I've kept a journal since I was a teenager. However, writing in a journal was like one of those on-again, off-again relationships. I can't say I ever really wrote with any reliable level of consistency over a long period of time and often, when I was younger, the entries were more centered on "what I did" than "what I thought."
But, when the pandemic started in March 2020, that changed. I started filling up a whole journal every three months, so I'd say I probably filled about six journals since then, alone.
It was as if writing in my journal was my moment to take a deep breath at a time when it was becoming increasingly difficult to breathe. Today, the third page I wrote in my journal was my attempt to figure out why writing in my journal is something I have begun looking forward to as much as my morning cup of tea. I'm transcribing my thoughts here--in this online "Diary," to encourage others to find solace and sanity in the safe confines of a journal, diary, notebook or whatever you term it. (Warning, part of the perk of journal writing is no grammar, run-on sentence, spelling mistakes exist or matter--so I'm copying it in here as it was written in all its carefree format.:)
Here's what I wrote:
Anyway, I'm enjoying the pocket of time right now when I don't have to be anywhere and the kids are watching cartoons downstairs and I'm in this chair in the living room with a cup of tea and this journal. I can't quite understand why writing in this journal is so attractive to me, why it feels like such an "escape" but I almost crave it at times. Maybe it's because I'm safe here--as cheesy as that sounds. I'm able to say what I want whether I'm right or wrong or politically incorrect. I am able to sort out my thoughts, maybe make sense of them, perhaps vent my frustrations with anyone and everyone without worry of offense or disagreement, and also I am able to let out the leash to allow my ideas and imagination to run wild. To dream on paper and quietly out loud:) Silently out loud. Without fears of contradiction or being talked sense into. It's a vision board sans images. Sans color! A vision board of black and white that leaves the imagination of the reader to fill in the vivid greens and bright blues. Time and space and freedom. There are so many means available these days that allow people to escape, to breathe a little, loosen the collar--so to speak--and here is perhaps one of the healthier, most accessible, cost efficient and convenient of them all:
Writing in this here humble Journal . . .
Thank the Lord for paper and pen :)
If only people realized that a lack of telling is not necessarily indicative of a lack of living. In fact, sometimes the lack of our ability to tell is the lack of time to tell due to all the living going on. That is the case here. I have a lovely moment to write about, but I will not do it justice to write about it now while I am so tired and there are so few hours in my days--these days. Let me just wait and write about it when I have a full belly of sleep for fuel. In the meantime, here is a photo to hold you over. Those are real flowers in fake shoes. The image looks hopeless and filled with hope all at once reminding me of a quote by Lady Bird Johnson that I am fond of. I will quote it in its entirety, "Where flowers bloom, so does hope – and hope is the precious, indispensable ingredient without which the war on poverty can never be won." If you ever feel yourself losing hope--get out into a garden. Any garden. Even just some random patch of dirt in the woods. Plant something and it just might grow:)
Sometimes you just need to make a good old mind map to think about how a character fits into your story--only to discover that perhaps that character is the very axle (or axis?) around which the story twines and climbs and blooms. That's an exciting feeling for a writer, but that's just a feeling. Now, there needs to be the writing derived from the feeling. Like a surfer catching a wave--you must swim out into an unpredictable ocean with all your strength, look for it, wait for something worth following, then go for it. Get yourself up on that board and enjoy the ride. :)
Lingering Essence of Loss
It's been a while. Since, the writing--in here.
With a blog titled, "Dear Diary" I wanted to write, "Dear Diary, my mother passed away less than a month ago and I'm finding it hard to write. Why does grief take up so much room in my head? Why does it feel like such a relief to write what I'm thinking in my paper journal with my pen, but when it comes to typing in this Diary---I just don't want to?"
And that's a problem, for a writer. "Writer's block" seems to take on a whole new, debilitating strength after the loss of a loved one. It makes me think of the children's book I used to read to my children called, Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill & Charles Fuge. For some reason, when I'm sad or overwhelmed, I want to get as small as I can. And, in an effort to get as small as I can I pull in my arms and legs and tuck my chin down.
It's hard to write when you're in a ball.
Writing is an extension of who I am and I suppose stretching myself out so publicly on a page is simply unappealing. It's the last thing I want to do because, well--when you lose someone you love you really don't want to do much at all. But I'm still a mother, wife, sister, friend, neighbor, volunteer, citizen and, still, I am a daughter--with all that continues to come with such a role even without the mother to show for anymore.
Loss happens and then--weeks, months, years later the essence of it still lingers. In sentimental human ways and in demandingly impersonal, bureaucratic ways. It suddenly shows up when you least expect it and seems to have abated only to soon make it clear it has not.
And so this blog post is me putting the key in the ignition, turning with a sigh and knowing I need to turn the engine over every now and then to be sure the car will run in the future even if my heart just isn't in it today. But it will be. I have to believe that.
