Archive for the ‘subjects in diaries and journals’ Category

Love Quotes

February 15, 2014

IMG_0033A reader’s habit, perhaps,  but I have been saving my favorite quotations in separate blank books almost as long as I have been keeping a diary.   I extract them like tiny gems from nearly every book I read.  A book with no quotes to offer is like a table with no food and indicates my lack of bonding with the writer or respect for their views.

Quotations  also adorn the opening pages of each journal.   Sometimes they relate to something happening in my life at the time.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are some of my “captured” quotes on Love.  The rose, symbol of love, is here an Angel Face rose in my garden.

“To love, begin anywhere.”   –  David Grayson

“What I have loved well no one can ever take from me.”    –  David Grayson

“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”    –  Kurt Vonnegut

“You fall in love with what’s missing in you.”   –  Wayne Dyer

“The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”   –  Joseph Addison

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to our own.”  –   Robert Heinlein from Stranger in a Strange Land

“Love is the passionate and abiding desire on the part of two or more people to produce together conditions under which each can be and spontaneously express his real self, to produce together an intellectual soil and emotional climate in which each can flourish, far superior to what either could achieve alone.”  –  F. Alexander Magoun (sociologist)

“Love is an attitude between two people who have many things in common – tastes, interests, points of view –  and that they share these things in common, in companionship, to the degree that they are stronger together than either one is alone.”    –  Murray Banks (psychiatrist)

“…Beware…love never dies of a natural death.  It dies because we do not know how to replenish its source, it dies of blindness and errors and betrayals.  It dies of illness and wounds, it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings, but never a natural death.  Every lover could be brought to trial as the murderer of his own love.”  – Anais Nin

“Attention is the most basic form of love, through it we bless and are blessed.” – John Tarrant

“Every act of love is a work of peace no matter how small.”   –  Mother Teresa

“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.”     –   Dr. Seuss

“A bitter woman says ‘all men are the same.’  A wise woman decides to stop choosing the same kind of man.”     –   Annetta Powell (?)

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”     –   Zora Neale Hurston

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Answer #4 (Part II) Questionnaire for Long-Time Diarists: Barry

February 13, 2014

Cynthia comments:  I think many of us write about the weather because it is a grounding element.  No matter what else is happening in our lives the weather is always there, and yet it is always changing.  Odd dichotomy: steady, but mutable.  It can usually be described without much angst (notable exceptions here), and it can be peaceful, beautiful.   Nature may not always be idyllic but it can be entertaining and very interesting.

This photo is a sunset on my farm in Colorado, October 2013.

This is how Barry replies to the question “Do you record nature?”

IMG_0563Years ago I read in a literature anthology that New England writers never felt comfortable in writing about the emotional and sexual life, but nature, given by god, was an open field for their enthusiasm and desire. If that is the case then I have a major work of sublimation in my years of writing about the weather.

 

I write about nature as much as possible. It is the one subject I never tire of. I do read the nature writers with profound pleasure and appreciation. Every new day brings another page of wildflowers, clouds and trees. Writing about nature has made me mindful of what I love and brought me closer to it. From my very first diary in 1971 I began to notice trees and rocks and open fields.

 

I don’t do much more than describe nature, over and over again. I can’t explain it. I’m not a scientist nor do I have the bent of mind that wants to know everything we can know about a plant or a landscape. I do learn from such material but as a writer I just like to write about being there in the moment. Many of my pages are descriptions of walks I take along the shore or through local parks and neighborhoods. Many of the pages are even closer to my home looking out the window as I write or sitting under the maple tree and surveying my garden. I can’t even tell you why I do this and why it means so much to me. Perhaps because I am completely free to indulge this sensual pleasure without guilt, morality or judgment. So much of it is connected to childhood delight. I grew up on a quarter acre lot next to a brook in the industrial city of Bridgeport, Ct. The contrast between nature and factory streets fascinated me and dominated my imagination.

