little shell of a turtle and learn something new every day if I looked hard enough. It’s sometimes easy to overlook the familiar and assume I know more than I do.

No matter how much I know or don’t know, however, Pepe’s clear and earnest eyes will continue to grab me from across the room and have me gazing back. There is a lot of wisdom in there. I guess it’s never a good idea to assume you know what someone else is thinking.