I’m talking about Journals. (Diaries, Notebooks.)

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Wow.

It’s not like I’m old really – I’m only 52 – but I feel like I just found a whole new world online. And that’s kinda crazy on some levels because I am hardly a noob here. (Though perhaps the use of the word noob shows when much of my online experience was gained?) I know my way around this wild west pretty well and I’m rather phenomenal when it comes to finding shit on google. But… there’s a whole world that’s opened up in the realms of some of my biggest life interests, that wasn’t here last time I looked. (Which has been many many many years, admittedly.)

 

I’m talking about Journals. (Diaries, Notebooks.)

 

I’m a lifelong diarist. I have filled nearly 100 blank books. I have written about my inner and outer life, as I’ve lived it, for my entire life. I’m fascinated by the concept that some of us write about our lives, (be it consistently or sporadically,) while others would never dream of doing such a thing. None of that is new. There have been diarists and journal keepers since the dawn of writing instruments. I’m just one in an unending line of life writers.

 

At times in my life when I’ve felt lost I often find my way to journals. Like finding, in Powell’s Bookstore in Portland Oregon while I was house sitting for some friends in the early 90s, an entire section of published journals and books on diary studies. (Side note – I use the words interchangeably and call my own book “Notebooks.” and I suspect someday I’ll write about my impressions of the words, but today isn’t that day.)

 

Or like in the early 2000s when I decided that Diaries and Journals were my main life passion and I revived a magazine called The Diarist’s Journal, and I met up with (and physically visited) those few people I found in the US with HUGE collections of published journals, and I participated in many an online forum dedicated to life writing, and I ran a book discussion group that read published journals from the likes of Fanny Burney, Jack Kerouac, Simone de Beauvoir, Carolina Maria de Jesus, Marie Bashkirtseff, Eric Hoffer, and Edward Robb Ellis, and I desperately wanted to start a Diary Archive like the one in France.

 

At the time I owned and operated a Gourmet Coffeehouse and these journal forays were a side project that cost me two tons of money – so much money, in fact, that I practically spent until I was nearly broke. (But again, that’s a different topic.) Soon, I had to let these dreams slide – it just wasn’t financially doable at the time.

 

What lead me, yesterday, to youtube videos about journals and journaling? It was my work on my notebooks from the 80s when I traveled around with The Grateful Dead and lived in my van, and the reality that I am going to publish some of those writings. (Again – a topic for a different post.)

 

But here’s this guy talking about how to make the best journal of yourself ever, and why journals are important. (The way he marvels over the difference between his new empty book and his recently filled one SO reminds me of me!) He happens to have a great presence and motivational bent that appeals to me on many levels – his role as coach for bettering oneself is something I do innately and have only started to make a career of – but I digress. There’s a lot of people sharing videos of what to write in your journal if you don’t know where to start. And people showing their many journals and telling what they use each for. And instructional videos about how to make an art journal, or a smash journal, or an omni journal, or a bullet journal, or…. or…. or….

 

Holy crap! So many people interested in journals! And me, here, thinking – none of these are like mine. My notebooks are dense blocks of text – year after year – just words piling up. Until I find this woman who says just that – “So many YouTube videos of journals but none are mostly text, like mine.” (And all her commenters who say “Me too!”)

 

I suspect one of these days I’m going to need to do a video about my many text filled books – and maybe even a video focusing on my Grateful Dead Tour books with their stickers and decoration.

 

And I’ve yet to start oogling over the videos I see where people are just (I think) going to share views of their collection of blank books –  but I’ve got them lined up for watching! I’m addicted to black books!…

 

Okay I’m babbling but it’s what I do – and isn’t that the best way to get in the habit of blogging? There will be more on this subject to come, I’ve no doubt, but I don’t want these posts to get too long…

PS – I may need to make back issues of The Diarist’s Journal available for sale again…

A blog used to be

When blogs were new they were a place (I seem to remember) where a writer shared what they found as they searched the web – a web-log.

Along with this sharing of links was some rumination on the content contained therein.