 

If you take nature out of my diaries they would probably shrink by half. This is one reason I write in diaries. I can write about nature every day and damn well do as I please without an editor’s permission. It is my love and my reason for writing. The most accessible part of my imagination and my emotional life. This isn’t to say that I don’t write about family, travel, reading etc. but everything starts with a look out my window or a foot on the pavement.

 

 

 

 

 

Answer #4 to Questionnaire for Long-Time Diarists: Barry

February 12, 2014

Yesterday I received quite a gift from a long-time diarist I corresponded with two years ago.  I asked him if he would be interested in answering the questionnaire I had posted. He began with a few questions at a time and answered with a depth that I felt was extraordinary.  His replies are thoughtful as well as thought-provoking.  I will present them to you one page at a time over several days.

 

What is your current occupation?

High school English teacher about to retire at age 64

 

Has anyone else in your family kept a diary?

My great grandmother on my father’s side who lived 88 years and died in 1962

My grandmother, her daughter, who kept diaries but destroyed them in old age.

My father kept a diary of his days in the Pacific during world war II 1943-44-45.

I started my diary in 1971, the year I began my married life. I kept it sporadically through the years but became a devoted diarist only when I turned 50. My last 14 years have been very busy with journal writing, memories, ideas.

 

Intimate details of sexual experiences?

 

No.

 

At one point I wanted to write honestly about sexuality, but there is always the privacy factor for many good and bad reasons.

Part of my reluctance was my Irish Catholic upbringing. Part of it also is how little I understood about my sexuality or anyone else’s. it would have been easy for me to write in a descriptive way or keep a “tell all” of real and imagined experience, but that would have been no victory for me because I needed to enter and explore my emotional life as both the cause and effect of sexuality. I came to distrust anything that I could break into pieces as a separate part of myself.

 

So I began to work on my emotional life, and as you know for an American male this is an almost impossible undertaking. Only then could I ask myself, Do I really know anything about sex? Is there anything we can know about from the mystery of our emotional needs? What is sex? What is the soul? Have I ever really been deeply anchored in a rich emotional life that I can enter into the instinctive and find in my body the truth of my soul? Yes, I had a few sins and a few secrets, but it was thinking that made them so.

 

Is this an evasion? Perhaps it is, but I have never trusted the whole sexual dialogue in this country. Even when I read women’s magazines (my wife and daughter’s) they sound so full of soulless gimmicks and adolescent games. My question: do we really lead adult lives in America? Do we feel that sex makes us adults and that sexual technique is a form of wisdom? Would I be a better writer if I kept blow by  blow descriptions of the act itself? Should there be any secrets in the age of confessions?

 

So, the answer is that one might surmise who I am from my diaries, but they would have to imagine and fill in the blanks in the way that we look at current sexuality. I don’t think I would come across as a sexless man or a prude, but a reader would notice my decision not to include the details. Perhaps I thought that we made too much of sex in our time but somehow lost sight of the person and the soul of people. I was much more alive in my wholeness.  Another caution for me is that sex can take over a writer. It becomes its own reason. I’m sure my hesitance has been partly generational. It would be accurate to say there was a lot of darkness around my sexual awareness because of my religion and my family attitudes. It wasn’t discussed in any way, nor would it be something you would share with another, not even yourself.

 

Hardly enlightened, but not the worst upbringing either when I look around and see what has happened to modesty, restraint and common sense in our current national sexual attitudes. Needless to say I have never reconciled my own ideas and conflicts in this area, but found it much safer to write about sex as an idea rather than a personal record. By the way, I have read some sexual diaries. While I admire the frankness, they never seem to get out of the bedroom. I feel like I need a pair of goggles and rubber gloves. I do enjoy diaries that seem to reveal and conceal at the same time. Beyond this I truly believe that women are much better at writing about the sexual life and anything they write in this regard fascinates me. Men almost  write about sex as if they were playing with toy soldiers. Or changing the oil in their cars and checking the dip stick. I didn’t think I could add anything or make much sense of myself. And yes, it is a tendency in my diary to explain myself rather than to expose myself. All very rich themes from your questions

