Who could have imagined, even ten years ago, that men and women around the world would be linked together and form strong, genuine friendships that began by looking at a computer screen and connecting to a blog? And who could imagine that having one of these friends leave this world could be so heartbreaking?
Tonight I received an email from fellow bloggie Lisa with the sad news that one of our own, Diana Losciale, better known to bloggers as "Oh," author of "This Writing Life" (formerly titled, "Oh, Books! Oh Paper! Real Life!), passed suddenly, following a very brief and courageous battle with cancer.
I came to know Diana when we took part in Becca's "Write on Wednesday" posts early in my blogging days. (In fact, many of you WOW folks, I still follow!). I loved her blog because it was such a mix of joy, passion, musings and warmth. Her own exuberant personality and big heart jumped off the page with her keen observations of life and her deep love for books and writing.
Diana loved many things -- her writing and books, of course. But also paper arts, photography, fashion, coffee (definitely coffee), Paris (maybe next to coffee), Christmas, her dog Huck, Archie (her name for all squirrels), art and travel and above all, her family. And that was just the top layer. She would devour "Poets and Writers" or "The New Yorker" with the equal intensity as she would "Vogue."
She was also a writer, editing and marketing professional by trade and by freelance. When Diana was editing a prayer book for those dealing with cancer, she asked me to contribute. It was the first (and only) time my poetry has ever been published. I hope that during her illness, she looked at a copy of that small book and found comfort in it.
As we followed each other's lives online, we decided, along with Kerry, that we'd like to meet. So, the three of us -- from Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin -- convened in Chicago for a delightful weekend two-and-a-half years ago, a weekend filled with art, jazz, good food, better talk and a lot of sightseeing and of course, shopping. Diana wrote about it here, and here are my thoughts.
We all had complete confidence it would be fine -- but those we left at home wondered, "why in the world would these women who never met each other take a chance that they could spend a weekend together?" (Not to mention the potential that one of us could be an ax murderer!)
They needn't have worried. It was as though we'd known each other forever.
A year later, I visited Diana in St. Louis where we simply had the best time. Both Christmas nuts, we first fortified ourselves with a fabulous lunch, then hit three great shops that had just put up their displays. (In fact, as I put the things I bought this year, I thought of that wonderful day when we were both like kids in candy stores.) We marveled at the beauty of the butterfly garden.
I couldn't help thinking, what a perfect venue for Diana. Every butterfly was lovely, colorful, in motion -- just like she was. Diana was in flight -- savoring every beautiful flower, special moment, bright day.
... including a selfie.
And we talked non-stop about anything and everything.It was simply glorious.
It's funny, but Diana is around a lot in my space. A postcard she sent "just because" of the Eiffel Tower hangs above my computer. "I'm thinking of making a quiche today," she wrote."Something has me thinking of France. Maybe we should do a blog meet-up in Paris."
Wheat that she gave me during that St. Louis visit, left over from the displays at her daughter's wedding, is in a vase on my desk, moved this place and that at different seasons. She's just "there."
Lisa said Diana had cancer surgery in November. I didn't know this, and sure couldn't tell from her Christmas card with a long note ending "We didn't get together this fall, but look forward to a rendezvous in the future. More later!")
Yes, I am shocked. And heartbroken.
We all get on the blog, we share our stories, we learn of others' lives and passions. We mourn their losses -- of jobs of health, of loved ones; we rally to support them when life is challenging. We care. With every comment we build relationships. Relationships that are stronger than we know or realize.
But I realize it tonight like I never did before.
There is a new star in the heavens and it is bright, witty and it's going to twinkle more than most all of the others. It is called Diana.
(As I went through Diana's blog tonight, I copied some excerpts from her posts to share so if you aren't familiar with her writing, you may discover it. I have to say, it was very hard to choose, so these are snippets from just a few of her many posts. I am not sure how long her family will keep it active. I hope for a very long time, because I know it's a place I would love to return.)
From "Big Doings" (May 6, 2011)
Would I have ever thought that planning a wedding could be so much fun? It’s magical. The world has turned a different color, has taken on a new shine and everyone, absolutely everyone, loves love and rings and real weddings and ideas. Including Snarl – he is quietly proud of his sister! And he has graduation on the horizon so we get to escape to U town to celebrate and party for a weekend and cheer for him.
