Blogger Appreciation: Observant Bystander

When I wonder whether contemplation has any role left in this world, a post from Observant Bystander appears and knocks my socks off.

Just as in life, it’s easier to keep the conversation light and moving quickly. If you want to make a blog popular, keep your posts to one paragraph, sound a clear note, include a link, and move on. And, most importantly, post every day, several times during the day. Also, pick a theme – local news, state politics, Chiefs football, something like that. Make it yours, and you are on the way to blog success.

Observant Bystander breaks all the rules. She treats us to infrequent, thoughtful essays on topics that have her attention. She took a 5 month break, but now she is offering us a post every week or so. They are like a wonderful fruit that only appears in stores once in a while – grab them and savor them while you can, and hope they keep on showing up. For all I know, Observant Bystander will disappear for another season.

I don’t love her work because it is like mine, or even because she writes about topics that fascinate me. Usually, they aren’t really my issues. I don’t struggle to accept a braggadocious father, I socialize easily with suburbanites, and my crises are generally far more mild than hers. But she’s compelling, and astoundingly honest. She lets us in past all the gates and guard dogs we keep around ourselves, and shares her pain, joy and puzzlement at the world. Her post on recapturing the feelings of youth while dancing with a younger guy is a masterpiece.

Good bloggers comment on other blogs, as thanks and as a way of offering encouragement and letting people know that someone is out there. But I never comment on Observant Bystander’s posts – it would be kind of like standing up after a Gospel reading in church and saying, “Yeah, that was really good, and I like to get my feet washed, too!” I don’t comment because it almost feels disrespectful to the depth and completeness of what she has written.

Observant Bystander’s posts are some of the best writing you will find, on blogs, books or literary journals. They sweep you up into her world and her perspectives, while treating you to sparkles of language: “heads safely encased in fiberglass helmets”, “dollop of wine”, “Sadness sank into my brain and enveloped me in its sticky web of deceit”, “my limbs loosened with liquor”, “Miles Davis played in the background, the perfect soundtrack for thought comas”. I love great writing, and her posts are sprinkled with perfect phrasing.

Observant Bystander offers no fresh perspective on the latest kerfluffle at City Hall, and you can’t find a great new restaurant by reading her work. But, 10 years from now, when today’s political outrage has been entirely forgotten and the bikini models on Tony’s pages are middle-aged, Observant Bystander’s work will still be timely and important, because she has the courage and insight to write movingly about human truths.

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