 

 

 


 


 

Signs and Synchronicity

February 8, 2014

 

 

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Do you believe in signs, messages from some metaphysical realm, personally addressed to you with no return address?  The ancients gave signs much credence.  The Bible is full of signs.  Although I no longer believe in gods/goddesses/or much of anything labeled “woo-woo,” I do record in my journals all of the “signs” that have appeared in my life.  Call them what you will.  If we are responsible for creating meaning in our lives, we certainly have the right to imbue these incidents with such meaning.

 Synchronicity is a good word for these events.

From Wikipedia:

“Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, where they are unlikely to be causally related. The subject sees it as a meaningful coincidence, although the events need not be exactly simultaneous in time. The concept of synchronicity was first described by Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychologist, in the 1920s.[1]

The concept does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality. Instead, it maintains that just as events may be connected by a causal line, they may also be connected by meaning. A grouping of events by meaning need not have an explanation in terms of cause and effect.”

Because these synchronicities are so mysterious, even the most devout agnostic is forced to question how they happened to appear in his/her life at that exact moment.  For a believer, there is no question at all…they were sent directly from God.

I would like to share three synchronicities from my life and journals.

First, the cookie cutter angel:  May 2004, during a period of overwhelmingly exhausting work on the farm, with choices about my future heavy on my mind.   My Aunt Lois had just passed away and it was near the anniversary of Gram’s birthday.

I had just closed in the chickens for the night…”when I noticed a shiny object on the ground. Naturally, I attempt to pick up all junk on the ground, especially where livestock might eat it and get sick.  I stooped down and picked away the dirt to release my treasure.  By the goddess, it was an angel.  A cookie cutter angel.  I stood up, holding the angel away from me, struck dumb with the wonderment of it all.  What on earth was a cookie cutter doing in the chicken yard?  And not just any cookie cutter, but an angel cookie cutter.  I hadn’t added any new leaves to the compost bins in over a year, one source of ‘surprise’ toys and junk.  I stood there turning it over and over in my hand, tears in my eyes.”

I suppose the chickens unearthed this buried archeological treasure in their scratching.  It had been there a while and seemed old.  The angel did not help with the farm work or point the way to a particular choice, but she did come just when I needed a comforting hand on my shoulder.

The apple:  Oct. 2, 2001.  “I was picking the last apples from the MacIntosh tree.  Several times I knocked some to the ground while trying to get a good one. I poked at a pretty apple with the extension pole fruit picker.  The apple fell, but not into the basket.  It began crashing toward the ground, ricocheting off the branches, going first one way then the other.  I held out my hand in a futile gesture when I saw it coming my way.  Miracle of miracles, the apple literally flew into my hand.  A cartoon joke.  This all took seconds.  At the precise moment it landed in my hand two things happened:  I laughed.  Perhaps the most spontaneous real laugh I have ever produced.  And secondly, I believed in God, if only for that intense millisecond of time.“

My thoughts at the time this happened were a whiney “nothing ever goes right for me.”  I was tired of so many apples crashing to the ground and being ruined.  I held out my hand with a curse and that apple flew into it with a stinging vehemence that was shocking.  I laughed because I deserved that response from the universe: “take that you ingrate!”

Getting a handle on it:  Entry not found.  Once again, life was difficult for me.  One of my favorite expressions from the sixties has always been “getting a handle on it.”  I was out in the garden, doing some self-therapy through gardening, thinking about how I really needed to pull myself together.  And then, there it was.  A handle.  A handle in the garden.  Now where on earth did that come from?  I thanked the universe for trying to be of help.  It gave me a handle.

So those are just three of my pretty unusual experiences, experiences where it felt like I was given a sign.   Anyone else with mystical coincidences?