From "Sunday Summer a.m."(May 29, 2011)
Neighborhood humans are already turning on their air conditioners whose hum hits more of a bass F, an odd counterbalance to the nymph cicadas song which is at least the F above Middle C. It is a stream of sound. Those cicadas who are closer or older or bigger perhaps only by days, have learned to make the sawing, cheeping sound we recognize usually in the height of summer evenings. It is a male chorus. It is part of the “look at me” mating cycle of life.
Mother Nature has lifted her skirts so far this year, showing us some very odd ankle, some very rude knees, and a flash of crazy thigh. She is dramatic, dangerous and petulant. She is not purposeful. She just is.
And she is kind to offer this magnificent morning.
This crazy orchestra, this warm light, this buzz and concert of her creatures to this empty nester. That’s the sociologist’s term, though.
There is very little of “emptiness” in this nest.
From "Holiday Writing Non-Whirl" (December 3, 2011)
So as I write and sip at the dawn of this weekend morning and gaze at the boxes of Christmas lights that will somehow spring to order and stage themselves for outdoor and indoor decor, and wonder about getting out there into the holiday fray, a great deal of which I really do enjoy, but moments in Blogland are holiday-precious and full of friends and friends-that-would-be if actually here.
From "When Snow is a Good Thing" (December 29, 2012)
With no camera at hand, there was nothing more than memory to capture the moments of the snow: the delight as though we were in a huge carriage; the gladness for a warm coat; the reflections from fogged home-y windows sporting wreaths and lit garlands; the silence of the snow as tho’ all were paused, listening for the sound of snowflake on trees; the quick memory of snow as a child and the wish to rush off and find a sled; the way laughter sounds in the thick white air; the “hush” that comes with holiday giving us time, giving us some sort of shelter in which to ponder all that is good and all that can be good.
From "Summer Drinks" (Sept. 17, 2012)
Little Archie comes creeping, creeping on little fingered paws. She’s come nearly every morning (that Í’ve been looking) for a drink, taking the same path, taking the same pauses midway.She’s a third gen nearby-tree squirrel as far as I can tell and she often travels alone tho’ I think she has two brothers. Very wary and very fleet, she is. This birdbath (or was it really for holding seeds? We don’t know)…anyway, this birdbath used to be Huck’s outdoor drinking bowl in the summer. So he thought. He lapped up the water whether it was hot or cold, fresh from the hose. Which is partly why we are not annoyed or astounded that Archie sips here. Huck wouldn’t have cared. We are tickled to see a critter braving the wall and sitting up to put her paws on the side of the bowl to drink.
Then she scampers off to eat her fill of sunflower hulls and hominies.
From "Moving Around" (January 12, 2013)
The trouble with organizing stuff is that once it’s all in a nice tidy stack, on a shelf or in a drawer, so much thought and exertion went into achieving that cleaning-and-tidying that you feel finished with it and may not return to any of the now-organized matter…whereas a lovely old desk piled with tasks and treasures in a more casual manner, off to one side in such a manner if it’s a very large desk therefore leaving workspace, offers up treats, surprises and reminders as you muck through it, all the while aware of and ready to tackle whatever is the major task at hand.
From "Sunday -- or How Weekends Run at Breakneck Speed, No Matter What You Do" -- (January 27, 2012 )
Ya gotta love it, all the comforts of Sunday, wherever you can find them, as you teeter on the precipice of Work Tomorrow. While America is glad to have a job, sometimes the schedule just makes you want to put the typical time compendium on tilt and run it your own way. As the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey says, “What’s a weekend?” I am intrigued by how such a character, if real, would actually measure time.
Perhaps not at all.
And that sounds like a fine idea to me.
From "Crushing Cuties into Potion " (January 6, 2013)
They were left on the counter, having somehow escaped the holiday feasting madness…five little cuties…all alone…one of them was rather hard, its juice having gone somewhere, seeping through its skin maybe, I dunno. But it was rock hard and refused the juicing I was about to give the other four…because there’s magic in that juice…and writers can always use a little magic.
Be at peace, my friend.