September 11, 2001

September 12, 2021

September 11, 2021

I thought I would publicly share my diary entry for this infamous day. Another value of the diary is to record history as it is experienced personally. I never would have remembered what I did or thought on this day if I had not written about it in my journal. Later I will also share some of my thoughts from the rest of that week.

I was selling books out of my house and online at this time, working a part-time job, and managing my homestead by myself as my partner had left me the year before.

September 11, 2001
This is the most important day in the history of the United States during my lifetime. It brings an instant association with that other historic day when John F. Kennedy was shot—November 22, 1963. The biggest terrorist attack against the United States ever committed occurred today when two commercial airplanes were hijacked and flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, New York. A third plane was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon. It penetrated through thick walls into at least three rings of the building. A fourth plane did not reach its mission—presumed to be Camp David—and crashed into a rural area in Amish country in Pennsylvania. These are acts of war. The unanswerable question: how did the hostile entity slip by the FBI and all of our defenses, how could such an inconceivable act be planned and carried out so easily? Who would do such a thing?

As always, numbers quoted are so often wrong in the media. Number of people in the twin towers which collapsed while firefighters rushed in to save lives? Tens of thousands dead, I imagine. Can this be understood; can the depth of the trauma, the horror of being in the vicinity of the World Trade Center, be felt? Numbers: 250 firefighters dead, 78 police, ___ dead on the four planes.

What could it be like to see the planes fly into the trade center, to see the towers collapse, to watch people jump out of windows rather than die in fires or rubble? I cannot imagine.

I went out to start chores around 6:45 a.m. Came in at 7:15. W. had been called by her boyfriend, L. She told me the news, had the radio on. The news was just breaking. I think it happened about 7 a.m. MST. (8:46 EST first plane hit, 9:03 second plane hit.) It’s odd but I recall that the goats were freaked out by something when I got to the barn (it was just about 7 exactly). Of course I thought it might be dogs, so I looked around. Told them they were being crazy goats.

I was stunned by the news. It was beginning to really sink in, with all of the implications, when I went back out to milk. At that point the government was not out-right calling it a terrorist attack, but it seemed rather obvious to everyone else. I wonder why they let us make that choice of words.

W. left for her job as a nanny. Lucky, I thought, that I didn’t have to work today. Kept the news on. It was unreal. Couldn’t be happening. The U.S. attacked! This was just a hair shy of hearing news of a nuclear bomb drop. Since the American Revolution we’ve never been attacked. Pearl Harbor wasn’t at home. Besides, that story was a distortion of the truth, as much of our history turns out to be. Throughout the day I thought of the movie “Wag the Dog,” and naturally I can’t help but wonder if any of this is Hollywood fabrication.

One of my first thoughts this morning was for the pilots. I wondered if they had been killed or made to fly the planes. It is also inconceivable that a pilot would do this. They must have known they would die no matter what. Surely they would not comply. No survivors to tell the truth. Feel what it would have been like on the planes. Stories: a woman flying to join her husband on his birthday (she skipped an earlier flight to do this) called him on her cell phone to report the plane was hijacked. Then the plane went down. A man ducked in the tiny airplane bathroom and called 911! The dispatcher said “Uh…we haven’t any reports of this hijacking.” There was another cell phone call…

I was curious why so little was said throughout the day about the Pentagon attack. I decided thy wanted to play down the fact that our Pentagon was successfully injured, the walls themselves broken down and a fire raging out of control most of the day.

President Bush could think of nothing to say all day except “we’ll get them,” while a senator (?) from Virginia told us we were strong and would survive and should all pull together, said without being sappy about it.
About 8 a.m. this morning I called L. She believed me right away. Tonight I asked her why. She said because I never call her early in the morning like that and I don’t joke. She told her class that even her sister, who lives under a rock and has no tv, had heard the big news. I always tell my friends that even though I don’t get a newspaper I will hear the “big news.” We talked again tonight. She feels for the police who died. Canceled her second or third class, couldn’t go on. I would have canceled the first one. (My sister is an ex-cop.)


Had a phone call this morning – a customer looking for a book. Just don’t understand how anyone wouldn’t grasp the importance of this day, the seriousness. How could you go shopping? Why didn’t all business close? N.T. said “no one is going to close me down.” It is not an “I’ll show them,” but a sign of respect for the tragedy that should make the choice.

M. called me while I was talking to B. this morning. B. was his usual flip self, happy that this would stir things up, that some rebel poked us in the eye. M. sounded scared. Her co-workers at the hospital were quite upset by the tragedy. They probably shared an empathy for the medical personnel. Her reaction was a reflection of theirs.