Mini Books for Micro Journaling

January 19, 2013

Generally when I write I prefer the broad canvas of an 8 ½ by 11 inch unlined page. You can write, draw, or paste in photos or clippings. But I find the tiny, “mini journals” irresistibly attractive. While my regular journals are inclusive of all aspects of my life, these mini journals each represent a single microcosm.

The notebook with the marbled cover is a gratitude book. As a discipline, I tried to write one thing each day that I was grateful for or admired, one thing that brought joy into my life or that I thought was beautiful.

The red book with the ladybug on the cover has been the start of expressing one “haiku” thought on each page, an attempt to learn to say more with fewer words.

The gorgeous bejeweled book in the center is the book I chose to record the charming things said by my three year old granddaughter. I will do another book for the other granddaughter as she begins to talk.

These mini books are the purest joy to re-read because they filter out the negative. They sit on the table beside my bed. After a difficult day it is uplifting to remind myself of all that is good in my life.

I have started giving mini blank books as presents in the hope that others will be encouraged to use them for similar purposes. I do have other tiny notebooks I use to record things like houseplant and garden notes and the work I do in the bee yard. That notebook is covered in propolis (bee glue) and I must write with a pencil.

When purchasing these mini books, never buy one that has pages that are bound in with glue.   Look for books that are sewn in or all of your pages will fall out over time. That goes for regular journal books, too.

It is interesting that many of the antique diaries I have seen, including my great-grandmother’s and great-great-grandmother’s, were so small that the space for each entry could hardly contain one sentence. Just one sentence can still convey a lot. If you don’t believe me, read haiku poetry.
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What I Write: Sturm und Drang

May 14, 2010

What I Write:  Sturm und Drang

I’m stumbling around trying to find something relating to diaries that someone might want to discuss.  I’ve been feeling like I’m “talking to the hand” in this blog on establishing a national diary archive.  Today I’ll switch and make this more personal.

I decided to count my diaries.  I hope I found them all.  I came up with 57 books and notebooks, not counting notebooks full of letters.  I began my journal in 1964 at the age of 16.  I’ve heard 16 mentioned by many diarists as the year they began to record their stories.

There were some years I skipped a lot.  I also remember years where I completed a book every three months.  That’s why I can’t buy those beautiful leather bound blank books…too expensive.  Pens…as long as they write smoothly and are easy for me to hold it doesn’t matter what kind.   My journals are all sizes.  Some are on cheap paper, some on beautiful Italian paper.  I’ve pretty much settled on a paper size of 8.5 x 11.  I’ve tried three ring binders and using high quality paper for either a handwritten entry or one composed on the computer, but find it more satisfying when the pages are already bound in a book.  Then I feel like a “writer,” even though it is essentially a vanity press.

“Mon Dieu!,” you might say. 57 books, whatever does she write about?   The emphasis has changed over the years as I go through different life stages.  I suppose the day approaches when I will write about my doctor visits, medicines, and operations.    Don’t smirk, you know you will be there, too, someday.

My journals contain:

Reflections and self-examination

People

Family, friends, strangers, co-workers

Relationships – love, sex, hate, frustrations

Parenting

Craziness and absurd behavior  (in others)

My women’s group

The detestable masses

Birth and death

Emotions

Joys and sorrows – struggling with my dysthymic Eeyore nature

Complaints and rants

Angst

Embarrassments

Jobs

Events

Personal stories both common and astonishing

History/sometimes politics

Events in the lives of others around me

Comments on things in the news

Theatre, music, art, museums, shows

My 8 years in a drug rehabilitation organization/commune – turned utopian community – turned cult – were all recorded

Animals

Cats, cats, and more cats

Pet antics

Farm stories

Wild animal experiences

Natural phenomenon

Weather (we have a lot of that here)

My beekeeping experiences (39 years)

My gardens

Bookselling

Remembering the past

“Here and now” descriptions of where I am and what is going on around me at that very moment  – all the sounds, smells and happenings

Health problems (oh-oh)

Choices I am trying to make

Ideas (inventions I come up with)

Dreams (used to be in a separate book from the main journal)

Metaphysical events

Synchronicities/coincidences

Close calls – “near death” experiences

Very strange occurrences  (the UFO in 1967)

Book reviews/movie reviews – occasional entries

Quotes (I used to have a separate book for quotes, now I incorporate them in the   journal)

Clippings, drawings, photos

So, what do I write about?  The answer is: just about everything…if it interests me.