I need to try to not look too long into the void or it will swallow me. We humans have a habit of steering into what we're staring into. That's dangerous. So, I need to know the void is there in order not to fall into it and then avert my eyes, focus on the living, put one foot in front of the other and walk towards the light no matter how far off it appears at this moment.
Easier said than done. I know.
But, it's a start:)
A Room of One's Own
Truly, there is something about having a room of one's own.
Not in the same sense that my daughter wants a room of her own.
She does have her own corner in a room she shares.
And really, that is all I'm talking about here:
This room is not mine, though it feels like it is right now. It is a shared room where my aunt visiting from Mississippi was able to sleep this past summer, a family friend who plows in the winter can lay his head, and where my husband has worked daily since he was sent home from his office space back in March 2020. The cat often stretches out in here, too.
But, recently this space became "available" three days a week. The only thing missing? A desk--or a table to write on. Yesterday I pulled a TV table up to a chair, but I needed something a bit more permanent and less chaotic.
Something shoved into the corner would be out of the way and much more functional.
Not enough is said about the beauty of corners.
Able to corral thoughts and papers together.
For fifty-eight dollars and tax, I found an adorable, functional desk that fit into the 36-ish inches of space I had available to work with. I didn't know most desks were 40+ inches, so there were not many options.
But, I love the one I snagged.
So now: a small space:
an in-house efficiency
in which to work,
to contemplate and
Might help make all the difference.
We shall see.
I love the Peanuts cartoons and always have to watch Merry Christmas Charlie Brown when the holiday season rolls around. It's a wonderful, quiet nod to the real reason for the Christmas season and how community can lift us up, little things can mean a lot, and the underdogs in our lives can surprise us and save the day!
During such challenging times, fear can start making our decisions for us. That's not a good thing. The ever-present essence of fear in the air lately makes me appreciate the page from my Our Daily Bread book that I have included alongside this entry. Linus takes center stage and speaks so simply.
I hope that whatever faith you practice you are able to take strength from it, lean on something larger than any of us and shed some of the fear that we have all come to live with constantly.
I have faith that something is going to give and we will start to feel some relief from so much stress in the new year: 2022! Good times are ahead where we will be able to let go a little, enjoy the moments as they present themselves to us, and live fearlessly.
Happy New Year to you and all the family and friends in your life.
Sometimes a cup of tea and some sound, unsolicited advice from the tea tag hits the spot!:)
No Such Thing as Ordinary
I was reading my itty bitty Our Daily Bread book this morning and had to share this. Sometimes no matter what your faith is or what you believe, it's good to know you are on this Earth for a reason.
With the cooler weather starting to seep in, I can't help but think of one of my all-time fave holiday movies: It's a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart!
I got news of someone's passing today. She wasn't someone I knew well--in fact, I'd only met her once in my life, but she was a lovely, talented, generous lady and it made me think of how all of us have people in our lives or that perhaps were merely brief flashes of acquaintance who have been impacted in a good way by us.
None of us is ordinary!
Grasping for Hope
Have you ever given inanimate objects more credit for your future than they deserve?
I have. Earlier this month, I found myself getting to the end of my current writing journal. You may have seen the cover of it in a past blog or newsletter. It says "Organized Chaos" on the front. I have to admit it wasn't my first choice for cover designs, but like with clothes--often I go for comfort over style--the choices of journals with coptic binding were few and so I snatched it up. The important part is the inside (wow--what an unintentional, but heartwarming truth:) with its empty lined pages.
As Organized Chaos came to a close and school was starting, I pulled my next journal out from under a pile of clothes. (How I knew it was there, I have no idea. And why it had remained there--also, no idea.)
The next journal said, "Sunny Skies Ahead" on its cover. The colors were muted and everything looked calm about it. It was quite the follow-up to multi-colored, metallic organized chaos. That's when I started to believe, to genuinely hope, that the journal was making promises we all know it couldn't keep. Once I opened that blank journal I would be leaving chaos behind and sunny skies would open up and usher in the calm that everybody's been longing for after several years of not-quite-calm-at-all.
I suppose that's how desperate I am (we all are) as I grasp for a sign of hope somewhere--anywhere!
Being a New Englander I feel I have a leg up on unpredictability in life. I grew up used to wonky, random weather. It's cold, then hot, followed by a freak blizzard. Covid is the New England weather equivalent of viruses--only, instead of heading out to stock up on milk and bread and hunker down, toilet paper and tylenol top the list and that's only what you'll need if you're lucky.
Even if you don't catch Covid, a close contact or a near miss requiring a test or quarantine upends everything. Events, reunions, final exams, business trips, weddings and celebrations planned months before are suddenly not happening. Off the table completely. At least with weather there's the chance of bringing things indoors or holding it on a rain date. But, not with pesky, petulant, wild-card Covid.
It's pencils down.
Wait and see.
Wait some more.
Eventually cancel completely or postpone indefinitely.
But, back to my journal. This inanimate Nostradamus.
It is proclaiming that there are "Sunny Skies Ahead." That's a direct quote!
