Trash and treasure…

August 31, 2010 § 27 Comments

 There was a box in the mudroom, a blue lidded storage box. Usually things in the mudroom, not having much to do with mud, are there in limbo. They are on their way to the car or to the trash. Still, some are turned back, re-winning a position in the house.

I opened the box to see what was staking a claim in the room-of-neither-here-nor-there. I found journals. This would be an easy decision. Old journals, who cares? The box,  I wanted
I began stacking the notebooks on a chair. There were more in there than I expected. There were several that I liked, just for the cover decorations and a long Euro size one notebook that I had forgotten about (it was such a plesaure to write in this one) and many good old spiral notebooks. 

I shouldn’t have opened any one of the journals. I was so close to being rid of them. The garbage cans were merely 50 feet away at the end of the driveway.

But I did open them, flipped through them. I carefully opened a small one with James Joyce on the cover (not that I had any such pretensions, mind you, but have always been a fan, with a weakness for the Irish writers). And flilpped through the pages and found an old ticket to a Paul McCartney concert. And a list of “chores” I had assigned the kids. And a tiny birthday card, from HM. According to the date on the cover page, this journal was written 16 years ago. Oh. Well. The journal itself had some keepsakes within.

I picked up another one, this one not completely filled. There were pages and pages of solid writing – didn’t want to see how much whining might have been on the page…but I did find an old rejection letter from ESQUIRE magazine. Hmph. I suddenly recalled the story I had sent them. What was I thinking? Same as now; keep trying, keep writing. It’s what I do. Some people bake incessantly. Some clean, even while they’re talking to you. Others play games.

But what about the journals and the trash and their proximity (in so many ways) one to the other?
Too late now. I was suckered in. I picked up journal after journal, leafed through some, just checked others to see if they were filled or if I had quit halfway through, not an uncommon trait. (I hear other journalers are also afflicted with the “some journals left unfilled”  trait.)

Why do we write these? We love writing.
Why do we keep these journals?  We don’t, always.
We are constantly conquering the blank page somehow, whether with doodling; writing; yakking up old memories, drivel or crumbs; spinning tales; and chronicling family events and dialogues and characters.

A dear (writing) friend has it written in her will that all her journals are to be burned when she dies. ‘Til then, she holds on to them. Another friend has entrusted me with the dispatch of her journal writing.

I have no such concerns. Anyone can read them now or later, or not. I don’t care. In the meantime, for me, they are a chronology of family life interspersed with writing life. I cannot and do not always separate the two lives. Writing is hobby; writing is profession. Journals allow me to treat it as the former; time allows me the latter.

I haven’t tossed these journals yet. I’ve made yet another “stack” in my office. It’s not exactly a TBR stack. It’s the old-journal stack.
We’ll see if these work themselves back to the mudroom one day. Or, become part of a work-in-progress.

Word: Love your journals. They are little books in constant progress.

Book Recommendation: It’s a fabulous book on “journaling” to recommend. OK, I don’t know that it’s fabulous. I hope it will be. I haven’t even cracked it open yet. It’s on my nightstand, waiting for me to finish several books that I”m forcing myself to finish first. (Ah, but that’s fodder for another entry!)
Here’s the recommendatin:

mmmm….yummy, I love knowing it’s there. Given that, can it possibly disappoint?

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§ 27 Responses to Trash and treasure…

  • Ruth says:

    There is nothing quite as delicious as writing something on a journal page when inspiration hits. I tend to do my “journaling” on my blog, but writing out what inspires me is not the same as journaling, I suppose. I do have many unfinished journal books. My friend has different ones for different things, one for dreams (the night kind), one for quotes and ideas from books, etc.

    Loved this! And wow, you spent time in Vézelay! Wouldn’t it be grand to sit and chat for hours on end?

    • oh says:

      Ruth, what a good idea to have different journals for different things. I tend to “dump” it all in one book…And I am so glad you view it as a delicious! (I know there are many a raised eyebrow in regard to journaling, but honestly, it’s fun, a relief, and it’s exploring and…I could on.

