“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”

April 30th, 2007 | Uncategorized

only enter

I’m at the airport again, delayed again, on my way to Pittsburgh. As I while away the time, I thought I’d show you this sticker on the wall next to me, in fortuitous juxtaposition with a sign fragment.

I spent a long, long time yesterday pondering the question “what is the purpose of this blog.” My answer is turning into a treatise, and it’s still not finished. But it occurs to me now that one purpose of the blog, for me anyway, is that it’s a place to put things like this photograph. Things which are kind of interesting in the moment, but beyond that, have absolutely no lasting value. It could be argued that I should not waste my time or yours on such matters. But I’m delayed at the airport. What’s your excuse? And more importantly, speaking of time, can you identify the source of that quotation?

39 Responses to ““To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.””

  1. DaneGreat says:

    Emily Dickinson!

    My excuse for reading? I like it. I like the blog, the debates, the community of virtual dykedom. I’m in the Czech Republic for the semester, which has a minimal dyke scene, and I’ve been reading (read: savoring) the endless trivialities here.

    Not to imply that everything’s trivial, of course. The cake recipes thread was positively captivating.

    And to throw in my unasked-for two cents about the strip reduction: I’m very sad, but also glad that you’re giving yourself some much-needed time to work on the next book.

    ~Dane (who was once a lurker)

  2. Aunt Soozie says:

    “Celebrity is the chastisement of merit and the punishment of talent.”

  3. Ellen Orleans says:

    I won’t call it an excuse, but a reason: to experience posts like the one above, where I am reminded of a marvelous poet, or posed a thoughtful question to chew on for the day, or offered the heartbreak of an earwig-human interaction by a bathroom sink. No excuses needed.

    Kirsten, if you are out there….Welcome Home!

  4. tallie says:

    here’s my question: the sticker seems to be a bit… large. i’m trying to imagine what it was attached to that would be catagorized as “vaginal use only.”
    i actually can’t think of anything.

  5. louise says:

    Have you heard of the manga “Walking Man”? This guy goes on relaxing walks. That’s what the comic is about. If there were ten more like it I’d buy them all. It is so lovely, a perfect use of manga format, and this blog reminds me so much of it.
    I can’t find much about it… here’s a review http://madinkbeard.com/blog/archives/the-walking-man-by-jiro-taniguchi

  6. louise says:

    Lol… that review actually has a ‘related posts’ link that leads back to an excerpt from an interview with Alison! :

    Bechdel on Everyday
    Ed Champion interviewed Alison Bechdel for his Bat Segundo show (listen to it here) and among other interesting statements is this (slightly edited, mostly for excess verbiage from thinking on her feet) during a discussion of comics and the everyday:

    “The comic strip is the definition of quotidian: it comes out everyday, you read it on the toilet, it just weaves itself into your everyday life. It’s about little details. It’s not about grand sweeping dramas. Graphic stories are able to show incidental life without having to describe it. It would be boring in a book to read about a piece of crumpled paper on the floor. You might not want to waste time describing it. In a picture you can just show it without drawing attention to it, without pointing to it.”

  7. Gil in Mexico City says:

    My favorite Emily Dickinson quote is “My friends are my estate,” which I think accurately describes the universe of DTWOF, and my own fondness for the characters and their community…

  8. Dicentra formosa says:

    Tallie, it’s an extreme closeup of a sticker from some sort of prescription medication. In context my favorite is still the one which comes on a packet of birth control pills and says, “do not use if trying to become pregnant.” I’ve never seen one on an airport terminal wall, and certainly nothing so hilariously juxtaposed as in this snapshot.

  9. Dateline Pittsburgh

    I just spoke with my esteemed colleague Amy Rubin, who told me about this curious site.

  10. --MC says:

    Sticker culture is fun.
    I’m collecting variants on that “Andre Has A Posse” sticker — it’s still being parodied! The latest one I saw (which I was unable to peel, alas) said “Giant Squid Has A Posse”.
    The best of all was made by an artists collective in Vancouver, and says “Neil Diamond Has A Posse”.

  11. falloch says:

    Dunno where that one came from, but found another one from M. Twain today: ‘We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking.’ This could be taken as v. masculinist, or as a comment on reality-TV obsessed, Anne Nicole Smith-who’s the daddy-ism.

    Please keep up the bird vids – I only got interested in ornithology since moving to Scotland, and regret I don’t know that much about N. American feathered life.

