• Rhododendron-vickimcleod.com

    This morning, I received an email from Chris Brogan, announcing the demise of long-form writing. I think he’s right and it breaks my heart.

    (If you don’t know Chris Brogan, he’s a genius. Check him out here.)

    Yesterday morning, my 97 year-old neighbour invited me to pause and watch a pair of squirrels leap from branch to branch.

    We were standing outside, on a rare sunny morning. Me in my fluffy housecoat over pajamas, and he fully dressed, grey pants, button down shirt, cardigan and cane. He was telling me about his recent heart surgery, bragging actually – a right he has fully earned by living so long and recovering so well.

    Gesturing with his walking stick down the ravine that slopes away from our homes, he pointed out the Billy Buds. These are outrageously gorgeous early-blooming rhododendrons, splashing their full-headed crimson wantonness across our little patch of forest.

    Next, he pointed out the trees he planted twenty years ago along the shared treeline of the property. Except one, he notes, that was planted by a neighbor who lives on the other side. It had started its life as as a living Christmas tree, basically no more than a shrub, now towering overhead.

    I fidget as we chat. After all, I have emails to check, posts to write. It is when I turn to go that he calls my attention to the squirrels. Both are black and they sway in the topmost branches of the pines.

    Honestly, I can barely see them, and have to peer closely, following the invisible line from my bright-eyed neighbour’s bony old finger up, up into the trees.

    I watch them every day he says. They are feeding on the new buds. Oh, look! he exclaims as they leap, one after another onto the next tree. Their antics are ungainly, clownish, and yet they land, surefooted while the branches swing with their weight.

    The sun is warm. We stand, smiling, as we watch these distracted furry frolics. Nearly four decades separate us. I am feeling the urgency of time these days, the sense of it slipping by, the impulse to hurry. I have things to do.

    It occurs to me that my neighbour has nothing better to do than watch the squirrels all day, admire rhododendrons, muse about trees.

    He spills with pride about the heart still beating strong in his chest, expresses wonder at the medical technology that brought him back from the brink to another spring.

    His attention on squirrel capers, he’s made his peace with what matters.

    I brokenheartedly ponder the way language and communication are changing. It is a new world of emoji and bitmoji, abbreviations and cartoonery, where thirty-second video replaces metaphor and the brave complexity of written description.

    It seems the new world wants simple.

    Chris Brogan wants to smarten me up, and I appreciate it, I really do.

    But still, I want the discipline that the mastery of long-form demands. I’ve spent most of my life pursuing it.

    Or have I?

    Maybe, like my dapper neighbour, I have another forty years to go. More time than I ever thought possible to learn what squirrels have to teach us.


     The micro-version:

    I find out long-form communication is dead. I mourn. My decagenarian neighbour teaches me the value of watching squirrels fly and crimson flowers bloom. Hope prevails.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, long-form or short-form.

    If you’d like to receive my scribbles and musings in your very own inbox, you can sign up here.
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    […] are wise words, and the interaction prompted me to write a blog post – long-form of course, simply for the pleasure of it. If you have the time, you can read it on […]