      Yes, Vezelay. Would love to hear your impressions/experiences. As I write this, I can recall several events of the (only) day I spent there. And in the sunlight, as we were leaving, the cathedral had a pink hue.

      No kidding, we should plan a get-together. Choose a city and several of us show up for a weekend. No, really. We’ve kicked the idea around….need to kick it along further, methinks!

  • I did journal one year of my writing life. Recording what I had written each day and the difficulties and successes I encountered was an amazing exercise that created a daily writing schedule that I haven’t veered from since the journal was filled and slipped into a drawer. Now I only journal when I go on a trip. I still have every journal including the first one I ever wrote – a trip through Nevada – over to California and down to Mexico when I was a teenager. Written in a red Hilroy exercise book. In a way, I wish I’d kept a journal of the day to day. But then, like you, I couldn’t part with them. So instead I blog which might not be any better just sleeker storage.

    • oh says:

      Ryshia, A journal of your writing life! excellent. Hmmmm….I believe you have inspired something here!
      And yes, the blog fulfills in a way, as well. But I just don’t get here every day. Pen and paper will always be more portable….I think!
      Thanks for mentioning that you keep your journals, too.

  • mandy says:

    I love writing in my journals. They are incredibly important to me and I have boxes in the basement filled with past writings. I don’t go back into them too often though, sometimes things in the past are better left there. I do know that some of them are half filled though, cast off in favor of a new diary. I’m almost at that point in my current journal, I’m just sort of ready for a new beginning I suppose.

    • oh says:

      Mandy – what an excellent way to view it – starting a new journal (whether old ones are filled or not) is a new beginning! I love this idea.
      And it gives permission to begin a new one as well, as the Fall season kicks in.

      Hope your writing is going great!

  • Jeannine says:

    Wonderful to find them – a little archive of a time in your life! Sometimes, I start cleaning out my email ‘deleted’ items folder and get distracted by events from 6 months ago. Imagine stuff from 16 years ago!

    • oh says:

      I think it’s a “fall thing” with me. I want to clean, sort and organize.
      And maybe it’s because I couldn’t find a flashlight yesterday when I needed it although there are at least four of them in the house?

      Anyway, what is far more fun, is that my “cleaning” has begun in terms of my writing stuff first! And I just found a pile of “new” journals – untouched that I had stashed in a file drawer! yay!

  • seachanges says:

    Do keep the trashy treasures! Too many times in this life of mine have I thrown out books and notebooks because I moved house, country and sometimes even continents. Really, I had no choice I felt… How I regretted it later. So much better to have mudrooms, don’t get rid of them!

    • oh says:

      Dear Sea,
      Thanks. You’re right. Moves always mean paring down. We had done plenty of that prior to our move to the Midwest. All I need to do is tidy up some shelves and voila- there’s room.

      Why are there never enough bookshelves in a household?

  • Becca says:

    I’ve been on a binge getting rid of things, but I don’t think I could bear to toss away old journals! I keep mine all in the drawer of an antique chest of drawers in our basement. They’re a sporadic account of my life in general over the past 35 years. Probably no one will ever care, but I still do (at this point, anyway!)

    • oh says:

      Becca – Excellent. A partner in crime, er, stashing journals that is! And how lovely that sounds, to stash them in an antique chest of drawers.
      I believe you have given me permission, yes indeed, to go poking around in the antique/consignment shops for a “journal” chest!
      Hmmm…actually, that sounds like fun.
      Happy writing!

  • Arti says:

    Your journals are your treasures! I have many unfilled journals, and many attempts to fill them. I have a journal for movies, some for books, some for quotes…. etc. etc. Years ago I’ve even taken a course on spirituality and journalling with the poet Luci Shaw. And in recent years, I’ve dwelled into creating ‘visual journals’. So, despite the technological and digital revolution, I’m still quite a pen and pencil, paper and craft person… and still loving the activity … hobby or otherwise.

    On another note … Hotel Pastis is a good prep for my trip. It’s close by the Provence area I visited… I’ve got one post up already, starting with London, and will move on to the other cryptic clues in the upcoming days. 🙂

    • oh says:

      Arti – here’s to pen and paper. and hotels that stock in the desk drawers, along with postcards. And stores that carry decent stationery.
      Must now go check out your posts and see where you are and what you’re up to! Ah, Provence – land of lavender and love!

