Journaling On a Picnic (Story Time #4)

Some of my most memorable journaling from childhood was on a picnic. I would not journal while on a picnic with other people; it was often a solo venture to the backyard.

Whether it was after school or a random summer day, I would grab a book, a journal, a ball point pen, a blanket, and (depending on the season) cherry tomatoes from the garden or apples slices in vinegar, and sit in the backyard reading and writing.

I would write about school, the family, or what I dreamed of doing some day. I would attempt poetry and know it was terrible. Then I would switch to reading the book of the moment and wonder when I would write as well as this author.

An introvert, I needed time alone after spending all day around people at school, or after playing with friends on a Saturday. Those times with other people were fine, but one was always in that space having to answer questions, having to be social, having to perform.

Yet, here in the out-of-doors, I performed for no one but myself. (Well, maybe for the birds who sometimes wanted a morsel or two.) Despite my frustration at the quality of the writing, it was satisfying to try to improve. Being in a space of writing for the fun of it, not feeling that one must be onstage at all times was a privilege and a necessity that I did not fully recognize at the time.

On the blanket, the wind would whip around me and blow my pages around, insisting that I shut the book and pay attention to nature. I would comply.

Through the years, the need of the journal on a picnic increased. It is a simple, safe space in a complex world. As you age, society requires you to step outside, not for the solace of the birds, nor to feel the wind, but to perform onstage to ever increasing audiences as the marker of your value in your industry.

However, my journal (7 inches by 9 inches) on a twin size blanket, performing for my own pleasure is the greatest stage I ever want to play.



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Journaling After a Flood Evacuation (Story Time #3)

Story time.

A flood was set to hit the house in a few days. The river was about to overflow its banks, which it had not done in about a century.

We were privileged to get away in time, putting most of our belongings in storage. We were privileged to have a place to stay on higher ground. Still, we longed to be normal again.

Once we settled into our temporary space (It would take over a year to rebuild.), the journal came out of my purse.

It was time.

As I wrote about the flood, and the stress, and the gratitude that we were all safe, the topics might have been different than usual, but the act of journaling felt like putting on an old, familiar coat.

Our couch may have been in storage, but I still had the cozy comfort of the pages of my personal book. It was familiar. It was tactile. It was -if one can confess it- a thing one absent-mindedly hugs.

In reading the journals later, I noticed that I had given myself notes about how I felt (e.g. I would rather have my foam mattress than an air mattress, since the latter deflates with constant use.) and what to do to feel comfortable if a flood happens again.

The threat of another flood would occur four years later. We were better prepared this time, including prepared in the knowledge of what makes us less stressed in these difficulties.

After an evacuation, a journal is not a cure-all. However, when one has time to reflect, trotting out the old habit of journaling can bring a sense of normalcy and might even help you in the future.

I wish you peace.


On Journaling: Use What You Have (Story Time #2)

Sometimes a person has been fed the lie that a narrow set of features equates to the perfect or proper journal. Depending on where you live or how you were brought up, that could mean that you do not feel that you are journal writing properly until it is a leather bound volume, or until you are writing with a restored fountain pen from 1932.

Although these features can feel great to some, understand that the right journal is the one that suits your purpose. Sometimes the right journal is the one that you have right now.

Taking a look at the first journal that I still possess, it is not what would be considered a proper journal in the circles in which I swam as a child. The journal, or diary as I called it, came from a kiddie casino named for a clothed rat mascot called Chuck E. Cheese. The place offered arcade games with prizes. Apparently, I had won a palm sized notebook featuring on the cover a cartoon character from the line of Chuck’s friends – an anthropomorphic hound named Jasper.

Above the character’s head is his name. My 8-year-old self drew a line or two through that word and scrawled the word “Diary” under it. My first bound personal book was born.

In writing the word “Diary,” in repurposing the bound pages, a life-long habit – which had already begun on scraps of paper long since lost- was solidified.

The point is to start where you are with what you have. Figure out your preferences as you go along, when you can, but start with what you have for right now.



Book Store Serendipity (Story Time #1)


Enjoy the journey of finding the proper journal for your needs. I currently use a certain brand that has worked for the needs of my main journal for the last few years. I do not anticipate moving on from them.

However, in earlier days, I would randomly search the shelves of a book store or two for a new diary. I still do, from time to time, to see what is available.

I recall once spotting a journal on the shelves of an independent bookstore during my university days. It had a magnetic closure. 7 inches by 9 inches – just wide enough for my hand to fit inside and rest on the pages as I would write. It sported pastel, horizontal stripes.

It had a name – Tribeca by Peter Pauper Press. The stripes were to mimic the awnings in New York City’s Tribeca area. How charming.

However, the stripes reminded me of a skirt that Pier Angeli wears in a photo shoot with Vic Damone in the 1950s. She wears a dark blue turtleneck, black belt, an a-line, tea length skirt with light blue, white, and black horizontal stripes. Old Hollywood reminds me of my childhood when we would watch such people play around on the screen at home and marvel at the talent.

Thus, every time that I would write in the Tribeca journal was a pleasure. To this day, long after I have filled its pages to the brim with thoughts and ramblings, I still smile when I see it in my collection.

There is something wonderful about the serendipity of finding a journal. Take a journey through a store and see the many different choices that await you. You might find one you like or inexplicably love.



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