Sunday, November 18, 2012

a low form of creation

Lately I have been reading May Sarton’s journals. In Recovering she writes:
But I find the journal suspect because it is almost too easy. It is a low form of creation.
Sarton was a poet and novelist, but it is her journals that pull me in. When I moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from Chicago a little over eight years ago, making the move unexpectedly alone, I read Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude and Plant Dreaming Deep. There was resonance.

My journal began at age 15, when I wrote by hand in flimsy wire-bound notebooks, much as I do now. Over the years there have been dry spells, but also there are many notebooks, sketchbooks, “blank page” books, yellow legal pads, reams of typewritten pages and pages printed from a computer filled with words and bodily fluids, liquor, caffeine, ashes, and fly guts. The only commonality is, these pages are for me and no one else, unless I decide to share, like I sometimes do, here with you, online. Sarton, on the other hand, wrote journals intended for publication. What I do is easier. I keep a journal for me, and it has served me well.

This past week I had occasion to dig out the stiff-backed Bienfang 8½-by-11-inch sketchbook journal that contains 100 sheets, wire bound. It is dated 10/12/2005 – 5/21/2006. A recent event had reminded me of a past event, and the more these events turned over in my mind, the more I wondered about the past event and if my memory was serving me well. I went to the journal to find out. It gave me what I needed and a little bit more. As I was turning over what to write today, these pages I found in the 2005-2006 journal sat quietly in my mind. They are three pages printed from a computer, dated November 18, 2002 through May 1, 2003, but taped to a page in the middle of January 2006. If I were looking for these pages, how would I ever find them, but by chance?
November 18, 2002
What to do? There is nothing for me to do here at work except be here, put in my time, so here I am. What else can I do but start to write?
And what I wrote about was my desire to be elsewhere, to be here in the U.P. rather than at my desk in my office at work in the city.
I just want to be there. With John. With Buster, Queenie, and Goldie. And some chickens.
I remember typing those words. It is, at once, a moment that is now and a moment that is past.

Today, a morning that is perfectly still. Clouds stretch like gauze over a broad, pale blue sky, some pulled tight and seamless, others bunched and rumpled. As the sun rises it illuminates a hovering haze. The world is full of dull colors, soft and mild. Buster and I have taken our morning walk to the river. Elliott, who spent the night outdoors, sleeps in what used to be my chair. I am making lip balm, heating oil and beeswax on the woodstove. I agree with Sarton: journal writing is a low form of creation. It is like a base, a foundation, from which other writing or creativity can grow. I often wonder where I would be without it.

{ May Sarton was born in 1912 and died in 1995. Plenty of info out there on the web and in books. Enjoy. Thanks for stopping by. }

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