Stories allow us to untangle experience, make sense of our lives, and find meaning. They are containers for wisdom and lifeboats for memory — helping us not to forget, and then later, not to be forgotten. ~ Jonathan Harris
Imagine you’re a 19th-century novelist whose supply of paper has just run out and more can’t be found anywhere. Well, something like that recently happened to more than 10,000 writers when their electrons ran out.
They all belonged to a community called Cowbird that flourished on the Net for about five years. Late last winter its founder pulled the plug, perhaps bored with the site’s upkeep but saying he wanted us all to make more of a mark on the real world. What he told the Cowbird community at the time was:
Over the past five years, we’ve told nearly 100,000 stories — stories about birth, youth, sex, love, work, war, faith, death, grief, grace, and countless other topics. Together, we created a public library of human experience, so our knowledge and wisdom could live on in the commons, as a resource for others to look to for guidance. We found beloved community here, forging deep and lasting connections.
He went on to explain what had changed his thinking about shepherding this community:
It being Mothers Day and all, here’s a shout to my two main moms. First, a salute to the wisdom and fortitude of the one who birthed me, Sophie Pincus Dutton (1910-2005). Below the fold, listen to her describe her first several jobs and how she met my father in 1940. Spoiler: She married that handsome tennis coach, Charles Dutton, after a two-year engagement and they stuck it out until he passed in 1982.
Both stories unabashedly ripped from the pages of cowbird.com.
Five minutes of Sophie’s voice talking about her early work and love life:
Closer now in time and place we meet Aygül Balcioglu, the mother of my daughter. Here we explain how a Muslim woman and a Jewish man happened to meet and click at a Christmas party, generating a disturbance in the Force that lasted over five years. Those kinks got worked out, mostly.
Sophie opened her home and heart to Aygül and Aygül returned the favor and often says she misses Sophie, who lived long enough to see her only grandchild turn five. (She should have had more time, way sooner. My fault. I’m an only child and was always a slow starter.)
This story takes the form of a letter to our daughter, written to help her appreciate what it took to get her here.
Aygül has taken the lead again and again in realizing our daughter’s potential to become the best person she can when I wasn’t clear on how to proceed. I treasure that, and someday, I hope, so will our kid.
I love you both deeply. You are bookends to my erratic, unlikely life who has saved me more than once from lapses of judgment and catastrophes of character. Happy Mothers Day to my two moms. You’re the best.
Now that the Supreme Court has legalized political bribery and isn’t likely to overrule itself, seems to me the best course of action is to convince high-rollers that making huge political donations is not in their own best interest. Yet another Cowbird reprint, in honor of freshman Justice Gorsuch.
For close to five years I have been a member of an online community of writers called for no compelling reason cowbird.com, which grew to encompass 14,000+ writers who put out almost 90,000 stories, all tagged and organized, most with images, some with audio. Members could love and comment on stories and privately message one another. It was a happening place for authors and visual artists
Yesterday, Cowbird turned to stone. The writers and the stories will remain, but authors and readers can no longer interact and no new stories can be posted. Instead of being a living “library of human experience” it’s become the library’s archives. Continue reading “A Cowbird Walks out of a Bar…”