SEO, Googlebots, and Still Missing Mark

I don’t really know what to write this morning. I’ve been spending time each day, writing about Mark, using his videos from a year ago as writing prompts. This process of “writing into grief” is never easy.

Sometimes when I look at my blog stats, I want to stop blogging. Then, I’d become just another vacant and boarded-up storefront on the interwebs.

Mark would tell me, “don’t pay attention to your stats, dad.” He gave me lots of advice. Most of it was spot-on.

The other day I stumbled across a blog post from a local marketing firm that calls itself a brand collective. Not sure what the hell a collective of brands does. Well I do, but it doesn’t really jive with my own vision of what a collective should be about.

Given that my blog stats have returned to the paltry level they once were before Mark was killed, I decided to read one of their posts titled, “What is SEO?” for shits and giggles. According to the blogger, I’d fallen down in cultivating a warm relationship with the friends of SEO, the GoogleBots. I guess if I want people crawling all over my content, then I need to get cracking on my keywords. Keywords are the key to capturing eyeballs. Or something like that, I think.

I kind of got fixated on this for a bit longer than I intended. Let me share just a bit more, something that this collective of brands doesn’t really deserve here on my own personal site that I created as the antithesis to this kind of SEO-craven way of writing, blogging, and branding.

According to Little Miss SEO:

Once you’ve got your site in order, create some killer content. Content your viewers will actually love. Is it useful to them? Does it make them laugh, cry, or even better, give you their money? Content doesn’t always mean words in a blog, it can include video tutorials, pretty visuals, and free tools/help. Just make sure your content is wow-worthy.

Perhaps I should apologize that my content since last January 21 has been centered on Mark and his death. I guess I haven’t been doing enough in posting honest content straight from a heart that feels like it’s been ripped from my chest to make people “laugh, cry, or even better, give me their money” in the way that she means.

Contemplating grief and loss and honestly sharing my experiences relative to losing my only adult child has certainly made me cry. But perhaps I should be more sensitive to the need that people need to laugh, and to reach into their pockets and send me their money.

*****

This morning, I returned home from swimming at the Bath Y. I drove into the garage and realized today is Brunswick’s curbside pick-up day. I wheeled the trash can down to the end of the driveway and put out the recycling.

Walking back towards the house silhouetted against the early December morning sky, my thoughts traveled back a year. We’d just moved to this new house and would have been a week into a new place to call home. For a moment, I was in a space where it was December, 2016, and Mark was still alive.

“Was it one year ago?” I thought. Then, it hit me like a baseball bat to my midsection and I almost wanted to double over. I’ll never be able to consider him alive again. Tears welled up and I was wracked with grief.

In the house, our cat, Lucy, was there to greet me. She’s a good friend and she senses our hurt, I think.

There was a morning music show on WMPG and the music was a mix that I enjoy and isn’t always the type played during the early AM shows on the station. More electric guitars, rather than the hammered dulcimers of folk and bluegrass. Not crazy electric music, but American-tinged rock and post-rock. And then, Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me In Your Heart Again” came on and I lost it. I was wrecked and crying while fixing my breakfast.

This was Zevon’s parting gift to his family and fans just prior to his own death, from cancer. It’s a powerful song and I’ve heard it now twice in the morning on ‘MPG since Mark’s death and each time, it hits close to home.

In his Day 057 video from last year, Mark walked 30 miles, mainly on dirt back roads. He talks to the cows and sheep he passes along the way. He got lost. He had to walk through snow and sub-freezing cold. He arrived at the motel after 3:00 in the morning.

Mark gave me lots of advice about blogging, writing in general, but better, how to live. I doubt the collective of brands’ posers can bottle and pass it off as their own the kind of content that emanated from the soul of someone like Mark. His mission in life wasn’t about SEO, posting keywords for Googlebots, or getting people to buy the latest gadget of his that will end up clogging some landfill somewhere.

Here are two poems Mark wrote while walking and posted on his blog from Cambridge, Ohio.

sheep death

The earth / died / a little / today / it dies / a little / every day / because / I think / there are too many / ways / for people / to make / death / without / realizing / they’re making death / yesterday / I saw / a sign / next to a pasture / of / sheep / it said / be careful / there’s a gas pipeline / in the dirt / the sheep / didn’t/ seem to understand / they just looked / at the sign / and/ waited for whatever / form / of / death / was next

a man

A man / asked me / where I was going / I pointed / he didn’t understand / I looked / at / the / thing / I pointed / at / it was / a mirror / a few seconds / passed / the man said / ohhhh / I get it / then he said / “deep” / part of me / wished / someone would / break down the door / and / save / this / poem / but / even if someone / did / break down the door / they probably / wouldn’t be able / to save this / poem / maybe / they would / whisper / no / I / can’t / sorry

I will keep you in my heart forever, dear boy.

Making Stories

A year ago in August, I was contacted about writing an article. The woman who emailed me read my Biddeford article for the “big city paper,” The Boston Globe. She liked it and thought I had what it took to tell her story. It was about a town that had stopped making paper.

In 2016, I was in a funk. I told Mark that “maybe I should quit” the writing game.

Part of this was self-pity. But part of it was also feeling like my writing was going nowhere. At the time, it wasn’t.

Mark’s response was, “keep doing what you’re doing, dad.”

I told the woman that I couldn’t do it.

Then, Mark was killed.

In January (and February, March, and April), writing didn’t seem to matter. Yes, I was blogging. This was more about simply pouring out my pain associated with loss and grief. I was shocked that people actually read my posts.

A decision was made to reconnect with the woman who reached out to me in 2016. She was pleased to hear from me. She was also sorry about Mark.

One year after she first contacted me, I made my first trip down the coast. I’d make several more.

I talked to people in the town. The town had lost a mill. A mill that had been making paper since 1930. I also met a man with big ideas about logs not needed for making paper. Continue reading