Thursday, June 14, 2007

the beautiful journal

I am transferring files from the borrowed laptop computer, cleaning house at the end of this school year. I located this piece of noodling, written from a long self-directed writing retreat at Adelynrood.

Years ago I bought a beautiful journal, suede and a brown floral tapestry, gilded page edges, a ribbon page marker. I hoped to make the leap to a journal-looking journal rather than the terribly practical-looking journal. I tried to make a similar leap perhaps twenty times in the past twenty years, but I only write comfortably in a journal I carry at all times, and I’ll only make space to carry one book, and a hard-cover simply weighs too much to also carry a date book and to-do list… I have stopped trying. I write in spiral-bound notebooks, a particular kind with a column for my ever-rolling to-do list and for stray thoughts. I am fond of the stray thoughts. I am fond of my current projects living close-at-hand as I’m off running errands. I pull the car to the side of the road when I need to. I keep a long list of writing prompts in the front cover of my notebook at all times.

What is handy about this spiral notebook is it’s apparent no-nonsense look. Thus I can appear to be note-taking, while listening to the odd thoughts inspired by the room (this feels like summer camp), the smell (garlic bread baking somewhere and I wish it was for me), the quality of light (God is good), the stiffness in my back (must phone chiropractor). I can take notes, yes, and I can take notes for several subjects at once. I can jot down a brilliant line. “Like a kleptomaniac lecturing to her itchy fingers, ‘thou shalt not steal.’” Then I can return to the thought at hand, thinking about the beautiful journal, I believe I was saying.

Somehow, then, the beautiful journal has become the place for now-and-then entries, entries that are earth-shattering or writings I would not carry in my purse, or fiction ideas or revelations. I pick it up—the first page is that April day when I wrote in the sand with a stick.

The next entry, I prayed for relief for my housing situation, and the following entries are about moving to the summer camp—relief for the housing situation, and a good change. There are some funny entries about a terrible crush I had on a handsome young man—how Scott and I laughed over my fuddy-duddy old self as I nearly fell down each time the sweet fella walked by. (He was also quite, quite a dear person, and we were surrounded at the camp by gorgeous specimens of youth and vigor. We felt alternately “just like them” and like we were their protective, wise parents. These twenty year olds guessed our ages at 28, they said, as their jaws hit the ground with the word “forty.” It was strange. That’s a notebook note to follow up.)

I’ve written often about how angry parenting makes me, how hard it is. At this writing, it's less hard now, less wringing-- though it might not always be so.

So I pick up the beautiful journal, and open the first page, where I wrote “I AM A WRITER” in the sand, three and a half years ago, before I’d typed anything more than a journal page or letter. I found the original story, today. I wrote also, “WHAT I AM DOING IS WORK—MOTHERING IS NOT A LUXURY OR AN EXTRA. IT IS A NECESSITY.” April 2003. July 2006 I wrote that story in a grad school application essay, not having laid eyes on it in three years. It reads exactly as I remember it.

Where have I been, this past three and a half years? Right here, all along, and across the universe and back. I’ve just started reading the beautiful journal, and I wonder what else lies in those pages, now. It’s full of secrets, a letter to me. Someday I will likely burn the thing, likely, although just now I can’t bear to part with any of my writing, ever— it’s like following a trail of artifacts. Maybe I’ll follow the trail of artifacts all afternoon, and see what surprises are within.

Maybe I’ll add some more.

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