Seems I kept in touch with friends and family by phone. Called L, B, M, L. Tried J and mom. Talked twice to each one. At one in the afternoon, when the news was repetitive, I tried to grasp at an anchor. I had been doing dishes all morning, plus little chores I could find. Kept busy, but wandering restlessly. Decided to clean 1/4 of the barn. Ugly job. Took 3 – 1/2 grungy hours. I surely stank afterwards. Long hot shower to clean and calm muscle spasms from arthritis. Cleaning the barn on this absolutely gorgeous fall-light day, the entire tragedy became unreal.


It is now 11:30 p.m. My body is sore and stiff. I will go find Annie-cat and go to bed. What will tomorrow bring? Will the ban on air travel, the closing of all airports, continue? Never before in history…


And what effects will we feel?

A Morning Sunrise

August 26, 2021

Preface
This is an example of a beloved diary entry that evokes strong memories of yesteryear. I go back to this entry frequently. What you write in a diary can be just as powerful as a photo. So much is forgotten, but this won’t be. I will remember this morning forever.

This is a diary entry from 1972. I was nearly 25, working as a milker at the dairy at Walker Creek Ranch in California, living in a bunkhouse with other young women. I was off that day but I hitched a ride over to the dairy with the ranch crew after breakfast in the communal kitchen. These were not really mountains, but the rolling hills of coastal California.


25 September 1972
Eyes burning, night memories twisted, body sweating, I delivered myself from my bed. Hot, house on fire, whose furnace am in? Sleep wouldn’t come again with peace. These are the forms which beget nightmares—rows upon rows of beds with bodies in them. (…) Ah, dreamily I focused the blame, saw the thermostat. Well, let them roast in their own hell, I’d rather freeze. Out into the cool of night I fled from my thoughts of day. Cold air blasted my fevered face, relieving, reviving, and I fell into the star-spangled night.

After stuffing myself with pancakes that stuck going down, I climbed into the pick-up truck. We drove down the road on a path of milk dust shed by the roundest of moons, the chariot horses careened wildly from side to side as our Jehu raced the daylight. The world was lit with a surrealistic moon-glow.


Eyes still glazed from fire, I picked up the kitten and began rolling my stone up the hillside. I brought the kitten along because I was not sure what I would find on the top of such a mountain before dawn. The time was 6 a.m. The kitten started purring. Then I found the spot. How is it that we find these places we are looking for, when we have never seen them before? You always know the place when you first see it. There was a rock with lichens and we sat. We sat to watch the dawn come, freezing now, toes very stiff. Cat still purring.


The first light was creeping over the horizon of the distant mountains. I was the audience-of-one in a large amphitheater. There were several displays in a panoply of color. I rotated myself, did obeisance to the east, west, north, south, and for every revolution there was a change. The clouds went from pinks to orange, purples to grays. The last colors were red. The sun pushed a brilliance over the edge. Although I watched carefully, I missed the moment that day pushed away night. That is what is so intriguing—you never see it at all even though you think you have watched a sunrise.


About that time I became drowsy and kitten and I fell asleep, she, tucked under my sweater, and I, huddled against the rock. We slept off and on while watching the sun get brighter and brighter and then, when day had finally taken over the midnight world and the moon gave up and disappeared from sight, we walked down the mountainside together. She was purring all the way. In fact, the only sound I remember all along was the rumbling purr of the cat.


At first I had tried to make her go away. But she kept sneaking back after a brief interlude of stalking, resuming her incessant clawing and rubbing. Death did not walk these hills this morning and her birds got away. So we welcomed each others warmth and worshiped together the first rays of the sun by doing what felines do in the sun—sleeping.

A Memory of Dad

August 22, 2021

I was poking through old diaries again and I came across this entry about a visit to my parents in Florida. My dad had a stroke in 1996 and missed his granddaughter’s college graduation, a moment he was eagerly anticipating. Fine one minute, he stepped out of the car into a different future. In one cruel sweep of fate, my dad, the perpetual student, the avid reader, the social activist, the civil rights demonstrator, was gone. He lived 6 years more and just missed knowing about 9-11, which would have destroyed his spirit.


Me? I didn’t meet Death as expected, but have lived on now for another 25 years.
Here is the entry, with minor editing. Remember that a diary is all “first draft.”

November 1996
I want to live 1997 as though it will be the last year of my life, the last chance I will ever have for anything. The older I grow the clearer it is that life is short. Death becomes more certain. I count on nothing. G. K. Chesterton said: “The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.”