  12. falloch says:

    sorry! Hurray, Emily D.! Just goes to show you should read all the posts, but sometimes just not the time to do so.

  13. Jana C.H. says:

    I use that Mark Twain quotation as one of my tag lines. It’s appropriate in so many situations.

    Jana C.H.
    Saith Mark Twain: The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.

  14. susank says:

    when you asked where the ‘quote’ came from i started imagining a box of tampax, a pessary prescription, a sex toy….. then when folks started writing about emily dickenson and mark twain i could not for the life of me imagine what insider joke i had missed out on….

    now i see the title of the blog.



  15. Aunt Soozie says:

    No susank..
    it WAS Emily Dickinson who first thought of adding that phrase, “for vaginal use only” on boxes of meds so people with hoof and mouth disease wouldn’t get the wrong product…at least that’s what my understanding was…

  16. Jessie says:

    my excuse is graduate school.

    maybe don’t overthink the blog. It is a fantastic, engaging, and interesting forum for all of us involved.


  17. DeLandDeLakes says:

    The only thing I can think of is a tampon, but why the hell would you want to put it anyplace else?

    My excuse is graduate school, too. Something’s got to keep me from studying.

  18. Riotllama says:

    I’m chuckling evilly right now. When i worked in a pharmacy I liked to steal roles of those stickers and go put them on items in the vegetable isle. Oh those youthful pranks. snort.

  19. AK says:

    My excuse is that I don’t own a television.

  20. AK says:

    Btw, welcome to posting DaneGreat.

  21. Eva says:

    The photo of the woman with a “for vaginal use only” on her tongue is really truly priceless! Anyone who hasn’t gone to the site Alison posted above has just got to drop everything and go there — right now!

  22. Deb says:

    What a hoot! I want some of those stickers! I love to play pranks and I would have a field day with those. *blushes*

  23. Ally says:

    I have to say, before I read what the read sticker said, I was struck by the visual impact of the photo. The composition of the photo is perfect and visually beautiful. the repetition of the blocks of color (the blue and the sand color) and the structure of grid lines inherent in the artchitecture, as well as the balance of tone and contrast make a unified whole. My favorite part is the punctuation of the two instances of text perfectly juxtaposed. The red is the strongest element and is balanced in size and the lower placement to the other. When you take their meaning into account, “only enter” and “for vaginal use only,” the image is complete with comentary. Did you know you were doing all that when you shot it? or is your sense of composition so ingrained by now it is second nature?

  24. Cyn Stern says:

    There are some meds that can be used either for (oral) thrush or for vaginal yeast infections. Perhaps that sticker came from a box of meds that were to be used ONLY for the “down there” version of the disease?

    (My poor (late) mom took some heavy-duty immune suppressants for her autoimmune condition during the last years of her life, and she’d tell me how she’d lost all resistance to yeast infections and had to pop the same pill in both ends to treat the overgrowth.)

  25. Pavel says:

    It took me a while to page through the many, many web hits to finally find some context for the Emily Dickinson quote. (Actually, it’s a [common] paraphrasing of the original.) It’s from a letter sent from Emily to someone named “T. W. Higginson” in late 1872. The full quote is:

    To live is so startling, it leaves but little room for other occupations though
    Friends are if possible an event more fair.
    I am happy you have the Travel you so long desire and chastened- that my
    Master met neither accident nor Death.

    To see the complete letter, scroll down to #381 here:

  26. Feminista says:

    Cyn Stern, I believe you’re right. Have had my share of vaginal yeast infections and remember not that long ago when we women had to go to the gyn and buy a prescription.

    I remember in DTWOF (probably early 90s) when Ginger reminded Lois that one of our lusty lass’ yeast infections came from Anemone (or was it Amethys? or Amaryllis?) Yes,I think Lois’ next job should be as a sex-positive health educator for Planned Parenthood or Good Vibrations.

  27. cat says:

    i am suffering from next episode withdrawl! bring it on!

  28. HWHD says:

    I work in Health Care and there are indeed 2 types of anti-fungal medications- the oral type and the vaginal type. Everyone makes a big fuss over this- “make sure you give the right one- oh, can you imagine putting a vaginal suppository in your mouth- gugg!”, and I’m like, it hasn’t already been in someone’s vagina, it’s just a pill, for chrissakes..

