I've always been a journal keeper. I've always
tried to write about how I'm experiencing life,
and my feelings and thoughts.
SUE MONK KIDD
It's usually a bit of a moment when I finish one journal and begin a crisp new volume. Such a moment happened this past week. The above notebook with the gold lettering and the pretty house and garden painting on its cover marks my 170th journal. It's hard to believe. And yes, I have every volume -- at this season of life they have become resourceful research material for stories and memoir pieces I'm working on.
I started journaling in the early 1980s when I was under the deep sway of influence from my beloved mentor Lucy Maud Montgomery. I loved her stories about Anne and Emily, and when I learned that her earlier journals were of an age when they could be made available to the public, I eagerly sought them out. At the time, the library had Volumes I and II, then I had to wait over the years for the rest to be published. I loved reading her journals, and if Ms. Montgomery had been such a committed journal keeper, then I knew I wanted to be one too. And, I've been pretty much dedicated to writing journals ever since.
My ever increasing collection is a motley crew of size and shape and colour. The old volumes are shelved in the deepest, highest part of the closet. Into these lovely notebooks, I poured all sorts of things and realized, in looking back at them, that I tended to open most entries with the date (of course) and a bit of the weather and sometimes (often) what time of day I was writing. How often it was in the wee hours of the night or morning that I'd be writing. And, for some reason, the weather seemed necessary to mark my journey in some way -- was it winter, summer, rainy, hot, dry, gloomy? Weather, we know, can affect our moods but I decided a long time that I would try as much as possible to live above the weather, not under it. And over time I'd come to appreciate every season in its every mood, whether clement (pleasantly dry and mild) or inclement (severely harsh weather that is wet and cold).
Oh yes, we were talking about journaling, not the weather. My journals were, and continue to be a bit of diary -- said weather reports, marking events like birthdays and special events. They are also a tiny bit of venting, although I tend not to vent much in my journals, I don't want a paper copy of, em, my 'insane' moments. I do write about the things I read in books or hear from people I follow online, noting many a quotation for future reference and inspiration.
Plus, I'm often jotting verses from the Bible that offer a life boat of comfort and encouragement in difficult, or inclement, seasons. Not to mention bits of poetry that strike my fancy and thrill my soul with such beautiful ways of expressing something. And, there are those striking aha moments when I see something that changed how I view myself or the world around me -- a lot of musing and wondering and sorting out my feelings and thoughts. Writing it out helps me to clarify what I'm thinking about, what I agree or disagree with, and what I really desire underneath all the fluffy superficial surfaces.
Journals, for me, are places where I turn to when I can't say what's in my heart to anyone else. There are some things we all carry that are too deep or personal to share. Ofttimes we don't have the language to share it, even if we wanted to. So we make stabs at it in our writing. And hope that those poured out bits of prayers and yearnings make sense to the God who, we are told, cares about the tiniest details of our lives and longs for us to share them with Him.
Then there are those things I jot in that I don't want to forget at all. The ALIVE moments that make a day perfect in the end, even though it was less so overall. You know those glorious moments, when your heart zings with joy as you stand and watch a rainbow form after a summer shower. As you sit in the garden where the air is sweet with perfume and the birds chatter companionably at the feeders and our neighbourly Orange Kitty wanders in for a friendly visit and a quiet snooze in the garden. Where you are just glad, glad to be alive.
Journal writing is a
voyage to the interior.
When I started this post, in looking for something to share with you today, I opened my previous Van Gogh 'Branch of an Almond Tree' journal and decided to snoop for a few things that I thought might be interesting fodder to share. Sorry, there aren't any big secrets in my journals, not anymore. But it's still a place where I explore what I read and how I connect to books and articles I've read, and I usually have a pile of quotations that speak to me posted in large script, or squished in the margin alongside a related comment. At least that way, if I or someone else ever reads it in the future, there will be some famous writers' quotes to provide some relief in amongst the ramblings of an ordinary unknown woman.
Here is one: The very first thing I pick out from my browsing is that very special quote attributed to French mathematician, physicist, and writer Blaise Pascal. I seem to be writing it in every current journal:
"In difficult times
carry something beautiful
in your heart."
Even if my own life is relatively calm and pleasant, there is just so much rumbling of nasty business going on around the world. We could be sucked into believing that that is all that is going on, so I do make it a practice to carry something beautiful in my heart wherever I go. Those little gems I've jotted in my journals and so very often found on Facebook pages of friends and acquaintances are reminders to keep looking for glimpses of heaven's hope, joy and beauty in those million unexpected places.
Here's another jotting: I'd been reading Louise Penny's novel Bury Your Dead --the tale of a man found dead in the basement of the Historical and Literary Library located in French Quebec. And, of course, the well known Quebec motto pops up in the story: 'Je me souviens' which means 'I remember'. When I saw that written out, I realized, aha, that's where the word souvenir must come from -- a token by which we can remember or recall a place or event.
I never did become fluent in our other official language. Living in the West, some of us were snobs about learning French as a second language. It was newly available in our school but in my school girl wit, I didn't see any point in learning a second language, especially French. I knew smatterings of German (from my grandparents and aunties and uncles). I always love listening to people speaking French, but I never could get my tongue around it. Perhaps I could take up lessons from where I left off in Grade Seven, and give myself a prize for attempting it at least, perhaps a trip to Quebec. And maybe, I'd even have a chance to see where Louise Penny created her idyllic Three Pines whilst there.
"Flowers always make people better,
happier, and more helpful: they are
sunshine, food and medicine for the soul."
To bring a gentle close to this ramble of a post, I'm sharing the above quotation that I'd written in my journal back in May. The saying, as well as the peonies that we've been enjoying in every corner of our house these past weeks, fills my heart with grateful thoughts as the summer unfolds. During these rainy last few weeks, where it felt that true summer was never going to arrive, even in the midst of inclement goings on, flowers bloomed and birds had families and kitties came to visit. Slices of homemade lemon pie were shared with friends, and stems of roses from Peace Rose offered to delighted neighbours. Life blossomed even on grey, gloomy days. Life was good. Life is good. and I'm so very, very grateful.
Heart blessings on you all.
On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful day.