Saturday, November 26, 2011

What's Important?

This venture, considering alternatives for the future, is taking me down some interesting pathways. I am, as I initially intended, revisiting old journals to see what I may have forgotten, what original dreams I have given up on, what themes or patterns of thinking could open up new possibilities.

But I am also journaling now in some ways I haven't before, an alternative in itself.  This new "special journal", for example, simply asking myself at the end of the day, "What's the most important thing that happened today?" Heaven knows, I've filled pages on what I haven't liked about a day. But what's important? And why it's important?

Some days nothing seems to have been important. Some days, two or three things seem to be and deciding which is most important proves to be the most valuable aspect of this little exercise. Case in point...our tradition of listing, on Thanksgiving Day, what we are grateful for over the past year. Taking turns, usually while we are driving somewhere. Started on a whim. A ten year tradition now.

Reflected that night - was it important that we continued the tradition? Or that the list was so long? Or that we agreed so often? Or that he seemed to enjoy doing so - in the past, I think he just humored me. Ultimately, I decided that what is most important to me is that I have a partner who is willing to create tradition with me and still healthy enough to do so. Talk about grateful! 

Don't know yet if I'll continue this practice, or whether it will lead me in new directions, but for now it seems - well, important.

Monday, November 14, 2011

So Many Books, So Little Time

Recently, I came across one of my "special" journals, a journal devoted to one topic. Like the one I kept after my divorce when I was so angry with virtually every man I had ever known.  Got to find that and burn it!

This volume contains brief reviews of the books I read one year. Mostly was a stressful year and mysteries have always offered a respite from the stresses of life. Somewhere there's a journal with reviews of Steinbeck, Maughm, and Hemingway. I also tend to read by author.

Rereading these reviews has brought back some pleasant memories. But more important, I can see how much my tastes have changed and grown. Mysteries still beckon me - Donna Leon, Louise Penny, Andrea Camillieri read this past summer. On my Kindle, however, Wendell Berry, a book of essays, a National Book Award winner, and on my bedstand, David McCullough and a book of haiku.  Not bad for someone who didn't read a novel until high school.

Haven't kept up recording book reviews.  Maybe if I did, I wouldn't be finding duplicates.

Looking forward to finding other special journals, particularly my old gratitude journals, to seeing if there are patterns, threads that run through the fabric of my life.  Seeing if something I wrote years ago may still be on a list recently
compiled. Because this is a practice I have maintained, every night now for over 30 years.

As I'm typing this in the evening, seems appropriate to end with today's gratitude list...on this day I am grateful for -

  • the spontaneous movie matinee with my husband
  • roses from our new rose garden - in November, no less!
  • a warm afghan and a cup of tea on a chilly afternoon
  • the call from my brother to recommend yet another book I "have to read"
  • and being able to 

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Ghosts of Halloweens Past

 Well, am starting with the premise that looking back, reflecting on my past by visiting my stash of old journals, will help me consider my future more creatively. Thankfully I’ve already had some evidence that this will prove to be valid and a worthy use of my time.

It’s always fascinated me how memories surface, like pop up pictures in a children’s book. Sometimes I can recognize the trigger, but most frequently not. To be actively seeking them feels a bit like therapy.  

But this week I was visited by the Ghosts of Halloweens Past and I was encouraged that this will be a fun project, indeed.  I was writing in my current journal using the stream of consciousness approach to get me going on a particularly sluggish morning, spinning off a porcelain pumpkin in my den. Suddenly, the ghosts appeared.  Halloweens as a youngster, pre-store bought costumes, dressed as a pirate or hobo, traveling with a small band of neighborhood friends, invited into homes where we had to sing a song or tell a story or recite a poem to get a treat, usually a homemade cookie. Much simpler times.

Flash forward to Halloweens as a teacher. The 70’s, an open space, team teaching elementary school, my fondest memories of teaching. Curriculum freedom, creative license, experimentation. And no time more creative than Halloween, the true kids’ holiday. Our fourth, fifth and sixth grade students created their teachers’ costumes.  As I wrote, I laughed out loud remembering myself as Al Capone, a basketball player (all 4’11” of me), and a trash can – complete with an authentic lid for a hat! And the glee of the kids, the peals of laughter, the affection.

Then, Caspar appeared and presented my favorite Halloween memory.  Nine years ago, while I was exhausted from bouts of chemo, needing something to cheer me up, John set out to create a memorable evening. Armed with bowls of candy, he patiently waited by the front door. As groups of youngsters approached, he delivered a ghoulish laugh through our intercom system  and took unusual delight as the kids (and some of their parents) were stopped in their tracks. I don’t know who had more fun – I suspect it was John, with me a close second.

And that was the last special Halloween. No longer teaching, no children of our own, recent years of living in an age specific gated community, we have lost touch with the fun that Halloween can offer. So, although this is instigated by current journal writing and the future is only a week away, these warm memories have definitely spurred a flurry of creativity in our household.  I guess I’m still a kid at heart, because I can hardly wait.

“Memory is a wonderful gift.  With it, the past is never the past.”    - Hercule Poirot
                                                                                                  Cards on the Table