One of the recurring themes of this visit to the sunny isle of Florida is facing old age and death. Saw the mobile home park where my parents lived when they arrived 16 years ago in 1980. I remember it when it was new and they were surrounded by friends. Death is the “disease” which has taken their friends off until there are only a few left.
Saw Orin and Jeanette—he close to death when an appendix burst . Saw Charlie, who lost Jule, and is now lost himself. Charlie, trying to clean out the mobile home and warning “watch out or your possessions will possess you.” Without Jule what is left of his life? And Orin says “I am living for today and I will tell it like it is no matter what anyone thinks about me.” Wisdom from those facing death a bit closer than I am.


November 18 Life is short. It does not seem possible that I am near the end already. You really have life about twenty years – age 20-40, with your 30s being the best years of all. Oh sure, I saw a white-haired old woman today at ECHO, who was the “wise woman” teaching herbs to the youngsters. Could it be that they didn’t know what she was teaching them? Could it be that I knew what she knew? Do I need to become this wise woman?


Life is short and this visit has been short. We have done nothing. I have mostly, simply, been with my parents. Tomorrow I leave. Where have the days gone? I came to say good-by to my father. I cannot say it. We sit across the table in silence. He fades in and out of mental acuity. Sometimes he is totally confused by the schedule of the day. The rhythmic events of the day seem to be his anchor: breakfast, shaving, lunch, dinner, news. Tonight he seemed clear when he was reading his old letters written to Mother when they were married less than a year. They had built my first home, 19457 Freeland in Detroit in 1941, and then he had gone off to war. Dad was also mentally “in gear” later on as we sat side by side on the sofa in his office and read books together. He made comments on his book and asked me to pronounce words for him. But then he said “I wonder how this good book turned up in our house?,” and I told him I brought it for him on this trip. He didn’t remember that.


With panic, I realize tomorrow is my last day with him.

Family Archives: A World War II Letter From My Dad

November 15, 2020
11/14/20 Veterans Day has passed. My family fought in the Revolutionary War. Several were on the side of the North in the Civil War. (Lucius Chubb was part of the Iron Brigade which suffered huge losses in the first battle at Gettysburg and died of his wounds a month later.) My dad was in World War II, in the Navy, eventually on Guam. I am most proud of this letter he wrote to my mother while he was still stationed in Ames, Iowa. Their first baby was my brother Paul.
The second page is a love letter, closing with his Christmas wish list. He wrote: “If anyone else wants suggestions, I like books. Many late titles I’d like to have. I mentioned one on a card: “Towards Freedom” by Nehru and any of Lin Yutang’s works. “Dragon Seed” by Pearl S. Buck would be nice or anything you’d like to read. Really, I don’t care if I get anything. If there was a fund for feeding hungry children of Europa I’d suggest people give to it what they’d give to me. I’m rich in everything. Love, Sid

Small Delights

August 14, 2020

If you are like me, your diary entries might read like the newspapers and other media: all the best-selling bad news, all the tragedies, all the wrongs and slights, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

So I was pleased to rediscover the joy of two small journals I began but never finished.  I think it would be uplifting to try again.  The little black book was supposed to be a gratitude journal.  It includes entries from 2004 to 2010.  I wish there were more entries because there is nothing dark or negative, only happiness.  I quit because it is awkward for me to be “grateful” when I have no god or guide to be grateful to.  Maybe a pantheist needs to simplify to a one to three sentence record of the best thing that happened that day and leave it there.

Some entries:

12-30-2004 “Drove Camel on errands and to the feed store.  He started right up and ran fine.  I loved driving the pick-up again.”

12-31-2004 “Watched the flamenco dancers at First Night.  Beautiful!”

1-13-2005 “I struggled on through with the computer and made a flyer for pet siting.  Hooray!”

4-29-2005 ” M. gave me a photo of the lamb I saved, a mug with women writers, and a book of famous last words.”

1-30-2008 “I enjoyed people’s reaction to my beret.  As always, so many people stare or smile and the men respond.  Everyone defers.  Why is this so?  Why does this hat give me so much power?”

10-18-2009 “My favorite time of the day was sitting in the swing watching the sunset, drinking a cup of coffee after four and a half hours of farm work.”

I think it is quite amazing how much can be conveyed in just a few sentences.  The reader knows a little about me already and about what is important to me, what makes me happy.

Actual diaries from the 1800s, those pocket-size books with about an inch of space for an entry, also convey a lot of information, though not so much the feelings of the diarist.  I.e. “killed three chickens today,” “planted the peas,” “visited old Mrs. Turner,” or “Sally’s baby has colic.”

