Memory Keepers

Where were you when...

Barak Obama became the 44th President of the United States?

the Twin Towers came down?

the Berlin Wall crumbled?

the Challenger shuttle exploded?

Armstrong walked the moon?

I love blank books. From my first Nothing Book , a gift for my 9th or 10th birthday to my moleskine's, I have loved the potentiality of the blank page. All smooth, all ready for thoughts and experiences I had yet to have, to record the events great and small in the world.

I'm a compulsive, irratic, undisciplined journal-writer, apt to fill only journals part-way before abandoning them because...I simply stopped filling them. I think I create too much expectation on what should be written them and when that expectation no longer fits my experience, then I drop the journaling. Then later, I feel compelled by the shininess of a new journal, all fresh with possibility, to pick one up and try again. I have a full shelf of half-made journals, all testimony to great promise only partially fulfilled. I have dreams of organizing them, notions really and the skeleton of a plan which started with picking up a 5-Year Diary .

What in the world am I thinking, committing to a 5 year diary when I can hardly fill one? Each page is a day divided into sections for each year, five sections per page. The sections are small, only 5-6 lines, narrow in height. Hardly enough for musings. But it's not a musings book, it's a record book and at first I panicked wondering if I lead enough of a life to fill even just a few lines. Just writing about writing was depressing because I don't get to my writing everyday.

Then it occured to me - by buying this 5 year journal I was committing to not only live a life worth writing about but to write about my life because I'd view my life as worth writing about, even the seeming small things. So in goes the stuff about kid's basketball games, trips to Canada haberdasheries, and writing workshops.

A year from now, I'll get to see what I did in 2009 and maybe find the trends in my life, the low and high points, the cyclical nature of my living. And this thought lead me to look at those old journals again and think about how there might be a way to do the same over the course of several journals. Compile them all together, grouping according to days, see what comes of it. Someone, maybe Ver, mentioned in their blog once about journals that had pockets in the back cover so you could slip the cover of one book into the cover of the next, creating a stack of journals over time. I thought maybe if they were 32 pages in a journal or some other increment that would work well with a year, maybe I could still have the experience of handwriting my journals. I haven't found them since that post, though, and can't find the post unfortunately. The clerk at the fancy paper store in Vancouver hadn't heard of them either and Google searching for 'insertable journals' just brings up stuff not fit for viewing.

They only print 5-year diaries for the 20xx years - none for the 19xx years, so I'll have to record the days from my old journals differently, perhaps in Scrivener. I imagine it will be a sort of electronic cross-reference to the physical journals I've collected.

Life can't be reduced to the answers to a few questions, but the answers can point to meaningful connections, the stuff of memoirs and poems, folktales and novels.

...I was sitting on our gold shag carpet, sleepy and grumpy, trying to make out the images on our black and white TV that my parents were so excited about. That grey lined footprint in lunar sand...

...I was walking back to my hall after dinner and disbelieved on of my residents who told me they were gone, Christa McAuliffe and all the others. The light splashing on the counter was too soft, the hallway too loud with shuffling feet, the smell of sweat and dust too pungent for them to be gone...

...I caught the news after work that they had taken the Wall down themselves, the East Berliners. Saw them kick and shove that wall to stand on its ruins. I didn't see it go up, but I saw it come down. A few years later, my husband's family reconnected with their Yugoslavian relatives...

...I was sitting on the couch, breastfeeding my youngest daughter, watching TV instead of being present with her, seeing the planes and knowing that this was not a movie, this was not an accident, this was real too real much too real. I watched for two days then could not watch the news again for weeks, months, even now, I can't watch more than 5-10 minutes of the news...

...I sat with my coworkers in our lounge watching the streaming video on our presentation screen, then switched to listening on a transistor radio when the streaming stalled. I felt like someone from the last century tuning into hear Franklin D. on the radio. These are difficult times, but we have hope again...

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Next: Father Tom McMichael

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