I know it's foolish, but I have to believe it. I'm hitching my wagon to it.
Sunny skies--here we come:)
Don't Give Up
This is the story of The Little Clematis that Could
A little over two years ago, we were preparing to move. We had outgrown our house and needed a bit more room, so like a crab we molted--shedding our old shell in favor of a new one. Being a gardener, I had so many plants in my garden that I wanted, but couldn't, take with me. One particularly striking plant was a Clematis vine with big, beautiful, purple/blue blooms that ushered in the spring brilliantly.
Knowing I couldn't uproot that large plant I noticed a "volunteer" down at the base, which was a small stem sticking up that had taken root and could be separated and taken with us. So, that's what I did--took it with us. In the crazy chaos of the move it got lost and quite frankly I forgot I had even taken it up as it was not the only plant I had taken a division of and moved around. That little plant found itself all alone and down the Cape, still in its second-hand pot, all winter long.
The next spring we went down to find a pot on the banister. It had to have been found by someone and placed there because it surely would have blown off onto the ground if it had been left there for months during the snowy, blowy winter. I almost didn't recognize it with no leaves and no label, just a desperate little stick of a stem with nothing to distinguish it from any other little stick of a stem just trying to survive a long, cold, lonely winter. But, alas--I had a suspicion it might be that Clematis.
We moved into our new home and I found what I thought was just the right spot for that little transplant. When I pointed it out to my mother she said, "Oh no, that won't grow. Clematis don't like to be transplanted." Hurrumph. Well, it was in the ground and I was going to water it and see what happened. And guess what?
It grew. It started growing and I went out and bought a pretty metal trellis for it to climb and I anticipated how beautiful it would be, but--a groundhog came along one day and ate everything in that garden right down to the ground including the Clematis. All I could think about was how much that little plant had survived and yet, just as it started to thrive it was cut short. So short--surely it was a goner.
With expectations very low I gathered a few tree branches and lay them over the spot where the stem still appeared in its heavily munched state. I figured perhaps the branches with their twigs sticking out all around would deter any hungry animal the next spring. I waited and waited and then--
Signs of life. The vine started to stretch and green up. The sticks I had covered it with were not a problem as the vine wound around, through and up. It grabbed hold of the metal trellis I had supplied it with the year before and it kept climbing up and up and up. There were lots of leaves now and it was spreading out in all directions.
Watering it one day I noticed a big hole behind it--clear of the sticks that had been placed in front of the trellis--between the trellis and the house which was about four inches. Bunnies! A bunny had decided to dig a nest for her babies back there behind my Clematis vine. How? Why? I don't know. Perhaps it seemed like a safe place for my Clematis and for some baby bunnies. Somehow the digging didn't bother the roots of the vine enough to kill it. The bunnies stayed, until they left.
Before too long the vine was green and healthy and continuing to climb so I cut away the branches I had put in front of it to protect it and was able to fully admire it. But then. Those bunnies. They were hungry and began to chew on all sorts of things in my garden despite the plentiful clover: my Amelanchier tree, a swamp Azalea I had planted only weeks before and yes . . . that Clematis vine.
The infuriating thing about it was that those bunnies didn't even eat the whole thing. This time they just took a nibble low on the vine so as to cut the power to the rest of the plant that had so miraculously climbed that trellis. Snapped it in half and walked away so that slowly the leaves of the top of that vine started to brown around the edges and curl inward toward itself. Feeling defeated and somehow emboldened I pulled away the dying part to toss into the compost bin and made a trip to the store where I bought chicken wire.
With little chicken wire experience I cut through it, shaped it, cut my hands up plenty, got about twenty mosquito bites as I worked, but was determined to surround the base of the Amelanchier, the Azalea and that Clematis with something strong and unpleasant. Life went on.
The summer was hot and rainy. With so many things growing I didn't notice the Clematis as much. Perhaps I didn't want to. It had been such a roller coaster seeing it grow and then be cut down, then grow and then severed once again seemingly beyond my control. But, there appeared to be hope. Somehow it grew and climbed once again and there was even what appeared to be a bud. Well, that could not be because this vine only ever bloomed in the spring. And this particular plant only ever grew to be eaten by animals soon after.
Yesterday was a beautiful day. Labor Day. A holiday and the last gasp of summer. We sat out in the backyard to enjoy the sun and the air. I had sat down with my garden book to try to look up the name of a flower I had forgotten the name of. That's when my daughter pointed and yelled, "Mom!"
She was pointing to a big, beautiful bloom on my Clematis vine. It was September 6th. That little plant had seemed to live and die and live and die over and over and somehow, against all odds, it was blooming its heart out. It was a sign of hope. A sign that things don't always work out the first time, or the second--but at some point there will be a bloom of color and joy to savor and appreciate.
The big, violet bloom was also a message. It was telling me not to give up--ever. That little plant was surviving against all odds and there it was blooming for all to see.
So, I'm passing this message along to you because it's not a message to keep to myself.
It is a message meant to be shared.
Don't give up