Love is in the air; today is Valentine's Day and lovebirds everywhere are causing sales of greeting cards, chocolates and flowers to skyrocket, while those looking for love may be hoping that Cupid points his bow in their direction. But love is so much more layered than the romantic love of Eros; what better gift for Valentine's Day than to talk about love with a Caribbean blogger whose entire mission revolves around sending love and positive energy into the blogosphere?
Karen Walrond, better known as chookooloonks, is a Trinidad-born, diaspora photoblogger whose images and words explore the beauty, passion – and yes, challenges – of life to uncover the sacred in the everyday. And the love she puts out has come back to reward her in droves. Here's what Karen had to say about love, fear…and blogging!
Global Voices: Your blog has always had a joy about it, even when you were still wrestling with whether or not to keep being a lawyer. How did your online voice evolve and well…what did love have to do with it?
Karen Walrond: I actually started blogging in 2004, and back then, the traditional “voice” for personal blogs (particularly parenting blogs) was sort of wry, sarcastic and snarky. Because of this, I felt like I had to write in a wry, sarcastic and snarky way — and while I certainly have that side, I found writing that way incredibly exhausting and depleting. Over time, I realized that (a) I didn't want to be seen that way, (b) I didn't actually view my life that way, and (c) I certainly didn't want a “permanent” record on the Internet of my being that way. I did a bit of soul-searching, and realized I'd rather follow the lessons from my good Trini parents and grandparents that love is what should guide our actions. And so, I changed how I wrote on the web. And the way I write now feels much more authentic for me.
GV: Love is a recurring theme for you – for example, your Love Thursday feature. Why is this important to you, what developments and opportunities have you seen come out of it and how does your photography complement it?
KW: Love is really, everything, and for me, it's the source of finding beauty around me. As a photographer, this is imperative. And so many opportunities have arisen from this — most notably my recent trip to Kenya with ONE.org. I was tasked with photographing the beauty I found around me, and happily, falling in love with Kenya (and ONE.org) was easy.
GV: Your book was a labour of love and was really well received. Tell me about your latest initiatives.
KW: It definitely was! One of the happy things that resulted from the book was my new online ecourse, Path Finder — a way of identifying the wonderful things there are to love about yourself, and how they're very likely your superpowers. Secondly, I also started my subscription gratitude practice this year, gratitude.2012 — which is a way to chronicle the things you're grateful for in your life through photography, while simultaneously helping the entrepreneurs in developing countries. So I'm really excited about all of this — the love is spreading!
GV: The way you look at love is refreshing. You deal not only with romantic love, which, let's face it, is the primary marketing focus of the day, but also on familial and platonic love. Tell me about your perspective on love.
KW: I've always thought that it was a pity that romantic love gets an entire 24 hours, yet there's never been a day set aside for all the other types of love that there are in the world — as you say, familial and platonic love, but also just the kindnesses that often occur between strangers. I think it's that kind of love that can really change the world. So while I certainly welcome romantic love (and my husband and I will celebrate), I try to be mindful of all other kinds of love on my website on February 14th. Because I think it's extremely important.
GV: I think that people are motivated by one of two things: love or fear. True? And if so, how do you manage to be so brave online? You put everything out there, from innermost thoughts to family photos – and the Internet is not always a loving place.
KW: Oh, I don't know about that — I wish people were motivated by love, but I think fear is more common! I think it takes a conscious effort to be motivated by love: a friend once told me that love isn't an emotion, it's a decision, and I think she's right.
Also, while I'm flattered you think me brave, I actually don't put everything out there. For example, even though I certainly often deal with challenges in my life, I try really hard to make a habit (and trust me, this is a conscious decision) of focusing as much as possible on what is going on that is good in my life, even if it feels like what's good is being greatly outweighed by what's difficult. I don't try to make my life look perfect (and am, in fact, very open on my site that life is anything but), but I try very hard to minimize the complaining that I do online.
And I think because I'm very open about this, that I acknowledge pain and suffering, but am making a conscious effort to maintain a gratitude practice through my words and images, people respond well. I'm lucky, but I have only very rarely had someone be unkind to me or other people on my site. But the people who visit my site, thankfully, know I won't tolerate unkindness there. It's a mean-free zone.
GV: Does having Trinidadian roots, an American upbringing and an English husband influence how you express your love online? (I'm asking in the context of this post about the entryway.)
KW: Oh, I don't know — I think love is sort of universal language, don't you? :)
GV: What are the three things you love most about being a blogger?
KW: It's hard to narrow it down to just three! Let's see: I obviously love using the medium as a way of self-expression. I've been doing this almost daily for 8 years, and I can't imagine my life without it anymore — it has become a wonderful way to chronicle the good there is in life. Secondly, I love the way that some of my very best friends in life are people who I met because they visited my blog, or I visited theirs. Without blogging, I would've never met many of the most important people to me. And finally, I love all the opportunity that blogging has afforded me — from my book deal to traveling to Kenya, none of it would have been possible without my blog.
GV: Any Valentine's Day messages?
KW: Absolutely: I wish everyone a day — and a life — filled with love.