As Muriel Barberry put it: “the tumult and boredom of everyday life.”

And you?

Creative Ideas for Journal Writing

May 4, 2010

Some years ago I read a chapter in a book on – shall we call them “unique” individuals – about a man who recorded what he did every minute of his life.   By most standards, that is a bit obsessive, a word he used to describe himself.  I believe this man may have been Robert Shields, who suffered from “hypergraphia,” an overwhelming urge to write.  He kept this diary from 1972 until he had a stroke in 1997.  He died in 2007.  His is said to be the world’s longest diary.  He left nothing out.  His diary is now in the archives of Washington State University.

What about a diary that records what you are doing at the same time every day?  I recall the 1995, independent American film:  “Smoke,”  which the late film critic Roger Ebert called “a beguiling film about words, secrets, and tobacco.”   The main character took a photo on the same street corner of New York at the same time every day of the year and put them all in a scrapbook.    Although not usually so meticulous in time or place, that is what we do when we keep a journal.

In another blog, I  mentioned a diarist who kept a journal of “to do” lists.  Can’t see doing this for a very long time, but it is definitely a creative solution to writer’s block.  I have actually uncovered a few “to do” lists from my past during ephemera archaeology.    Mildly fascinating, indeed.  This is a reminder that mundane minutiae  can become marvelously captivating as time passes.

Making lists is a fun exercise, especially if you are bored with your writing.  Once I wrote “these are a few of my favorite things,” in the back of one of my journals.   I keep adding to that list.  It works well as a self portrait.   Someday I will write a list of my dislikes (i.e. skunk perfume absolutely slays me).  The possibilities for lists are endless:  things you love or hate, hopes, fears, friends, foes, food you like or hate, things you think are erotic, things that repulse you, pets you have had, the many things you have experienced or witnessed in your life (birth, death, nature, accidents, pain, thrills, etc.)

You can write a lot on your memories.  The journal is a time-machine that has already been invented.   Go anywhere in your past that you’d like to go and stay as long as you like.  No need to worry about bringing back a butterfly in the cuff of your pants…or is there?

I am not sure how many creative journaling ideas are completely original because I see the same suggestions over and over again.  There are unsent letters, sketches, doodles, charts and graphs and maps, blessings, affirmations, and character descriptions.  Write a complete portrait of one of your friends or a family member.  I don’t do that very often because the people in my life are mentioned so frequently that their actions become  “character development,”  as in a novel.  I suppose I should attempt a physical description, though for some reason that is harder.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been at a loss for something to say, but an enjoyable exercise for me, and one that I suspect might be interesting for a future reader, is to write a “be here now.”  In that, I attempt to completely describe exactly where I am and what I see, hear, and smell.  I want the future reader to be in the room with me.   I don’t think I’ve ever run across this in anyone else’s diary.

A useful idea I have borrowed from someone else is to think of each day as a basket.  At the end of the day…what is the gift in your basket?  There is so much in a day, even an hour.  The true dilemma is to select.   I love the way we can choose telescope or microscope, cosmic themes or minutiae.

The primary focus of a diary is, of course, You.  And then all things as they relate to you.  The value of a diary archive is in being able to step into someone’s shoes and see life as they see it, to walk a mile in their moccasins.

For more ideas on what to write about see my blog “What I Write: Sturm und Drang” from May 14, 2010.

 

 


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