I think perhaps I might need to try to revive that tradition, for trying to treat a blog as some form of journal or diary has too often left me feeling as if I am cheating on my handwritten notebooks, and trying to write articles, while interesting and sometimes achievable for me, is not a form I am drawn to or compelled to write.

However, sometimes I read wonderful articles on physics (hey physics intrigues me!) or watch inspiring TED Talks and while I often share them on my facebook page, it doesn’t afford me the longer form of sharing why I chose to try to bring this article to the attention of others.

I have a tendency to open more tabs than I can read at a sitting. Then, some mornings, like this morning, I decide to clear some tabs. Some get closed right away for the subject at hand no longer holds any interest. (This is a useful skill I’ve acquired while turning myself into a Personal Organizer and Life Coach – to know what matters and what does not.) And others, like this piece about Eugene Delacroix and his thoughts on the balance an artist needs between solitude and social distraction make me cheer inside.

“Delacroix began to formulate what would become a defining concern of his youth and one of increasing urgency for us today, amid our age of exponentially swelling social demands and distractions — the challenge of mediating between the allure of social life and the “fertile solitude” necessary for creative work, ”

So much of our world is comprised of the outer. I worry that my friends and loves do not take the time to remember that what matters is not what you see on the surface. We rush through the days skimming the surface, forgetting the depths. Too many people I know do not even know what it is that makes their hearts sing, do not know what will bring them true joy and a feeling of a a full and worthy life.

Sure, Delacroix writes from the perspective of an artist, but when he says to himself in January 1824 – “Poor fellow! How can you do great work when you’re always having to rub shoulders with everything that is vulgar.” I see this reflecting on everyone. How are we to know what will actually bring us contentment when we spend all our time rubbing shoulders with all that is useless or counterproductive to who we are in our hearts and what we want from the experience of life??

I had this conversation with a friend just yesterday. That there is so much humanity teeming as they run their errands, which we must encounter as we do our own errands, that it’s tiring just to contemplate the enormity of emptiness we fill our moments with.

When Delacroix says in March of that same year, “How can one keep one’s enthusiasm concentrated on a subject when one is always at the mercy of other people…”

I think of soccer moms racing between the deli and the dry cleaners and the playing field, so distracted by the perceived immediate needs of the surface world that she barely sees the game. I think of the people who trade 2 or 10 or 40 hours of their time for a glowing bauble. I think of the people who sit at their desks subjected to the barrage of customer service calls from people unhappy that their new sneakers, their iPhone cases, their kitchen gadget, their new bedding, hasn’t arrived in a timely manner.

Maybe this stance is more reflective of me than of the rest of the US, but if so – so be it.

I do not love the game.

The article calls Delacroix a restless mind. Perhaps that’s a malady I too suffer from.

 

 

 

It’s my anniversary

12-8-2013 Deer Park

One year ago today my car sat parked up on the lawn outside my front door. It was cool and sunny in Connecticut but apparently there were some weather issues to the south. Rather attention grabbing weather issues.

I was preparing for a mad dash to Baltimore as the first leg of my journey. I had picked the date rather arbitrarily. It was a Sunday. I would leave at noon. But with reports of Baltimore having snow currently and, more of concern, by early evening it would turn to rain that would freeze on contact. Baltimore drivers were cautioned to avoid driving if possible. And I wanted to go there?

I wanted to visit my childhood friend Donna. Perfect yes? A little check in with my past as I stepped into what some friends called, lovingly, my mid-life crisis. Five and a half hours. A good first day’s drive.
Do I delay? Is it smart to drive into guaranteed frozen roads? Funny question. Is anything about this road trip “smart”?

The weather system, moving north, would be here in CT tomorrow. If I didn’t leave as planned I’d probably not leave tomorrow either. I asked the cat’s opinion and got nothing.
Okay. Well. Maybe I wouldn’t get as far as Baltimore but I could get somewhere. Drive as far as is safe then get a hotel. No procrastinating on this. I shall not be stopped by weather. Sheesh. Part of the whole point of this trip is to get away from the winter weather.

I threw some final, questionably necessary, items into the car, locked up the house for the house sitters arrival later in the day, said my goodbyes to the lovely seven pound elephant Miss Voodoo, and went to say goodbye to Vette and Rob at the Wadsworth Mansion Xmas craft fair thingy.
And that was it.
I was on my way. On the road again!