  • shoreacres says:

    Oh, my. Sometimes I feel like a very strange creature, indeed. I haven’t a journal to my name.

    Now, true – I have notebooks I tote around with me, mostly of the Walgreen’s three-part variety, in which I jot down passing thoughts, those titles, etc. But to record on a daily basis, or even now and then? It would take needed time away from my blog, and I’m truly devoted to that.

    On the other hand, I’m approaching a little blogging milestone in terms of page views, and it’s made me reflective. I’ve gone back and read posts from two years ago, up to the present, and I suspect the pleasure is precisely the same as the pleasure journal-keepers draw from dipping into their writings.

    It’s a journey we’re on, no matter how it’s recorded.

  • Becs says:

    I have a shelf of boxes down in the basement. They are all neatly numbered with the range of years the books span. I know I have some that go back over thirty years. Most of them are filled with whining. Or more painful yet, declarations of the many ways I loved and cherished my ex-husband.

    And I still keep writing, three pages or so a day, every day. I think I do it partly because I have no one to tell my daily woes. I’m sure it makes for boring reading.

    However, I have learned that I’m at my funniest when I’m at my most desperate.

    • oh says:

      Becs – you’ve always been a writer. a real writer. Doesn’t matter what the tale is. So I’m glad you’re still doing it every day.

  • ds says:

    Yes, there are bunches of “little books in constant progress” (love that!) dumped in a drawer & a couple more in use, as different thoughts call for different places. They’re calling now…you’ve invoked them!
    Thanks!

    • oh says:

      go, DS, go! write away! (has writing in books, big or little, always had such appeal to individuals? I suspect so.)
      We just found one of my grandmother’s diaries.
      She tore out a lot of pages in the middle.
      My Mom and I are flummoxed.
      hmmm….? intrigued, we are sorting through boxes in case there are more…of the diaries!

  • What a great pile of journals, I stress so badly when I start a new journal. It is such a huge, huge thing, putting that first mark on that 1st page.

  • Carrie says:

    Don’t throw them away!!! Even when you want to, don’t. Just wait. They’re one of the few things I think are worth hanging onto, even if it’s sitting in a box taking up space. I’ve been known to throw out old photo albums before I will rid of journals.

    And keep up the journal – hobby writing – to keep the professional writing fresh.

    Great post!

    • oh says:

      Carrie – indeed I appreciate your comment! OK, I’m leaving the journals in the box and have just found two more to add to it. And I think you’re onto something there – thowing out an old photo album is NOT a bad idea, especially given the stuff I put into the albums in the days of “film” and well, lack of editing. Five pictures, each slightly different, of baby on someone’s lap. Hmmm…Maybe I should go after my photo files next!

  • jeanie says:

    Once upon a time, a girl named Jeanie decided to keep a journal. Sometimes it was very boring, sometimes rather overblown (more often overblown adaptations of very boring stuff). There are pages of tear-stained entries, angry capital letters, over the top mushy slop I find it hard to own up to.

    She put them in a box in her basement, planning — someday — to discard them, preferably by burning or by SOME method that would leave no trace of its owner.

    Then there was a flood. Actually, a storm sewer back-up in the basement. The cardboard box on the floor got drenched, the journals within now had pages stuck together and ink was smeared. She threw them away.

    Most of them. A few were salvagable — and she looked at them. And became horribly embarrassed of her terrible writing, her overly dramatic turn of phrase and severe emotional instability. She tossed those, too.

    But there were a couple that brought up good things — like the time she was evicted from her apartment (because of an illegal cat) and looked at a duplex down the street — owned by the fellow she would one day spend 14 years with –so far. And other equally good bits.

    Journals. A mixed bag. Maybe I should just rip out the unembarrassing pages…?

  • Bree says:

    At least your journals have writing in them. I have a horrible habit of purchasing journals because they are pretty or cool looking and then putting them on the shelf to gaze at. Like they are art. But I have forgiven myself of this habit and just let it be. There are worse things I could spend that $1 or $2 on.

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