The second journal in the picture, 3″ by 4″ in size with the beetle on the cover, was an attempt at haiku-like poetic thoughts.  I tried to do one every night before turning out the light.  There are no dates.

Some examples:  “Milo’s eyes twinkled when he saw me.  How flattered I am to be so loved by a cat.”

“Evie tells us: ‘My daddy is the best daddy ’cause he’s soft and cozy.'”

And: “Today I wore the sixties again

Fine in flowing orange cotton India blouse and black pants

Where did the years go?”

And:  “Blond curls. Naked butts. Romping in pool. Such beautiful edible innocence.”

And: “Cat curled on the chair.  Evie pets her, kisses her.  Annie does not run.”

And: “‘Tell you what,’ Evie says to the doll.  Smiling, I see I have been copied again.”

Each one of these short, simple entries, capturing the best moment of each day, is remarkable in the boost of happy memories it brings during today’s dark uncertain times.  It has been like going through old photo albums.  Word pictures.

Beginning Diary #81

May 27, 2020

This is a photo of my diary collection.  My own diaries take up three and a half shelves on the left.    Had I written continuously with no breaks, this collection would be enormous.  The first one I saved was 1964.  I recently began diary #81. When I wrote my first diary I never expected it to be a lifelong passion. Never thought about that at all.

Not shown here are years of letters written to and from all members of the family.  I also keep or have kept gardening journals, trip journals, dream journals, beekeeping record books, movie record books, reading record books, and quote books.  Obviously I am fond of writing things down.  An archivist by nature.

On the right are real diaries written by other people plus published diaries (those deemed “acceptable” to print), books written about journal writing, and a stash of blank books to use in the future.  I study the art of keeping diaries, the illegitimate side of written literature.

I have collected fewer than 25 handwritten diaries.  Some are presents from my family purchased off Ebay.    Even diaries written by non-famous common ordinary people are expensive to buy.  Some of the diaries were written by my mother and great-grandmother.  A very few were donations.

My favorite one was a gift from a friend, picked up at a local auction. It is written by a button collector, but oh there is so much more in that one. She was a character and described her honest feelings about people and events, even when she did not exactly appear saintly.

I write as openly and honestly as I can about people, my feelings, events in my life, my beliefs, animals, books, movies, gardening, my bookstore, nature, phenomenon, and strange synchronicities. Generally, I do not write about politics or world events, unless they touch me personally.  Since 2016 that changed and I have poured my passionate anger into my journals.

I have continued to teach occasional journal writing workshops. If anyone is interested in joining me in the creation of an archive, contact me at The Eclectic Reader at 970-223-4019.

 

 

Not Just for Diaries

May 7, 2020

The National Diary Archive I intend to establish will include letters.  Letters are a different sort of private writing, a more nuanced level of self-exposure.  They may not be written with the desire to reveal much, yet they often betray their creator with impunity.   Everything you write, even what you do not say, brings your character to light.   What does it say about you?  Your choice of pen, paper, even the stamp, whispers truths.

I suppose the level of honesty in one’s letters depends a great deal on who the recipient is, i.e. your father, mother, grandmother, or sister, and, of course, your relationship to that person…close or fraught with tension.

As much as re-reading my journals, I experience the voyeuristic pleasure of reading a stranger’s secrets.  Surprise! They are my own.  Some of my letters contain stories of experiences I had forgotten.  Who can remember 50 years ago?  Now a senior, I cannot reliably remember what happened last Tuesday.

What I do remember from last week is the discovery of a shoebox full of around 50 letters I wrote between 1970 and 1976.  A real treasure!   I am reading about parts of my life that have become dim in memory.   Luckily I come from a family of hoarders of ephemera, who preserved my literary outpourings.

Unless the letters stored in your attic are so banal you would hide from embarrassment, I encourage you to preserve them.  You can make them into a pseudo-diary.  Preserve them in a three-ring binder, or a notebook without harmful fasteners, or put them individually into plastic pockets and then into a binder. Your family, your descendants, may appreciate them.  If not, a total stranger of the future world.

The Gift of Time

April 24, 2020

 

April 23, 2020

Still alive, still healthy, still working (hunkering down in my bookstore…all alone), I have allowed myself to have a few hours of free time devoted to wandering here and there around the home castle and puttering like a honeybee in a hive looking for a job that pleases her fancy.   What’s a diarist to do during coronavirus lockdown besides write about it?  Answer:  re-read your old journals.

