Today I started my 24th journal, in four years time, and that works out to filling up a journal every two months – wow! I guess I have a lot to share with myself. The pages I fill contain so much – my thoughts and dreams, love and heartache, all that I am and all I am experiencing in this lifetime. In this way, journaling is a gift, a godsend, a way for my soul to spill out and for me to archive a permanent record of who I really am.
I often look back on all my lovely pages, inspired by how far I’ve come, or enlightened by words I’ve written but long since forgotten. My journals become a kind of self-help book written by me, for me – who better to help me through the ups and downs of life but my own unique soul? But I am also guided by words I find from others. I often write down inspirational quotes or phrases I find or hear, as well as decorating the pages with pictures or artwork that touch my heart. It is a joy to see and read the soul filled expressions of others.
My journals are a manner of creative expression as much as my other modes of writing are. Even though I fill the pages with haphazard writing – misspelled words, grammatical errors, run-on sentences – it is the free flowing expression of pure thought, not impeded by my logical side that stops me from saying what I long to say. There is much truth contained in those pages.
In the corner of the room, I see my lovely collection all lined up like soldiers at attention, but not wearing the same uniform; each one is unique on the outside as well as the inside. Some are covered with pretty pictures or artwork, and some I have decorated myself when the cost of a $10 journal was outside my budget. Those forays into art are some of my favorites – there is the one with the man in the moon picture I cut out and glued to the front of a $1 composition notebook, or the notebook I bought in the college bookstore one day and transformed into a journal by covering the front of it with inspirational quotes I love.
All of my precious journals contain the unique energy of me, a true self that I find cannot be fully revealed at times. Those are the times when the sanctity and security of my journal becomes a very dear confidant to me, allowing me to always be me.
My first journal, October 2008
One of my “homemade” journals
A friend and I spent the better part of a morning recently at Starbucks, having coffee and playing Scrabble, a game that I have to believe every writer enjoys – it is all about words! What could be better than that? And the best part was that my dear friend gave me the lovely red vintage box containing the retro Scrabble board and those beautiful wooden tiles of letters – the only things missing were the bag to hold the tiles and one of the wooden tile holders. She uncovered this treasure at Goodwill for only $2.00, but soon found that her family does not share her love of the game like she does. So in a lovely gesture of friendship, she gave it to me, after learning about my love of what has to be the greatest game ever. I used to have my own Scrabble set, but it was grudgingly sacrificed in the move to Portland, as I pared down to the bare necessities. So many memories attached to that game, as I would always make my children play Scrabble with me at Thanksgiving and Christmas – and surprisingly, I never won! But fear not, I made sure that my daughter bought a brand new Scrabble set, so we could play last Christmas when I went back to visit – and as always, I lost once more!
But today my brain must have been firing on all its cylinders, or maybe it was the coffee buzz that spurred me on to an amazing score of 283 – my all time Scrabble high! I was unstoppable, as I gathered up 48 points alone for the word “quirk” – what a quirk it was to be able to even spell that word out on the board. I gathered up a slew of points with silly little words like “gem” and “zoo”, using a strategic mind I didn’t even know I possessed, scoping out places where I could rake in triple letter scores with those crazy eight or ten point letters like “z” or “q”. I challenged my friend on a word or two, and she in turn informed me of an illegal Scrabble move that I was unaware of, all the while thoroughly enjoying ourselves with some friendly competition.
And as we pondered our brains for words, and laughed at the silliness of words we thought we could use, like “yo”, as in yo-yo or Yo!, a favorite rap phrase, time just seemed to slip away. We forgot to talk about all the things going on in our lives, the things that are of a more dramatic nature than trying to figure out how to use up the last letters you are holding of c, j, l, and r, so you don’t have to subtract them from your score. It felt good to get lost in something so innocent for a time, not thinking about why I haven’t heard back about the job I recently interviewed for, or getting caught up in any worrisome fears about the future. It felt good to escape for a time in something I love, the words; and I was reminded of the healing nature of mindfulness.
Oh, how we writers love the words! We love to be articulate, verbose, expressive, picturesque, grandiloquent (yes, that is a real word), and any other host of words that describe the propensity we sometimes have in our writing to say more than we really need to (just reread the above sentence). The thesaurus becomes our trusted ally in the search for all the right words, when so many times we can say something so simply, so sparingly as to evoke a picture in the reader’s mind that would be muddled up by too many words. Take for instance the famous short, short, short story by Ernest Hemingway, using only six words: For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn. This is a great example of why Hemingway is considered such a gifted writer – what genius! No more needs to be said; the context of those six words speaks volumes, and conjures up images to be woven into a much longer story. My favorite poem of all time is only six lines long:
by Carl Sandburg
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
And a rich, full picture is painted, in so few words. No more needs to be said, it would only make it garish and cluttered. For a time I played with different forms of poetry, to get out of a rut. I wrote some haiku, happy to limit myself to three lines of poetry governed by certain syllabic rules. I also tried acrostic poems, as more of a writing exercise of sorts, but it got me to think about writing in a different manner. And although I sing the praises of “less is more”, I still find that I love to be a bit overly descriptive when I write – and I shake hands once more with my old friend, my trusty thesaurus.
Shadow of a leaf
Falling down to touch the ground
Final place to rest
Something in our
Allows us to
Never forget to
Give to one another
Enter in another 100 word challenge, this time a challenge with just one simple word – Wednesday. Once more I tip my hat to a very entertaining blog, Julia’s Place, who always gets us writing and thinking about the wonderful world of words!
What a strange language we speak
Dr. Suess didn’t warn me. He taught me all about hop on pop, red fish and blue fish, green eggs and ham. But he failed to teach me how to read all those non-phonetic words, words like Wednesday, which to my kindergarten mind should have been pronounced just like it looks: Wed – nes – day! I recall the horror of hearing my lovely teacher mispronounce that day of the week, and even more horror when I learned she was pronouncing it correctly! So I learned at an early age, the English language is a trickster.
A friend of mine is going back to school; like me she is trying to decide what she wants to be when she grows up, even though she is certainly grown up at 44 years of age. After I spent a year at college, I decided what I really wanted to be was retired, not immersed in another career. But my friend carries on, taking different classes and trying to find her direction. She fills me in on all that she is learning, and I’ve been able to help her with a couple papers, doing some editing and grammar checking. The other day when I spoke with her, she was telling me about her math class, and that she is now moving into geometry. As she started to tell me about all she has learned, I found myself enthralled by the terms used in geometry. Words like rhombus, parallelogram, trapezoid, quadrilateral, isosceles, and all the “gons” – pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, decagon – and the list goes on and on! Words that are fun to say, that just twist and turn and jump around! Maybe that was what pulled me into laboratory work in the first place – all the lovely medical terms. I always loved microbiology the best, and part of that was speaking in the language of bacteria and parasites – beautiful sounding names given to less than beautiful organisms. Numbers have always seemed so bland, so boring, so black and white. I could never play with them and have fun with them the way I can play with words. But I try to understand those who love working with numbers; we need them! Yet I am happy to stay on the side of the playground where the words come out to play.
They come to me
In a line
Or an idea
To wrap up in verse
I ask which words
Would like to come out and play
I place them on the paper
In a certain fashion
My hand is guided
By my mind
Which is guided
By an unseen force
Which propels me to write
Asking me to come out and play