  29. Deb in Minnesota says:

    Hmmmm, one never knows what might come from such interesting moments. So enjoy them. And enjoy posting about them. In any case, this gave you an excuse to use some Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite poets. 🙂

  30. louise says:

    What’s the difference between a treatise and a manifesto? I think Alison should call the blog statement a Manifesto. Sometimes overthinking things can be very luxurious and enjoyable too.

  31. kate says:

    “I TOOK my power in my hand And went against the world”

    i’m thinking you shouldn’t analyze the blog. i mean really we analyze so many other things in our lives–relationships, work, religion, politics. sometimes it’s just nice to go a place where you never know what will come up–sometimes funny, sometimes odd, sometimes educational, sometimes angry (remember that weight and hate debacle, or should i say we forget that).

    reading your blog and your works have always been sorts of touchstones for me and until recently, i’d never commented but it just seems that the blog has taken a turn. i’d like to say for the better, really, but i fear you might not agree. since turning forty i’m becoming more comfortable with who i am and don’t quite care how others respond. but then again, maybe i’ve become more foolish. in any case, this blog has been a nice outlet for people (and, hopefully, for you as well?) where ideas and thoughts can be debated into nothingness or somethingness.

  32. DeLandDeLakes says:

    I’m getting behind Feminista- Lois was way better at selling sex toys, and it’s gotta be better than Bounders. Plus then maybe she’d be in the strip again!

  33. Elisablue says:

    My excuse, or my reason, as Ellen Orleans said, my reason, is to land myself sometimes in a place where I sort of feel at home (although a very noisy kind of home, most of the time, where everybody talks at the same time) where I can sort of see (or think I can see) Alison’s work in progress, or not in progress, or whatever, because I absolutely love that work, because it speaks to my heart and brain at the same time. My reason is to go to a place where I know it is possible to start with Emily Dickinson, go to vaginal yeast infection then to sex toys , back to Mark Twain then God knows where afterwards that I might not read about because I’ve left the place …

  34. mlk says:

    seems to me that rather than overthinking anything, AB was putting some of the thinking back on US re: the “what’s this blog for??!?” question. good move, Alison!!

    thanks to the poster who gave the message from the sticker — I couldn’t read it for myself. great pic, but odd place for the message. can’t imagine how that particular object would be of any use to a vagina! the Retrocrush site has more imaginative placements . . .

    thanks, Pavel, for giving us the context for Alison’s quote. I did a quick-and-dirty Google search and got the Emily Dickinson answer, but had no idea when or why she said (wrote) it.

    and I think Kate’s onto something when she says this blog is a place “where ideas and thoughts can be debated into nothingness or somethingness.”

    my excuse for all this is that I’m crushed out on AB and hope that if I post enough (with the occasional letter) she’ll be so impressed with my clarity of thought and wonder producing insights that she’ll invite me to live w/her in Vermont. an entirely vain hope, and I recognize it as such, but I’m a hopelessly hopeful person. oh, and I adore the many directions that AB and the bloggers take us between strips!

  35. ksbel6 says:

    Any guesses as to the word before “Enter” which ends in T? I can’t think of anything…

  36. Bunny Watson says:

    I’m guessing it said “Exit Only – Do Not Enter,” or “Ticketed Passengers Only,” or something similar.

  37. Anne says:

    Hi Alison – I read your “Indelible” book on my way to MichFest last year and it inspired me to pick up my pen and start drawing again. Reading your blog has very much the same effect. I think it’s easy to see creators as people who have very different lives than mine, and therefore I am not creative. You seem to have a penchant for turning over the rocks of your life so people can see under them. The effect of this on me is to remind me that there are many artists whose lives essentially are like mine… and I am creative. No, I haven’t done the work to make a living at it like you have, but there is an inspirational parallel that makes me put the sketchbook in my bag every morning, and to pull out the pen when something strikes me, and to let the results be what they may.

  38. mlk says:

    thanks for posting, Anne. I’ve been wondering what others’ reasons are for coming to AB’s website. so far, the answers posted have been pretty much in accord . . . but Alison wouldn’t have had that blogsential crisis awhile back if that were really the case.

    don’t be shy! speak up, folks. even if you’ve stated it before, doesn’t hurt to put your rationale into words again. this is an occasion when such comments are “on topic.” you, too, can be part of the creative process that produces this blog!!

    just read about an *ahem* artist in Columbus who’s taken Retrocrush’s shenanigans to a whole new level. you can check it out at http://www.theotherpaper.com/TOP5-3/5-3_coverstory.html

    some pretty imaginative work . . .

  39. MattGar says:

    You shouldn’t do this.