It was smooth sailing right onto and over the George Washington Bridge. Splendid day for the start of an adventure.
And then it started to snow. Pretty at first, I drove right into the thick of it. By the time I reached Elizabeth, NJ there was two inches on the ground. As I moved south the snow piled up quickly. Driving started to become treacherous in spots. Somewhere this side of Philly an 18-wheeler nearly ran me into a bridge abutment. That was a bit nerve wracking. It was kinda sleety. Traffic was slowing down.
What was I thinking? How many people are pulling over now to grab hotels and wait it out? Ugh.
How much farther to Baltimore? I can do this… Donna was on alert that I was attempting this. I texted and told her I was still on the way as far as I knew.
Traffic stopped.

I looked at the map again. I was hours behind schedule already. This little jaunt to Baltimore was becoming an ordeal. I looked at the map again and saw Newark Delaware not too far ahead of me. I had a friend there. A friend I’d known for years but had never met face to face. We were both in an online book group many many years ago.
The book-a-week group had always been a favorite of mine. Members read anything at all with the mere goal of trying to read 52 books each year. Then we’d write blurbs about what we’d read. I got many great unexpected reads from years spent reading with those ladies. The group kind fell apart when our beloved leader Donna got a nasty brain cancer and left this plain of existence. (Although I had never met Donna either, we were close. I still miss her.) She was our center and without her we drifted apart. I kept in touch with a few of the members, and facebook brought a few others back into my world. I always expected I’d meet Kari someday. We clicked right from our first emails. And she had extended an invitation to me to stop by. I figured I’d do so on my return. But. All this snow…
Wonder if she’s home? Wonder exactly how far it is? Wonder if she’ll let me crash there? I don’t have her number do I?
Traffic absolutely crawling. Snow and sleet and other icy particles collected everywhere.
I opened facebook to send Kari a message. It was the only way I had to contact her. I sent her my number and said “Text me, I’m stuck in snow traffic.”
She called right away!
Ha! She was stuck in snow traffic too. Had gone to a funeral today in Wilkes-Barre and was now trying to get home. Different highway. Same reality.
Sounded like we were both about the same distance from her house.
Of course I’d be welcome!
There was a big rest area just before her exit. We’d keep in touch and meet there.
Text message received – “I’m here.”
“What do you drive? Where are you parked? I’m two miles away.”
Cars are crawling into the rest stop and there’s no parking in sight.
But look! There! Through the slapping of the wipers, there’s a person standing outside a car widely waving arms! What a fantastic sight! Yay! Kari! You look like a crazy lady! Hello friend!
I have the biggest grin on my face reliving the moment.
Who would have ever thunk this is how we’d meet? Ten inches of snow on the ground. Sleet pelting our faces. A quick hug and a “follow me to my house” shouted over the general roar of the highway and the sleet.
Fifteen minutes later and we were warming and drying at her kitchen table.
A half hour after that we were out in the world again at a pub for some late night drinks, some warm food and to finally get to know each other.
The late night snow silence of the University of Delaware and the fire-warmth of The Deer Park Tavern were so far removed from the life I’d been living for years. I was elated to have launched. And to have landed, not just safely, but oh so enjoyably.
Thank you Kari!

(Alright here’s the deal folks. I’d like to think I’ll spend the time to relive my journey in a way I didn’t have time to write as I did it. Plus I should be writing and I haven’t been. I’m rusty. Bear with me.)
(Oh and hey. It’s not the first time I’ve written this story. Look there if you want to see pictures, or to see how I spent the next morning with Kari.)