Since it was around the anniversary of my brother’s death on my mother’s April 15th birthday, I pulled out this 1998 diary.  Yes, it says “addresses,” but I have frequently re-purposed other bound books.  This one had glossy pages with pictures of horticultural interest.  I am also a gardener and a houseplant collector.

I discover many things when I take a look back at my life.   First, I am grateful for the opportunity to read a portrait of my former self and my life experiences, in my own words, expressed and written when it happened.  Who can remember the past so exactly from memory?  Can you remember what you looked like as a teenager except through old photos?  It is the same with a written record.  Memory changes things, generally a whitewash.  You forget what you said, or did.  You color it brighter or darker than it was.  The details fade.  When I re-read I exclaim “oh,” and “oh,” and I am astonished.  I remember the truth.

Second, I see that I wasn’t such a bad writer.  All journals are “first draft.”  No revisions.  The thoughts spring from deep within your psyche, free flowing, with no censor.  The writing follows no rules as to form or content.  There should be a separate category of literature just for journals.  But there isn’t.  We diarists are the illegitimate offspring of the writers’ world.

My brother died of complications from meningitis overlaid on a lifetime of alcoholism.  He died conveniently on my mother’s birthday as his parting shot.   It took him 55 years to complete death by alcohol and a hedonistic lifestyle.   I laughed out loud at his funeral because the minister (who did not know him) made some mistakes while describing his stellar life. The pages of writing I did about my brother’s death and my feelings about him were the most honest eulogy anyone could have written.   I never hated him.  My love seeps through the writing even though I said some bad things about him.

There were other things in that journal, such as some clear signs that my partner was unhappy with all the work on the farm and would be leaving me for a life of freedom and new horizons.  There was joy, as well.  I re-lived the birth of my memorable buck goat, Hemingway, and his sister, Anais.  (It was a literary names year on the farm.)

The third benefit of looking back in your diaries is you discover the actual date of when something happened.  Now I extract those dates to prepare for the creation of a timeline of my life.  Someday, if I ever retire, I may finish that project.

So, if you are looking for something to do during the pandemic’s “gift of time,” I highly recommend becoming a time-traveler and diving into your old journals for the memories and insights. You will be rewarded.

I Should Have Chosen the Red One

April 20, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

I should have chosen the red one. Instead, on March 13th, I selected this blank book with the Tiffany cover, which is far too pretty and small for a pandemic. We were at about 5,700 people infected with the coronavirus in the US at that time, 640,000 now. I am at 116 pages so far—about half way—and will be done with it before the crisis is over.

I hope that you are writing your story. Coronavirus and You. Cornavirus in your city. A month, week, or day by day account. Write the history, write the truth of it. See it, feel it, taste the experience. Make a record of it for future generations, or for yourself in old age.

Some of our diaries will survive, like the diaries from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the dust bowl of the 1930s, the children’s blizzard of 1888, or the Galveston hurricane of 1900 that killed over 6,000 people. You don’t learn history from the textbooks. That’s all whitewashed and scrubbed clean until it has lost all the flavor and truth it ever had. Primary source. That’s us.

We need thousands of stories. Front line stories: nurses, EMTs, firefighters, or those infected and scared. Who among us has been hit hard, who can barely survive, and who has escaped damage – financial, emotional, social? So many stories, but only you can tell it from where you stand.

While we reach out to connect with friends and reconnect with old friends during this historic pandemic, it is also a good time to reconnect with ourselves—the person we are today who may have become something of a stranger during the normal busyness of our lives.

When did you last have time to be alone with that person without all of the daily distraction of our modern society? To reflect on who that character is in relation to the other characters in your own story, your novel? We are “writing” the book of our life even if we do not keep a diary.

Now we have an excuse. A lost job or a closed business. A lockdown. Maybe you are facing poverty and struggling to survive, yet luckily still healthy and not yet at the primal level of survival. If you can motivate yourself in the face of an uncertain future to get out of bed, off the couch, there’s a gift here—the gift of time to do all those things you said you never had time for, the gift of “slow-time” to look around you and appreciate what you do have.

Although I have been meditating and journaling for years, the coronavirus pandemic is a unique experience. Looking at the specter of the grim reaper, being reminded that our days are numbered, and knowing that tomorrow is never a given, it is a moment to step back and see if I am still heading in the direction I want and if my priorities are straight.

It is also a chance to record an individual perspective on this chapter in history. I am the author of this book and I will tell it like it is for me.

2014 in review

January 7, 2015

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 8,000 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


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