Why We Need This Cyber Village: BlogHer '11


I have long been inspired by my favorite line in E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End, “Only connect…” And this last weekend at BlogHer, I saw those two words take on a life of their own.

My friend Eden was a Voice of the Year keynote speaker. Standing in the dimly lit ballroom as she read, photographs from her blog post projected upon huge screens, I realized that if not for BlogHer, this very moment would never have happened. Not like this.

Last year, I came across a call for artists to collaborate on a BlogHer project to benefit the Gulf cleanup. I was a writer, photographer, an editor at a film magazine. I emailed to ask, Could a non-blogger participate?

I received an excerpt from a VOTY finalist. (It was all very hush-hush as they hadn’t announced the honorees.) I styled a faux inspiration board to photograph, tacking up various things amongst the words I’d received, like Kodachrome slides, fortune cookie papers, a photo of a red balloon.

Note to Self by Alex Asher Sears with words by Edenland

I took the photo. I emailed the file. I typed in the URL for Edenland. As I began reading her bio, I got a lump in my throat. As I once wrote:

B-Cell Follicular Aggressive Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. No one should be able to say that string of words so easily. And no one should have to know what they mean.

Some things make absolutely zero sense. None. Such as cancer.

Eden’s wonderful husband, Dave, and my beautiful, talented cousin had the same terrible cancer. Thankfully, Dave survived. My cousin did not.

The red balloon in the collage? I carried it in her memory at the annual Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Light the Night event. Why I included it in the artwork, I’ll never know.

Only connect.

I can’t put into words how happy it made me to read that Eden’s family was living beyond cancer. To see a different ending than the one I knew. Once BlogHer was over, I could email her and tell her so. I did. A friendship across hemispheres began.

I’d thought about blogging for a long time. Again and again I was seeing what I could only call the Shrinky Dink Effect – the world made smaller through the blogosphere.

This year, I was hired as a photographer for BlogHer ’11 and as a writer for their Entertainment section in the same week. If the universe was telling me it was time to blog, I was getting the message loud and clear.

In March, Eden had a project for us. “Wait til I email you a dastardly beautiful plan. HINT: It's to do with creativity, hope, art, and cancer. You are so totally in.”

That plan would become the post she read at this year’s keynote.

Eden’s friend Vee lost her husband, Alex, to a very rare cancer. May 11th marked the first anniversary of his passing. Eden wanted to commemorate the man and his art. She had his work printed on canvases and snuck them into an oncology ward in Sydney. I had his work printed on cards that I handed out in various parts of LA.

alex asher sears

That day will stay with me always. With each card I gave away I was sharing his life, and honoring the memory of those I’d loved and lost to cancer. It was overwhelming and wonderful and awful and entirely surreal.

Cut to San Diego last Friday. I’m rushing from the SDCC to the Marriott to grab something before the keynote. I get into a very full elevator. A woman with red hair and a big smile looks at my nametag with a surprise and says, “Alex? You’re Alex? I’m supposed to give you a hug from Vee.” Of all the elevators in that Marriott, Vee’s friend Dresden walked into mine.

I could not make this up if I tried.

In the crowded elevator we hugged and wiped away tears. Dresden rode a few extra floors with me so we could send an Instagram to Vee. Hug received, Vee.

Alex and Dresden Instagramming in Marriott elevator

After the keynote a group of us gathered, hugging and wiping away more tears. We were American and Australian – all in some way connected to each other because of Vee. Vee at home on the other side of the globe, receiving tweets and Instagrams telling her that Eden and Dresden and Woogs and Melissa and Alexandra were having the first meeting of the Official Vee Fan Club right there in San Diego.

At one point she tweeted back: Wish I standing in the middle of that group hug. xx

Eden, Melissa and Alex - laughter and tears after the keynote

Vee, you totally were. Totally.

Only connect. Only connect, indeed.

Photo Credits: Dresden from Creating Motherhood and ©Asher Sears Photography.


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