Agriculture is practiced inescapably in a context, and its context must not be specialized or simplified. Its context, first of all, is the nature of the place in which it is practice, but it is also the society and the economy of those who practice it. — Wendell Berry

All over Italy, shrines line the roadways, niches where, most often, Mary stands with her arms outstretched, her dress the perfect shade of baby blue. Some of these shrines glow with neon blue lighting. Others are austere, Mary with a single votive candle – lit every night – at her feet. Reminders of God and faith, blessing and calling.

In England and Italy, the cathedral walls are covered in niches where saints stare down, their faces placid, one arm raised beatifically. People versed in such things know what each representation speaks for – animals or safe travel or lost items, and from their smooth, etched caves, the saints watch over us all.

Niches are perfect for statues, but not for people. Agriculture exists in context, as does writing, as does life. People do not stand still and serene at every moment. Our arms flail, and our feet kick up with glee, and our moods shift with food and sleep and pain. We do not speak unidirectionally, with one voice in every moment. We are various; we are multitudes, to quote that wise poet.

Yet, we seem to want to fit people in these little caves; sometimes we want to fit ourselves in these caves – we are mother, or accountant, or democrat, or writer – and we want all that is life to fit into one little niche.

But people are not statues.


One of the words of wisdom people often give about blogs is that they should fit into a niche, and many people have great success with this model, blogging every day about on particular thing. I am not one of those people. I have tried it – I have tried to make this blog about writing exclusively, and when I do, I feel like I’m being shoved into a tiny cave where I can’t even see what is behind me.

So today, I am declaring my freedom from the niche.
I will write about writing here because that is my vocation, my passion, the way I spend my days. But I will also write about farming and justice and faith and the way my puppy runs with such abandon that her legs kick out to the side like the New Kids doing the “Hangin’ Tough” dance. Like Baby, I can’t be put into a corner. (Wow, yes, that’s right – I just quoted Dirty Dancing, the film that prompted my parents’ first serious sex conversation with my brother and I – all because Jennifer Grey was only wearing a bra). I will write about what is my life.

Perhaps this choice will make me lose readers, and I will be sad for that. But perhaps, and this is my prayer, it will also serve as a reminder that we are all broader than our vocations, our religions, our genders, our heights, our politics, our ethnicities. We are multitudes, every one of us.

What do you think about niche blogs? Love them? Loathe them? Why?