Atlanta Whirlwind

I had these images of having plenty of time to write interesting, informative and pleasing blog posts about the things I’m doing.
Instead I find myself running ragged ever since I left CT – with no end in sight.
Yesterday in Atlanta I visited The Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum and Library, the historic home that Margaret Mitchell lived in while she wrote the majority of Gone With the Wind, and I ended the day visiting The High Museum of Art ( It was half price on Thursday nights!)
I really enjoyed The Carter Center. As a child my first awareness of politics was Watergate. (Wait. What? What’s a President? We have a President? And he lied?) So by the time Carter was being elected I totally wanted him to win. I had a teacher at the time who made us engage with the political process by choosing sides and visiting the local Party offices and volunteering.
I was so displeased by what I’d seen since becoming aware of politics that of course I chose to campaign for Carter.
Since leaving the Presidency the man has done many commendable things in this world and I enjoyed immersing myself in the facts of it all.
Plus it was kind of awesome to stare upon an actual Nobel Peace Prize.
A helpful museum guide named Tony broke the rules and took some pictures of me. He also gave me the Jeopardy-worthy little bit of trivia: There are only two cities in the world which house two Nobel Peace Prizes. One is Atlanta (I went and saw King’s today!) and the other is Soweto, where medals for Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela reside.
Somehow I enjoyed that tenuous connection, what with the week’s news being filled with the goings on at the memorial ceremony to honor Mandela’s passing.

(More text below photos.)

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Here in Atlanta I’m staying with a nice older gentleman named Al. It’s a booking I made via Airbnb – a service born of the sharing economy whereby you rent out extra bedrooms in your house, or pay a cheap price to stay in someone else’s extra room. I’ve been renting out my extra room that way for a few years but this trip is my first chance to really utilize it for myself. (If you don’t know Airbnb yet, do check it out.)

Anyway, Al lives just on the outskirts of Little 5 Points. I spent a good amount of time here in the 80s when Vette (my lifelong best friend) lived here.
Today I started the day with a short walk to Little 5. Truly worthy coffeehouses and a collection of stores I wish I had access to on a daily basis. I spent a few hours wandering and browsing. Enjoyable day.

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A Facebook post, saying where I was, got me a message from a friend saying she had people not too far from here and that I should visit and deliver a hug and greeting.
So I did.
That introduced me to the Lake Claire Land Trust.
What a fantastic place! With land bought from Marta, they have created a meandering little city oasis with playgrounds, sweat lodges, a small amphitheater, performance spaces, and I met an emu named Lou!
That was a great detour and addition to my day!

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Then I jetted off to The King Center to pay my respects and learn a thing or two. The complex is rambling and covers many blocks. I got to see Atlanta’s second (or was it the first?) Nobel Peace Prize.
I was somehow humbled to stand near his tomb. The gravity of it all. A friendly pool cleaner named Lawrence took my photos for me.
I really like meeting real people to chat with.

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I was going to go back to the Lake Claire Land Trust tonight for a Friday night friendly jam but that’s not gonna happen.
I walked a couple blocks from Al’s for dinner at a place called Babette’s and, at 9pm, have landed next door at JavaVino – a coffeehouse wine bar combo and I’m downing more wine than would allow me to be comfortable driving back to the Land Trust.
Here I sit writing this bit on my iPhone in hopes that when I get back to the house I’ll upload some photos and make this a real blog post.

My original plan for this trip was to cruise along the northern reaches of these southern states as I head west but a Facebook post last week from a friend might be sending me north from here to Tennessee – to McMinnville – where there is a concert tomorrow known as Bluegrass Underground. Once a month they have concerts that (I think) are filmed for PBS and December’s is tomorrow and billed as “A Pirate’s Christmas.” So yeah. I think I’m changing my plans and going north tomorrow.

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Books part 1

I love books.

I (used to?) collect books.

I knew I had a lot of books. I knew the published diary collection was about 700-800 books and that took up six over-packed shelves in the living room plus an extra box (an early 17 volume edition of Pepys) upstairs.

There was a shelf full of cookbooks on the porch, a shelf on the stairway landing with Atlases, nature books, tree books, coffee table books, destination guides, and a smattering of art books. A shelf at the top of the stairs had some duplicate diaries, fictional diaries (not quite worthy of being in the diary collection but they were diaries nonetheless and had to be kept) and books also by diarists (but not diaries) and books about diarists (mostly with a focus on some other aspect of their lives) as well as collections of letters (often by diarists.) (Yes, I have a diary fetish.) The 3 shelves in my office held random overflow books, some waiting to be processed officially into the diary collection, some about coffee and business, my map collection and a gazillion magazines. One of these shelves was mostly CDs. A bulging shelf in my bedroom was for the erotica collection, the kama sutra collection, metaphysical, spiritual and new age-y self help books (think Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, gems and minerals, Goddess Histories of the World), Hippie books, rock-n-roll and 60s books, as well as rare books, signed books (Abbie Hoffman, Ken Kesey, Alan Ginsberg!), and generally odd books (Wisconsin Death Trip anyone? Go ahead – look it up – I have a first edition.) A thinner tall shelf in my bedroom housed books on writing, wealth, investing and house flipping. My bedroom has a balcony on the sun porch – I had a bookshelf there too which contained a vintage collection of travel books (many of them about early African travelers like Beryl Markham and Osa Johnson) as well as a large collection of contemporary travel lit (Who can resist books with titles like The Sex Lives of Cannibals or No Touch Monkey?) and other various non-fiction. This was also the shelf for some much-loved and oft-looked-at books, and all my fiction books that I hoped to read someday.

Lastly, in the shelf category, was two milk crates on the floor near my bedside table. This was for books I hoped to read soon.

An extra large box of books in my closets was filled with unpublished diaries.

There were 10 boxes of books in my office. I just didn’t have the room for any more shelves! One tall pile of boxes – floor to ceiling. This was overflow – fiction, non-fiction, travel, and read-and-loved books.

Used to be I never left a book sale without at least 4 or 5 books – and that would have been a slow day. Sometime over the past 5 years I managed to wean myself from buying books – unless I really Really REALLY wanted it. At first that meant that I came home from book sales with only 1 or 2 books but even that wasn’t working. Eventually I stopped myself from going to book sales. (Amazingly, my life is not lesser for the lack of book sales – I might not have believed that 10 years ago.)

Sometime around November 2010 I decided I had to get serious about getting rid of stuff and an obvious place to start would be the books. I determined I had to whittle it down by the equivalent of 10 boxes, so at least what I had would be visible on shelves.

I think it took me about 3 weeks to get 10 boxes and bring them to the used book store to return for cash – cash this time – not credit.

When you love books, it’s hard to part with favorites, or books yet unknown, forever calling “read me” “read me.” I understand this well.

But here’s the thing – I had too much stuff!

Really way WAY too much stuff – and really? What were these books adding to my life? What was I gaining? I knew that if I wanted to move forward with my life I would have to jettison some of the extraneous crap – there’s no other way. And this whole feeling of the need to get rid of stuff (a feeling present and growing for many years) was foaming forth from a general malaise about my life. It wasn’t right, things would have to change. I’d been building up to this need for major change.

So I’m sorry Paul Theroux for removing 6 of the 8 books I haven’t read yet. (I actually haven’t read any of his books yet, always meant to.) I’m sorry Ellen Gilchrist that I’m ditching 3 or 4 of your short story collections. I did love the one I read way back when. I love you Joseph Campbell but this one book that I read right after my mom died makes me sad to see. But I promise you – it helped me so very much at the time. I’m sorry all you contributors to erotica collections but I’m not feeling so sexy at the moment and I’m sure I won’t miss you if half of you just go away. I’m sorry you’re leaving Oscar Hijuelos and Saul Bellow and Gabriel Garcia Marquez but if I feel the need to read more of your books (and I hope someday I’ll feel that need) I think I’ll be able to find you easily enough. I’m sorry Katherine Mansfield but you have to go too. I never saw your brilliance like everyone assured me was there. Goodbye Midnight Express, read as a horror story and cautionary tale so many times in my early teen years that you’re falling apart. I don’t need you to prove anything. We all know I managed to avoid Turkish prison. Goodbye Stephen King, I’m sure you’ll be easy to find should I need you again. I don’t think you’re going to help me move forward. I’ll keep this early paperback version of The Stand though, and this copy of On Writing. For now…

Throughout the winter I challenged myself to get a book or two a day off the shelves. At least one. One book. I can lose one book.

That’s not always as easy as it sounds – but it’s worth it. So worth it.