Your days are short here; this is the last of your springs.
And now in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven. You will go away with old, good friends.
And don’t forget when you leave why you came.
—Adlai E. Stevenson
A few people I know are journalling. Beginners at journalling they ask me for advice on what to write. I smile because it sounds so sweet, as if they need my permission to put their thoughts on paper. I tell them if I were to live in their house and watch them go through the day I’d be taking mental notes. By nightfall I’d probably come up with some observations they may have not even noted themselves.
Case in point:
This homemaker cannot begin her morning without a coffee cup in her hand. She sings in the shower, her shirt is neatly ironed, her pants match perfectly with said shirt. When the phone rings she rolls her eyes but is polite and charming until she hangs up and shakes her head as if to clear out the cobwebs of interruption to make way for the duties of her day. Her kids make a fuss over breakfast. She whisks away their comments as if shooing a fly. Her mind is set on accomplishing her task list: Shampoo the carpets, sweep the kitchen floor, get the cat to the vet. Start the roast. Pay bills.
I’d probably write snippets of conversations she had along the course of her day; in the waiting room, at the post office, over the dinner table when one of the kids cracks a joke or asks for help with his algebra. I’d jot down the look on the littlest one’s face when she tells him not to bother with that mean kid who made fun of his cowlick. And how she turned back and tussled his hair and gave him a cookie and a hug before he ran outside to play.
I know I’d record the smell of the carpets as they dried, the chase through the house for the furry creature who didn’t want to go for a ride in the car, the melt-in-your-mouth beef with gravy and onions the family gobbled up with mashed potatoes creamed with real butter and a dash of garlic salt. Biscuits coming out the oven softly browned like her momma used to do, fresh-picked tomatoes from the backyard.
This much I know for sure, if the industrious homemaker took a look at all I’d written for that one run-of-the-mill day, she’d smile at herself. And then she’d move on because she knows she’ll never write all of that down, not because she’s not a writer but because she isn’t looking at it through a reader’s eyes. Her someday eyes. She’s only got today and today is too busy for writing sentences. No, day’s notes will be in pencil, and will look more like this:
Cat sick. Mabel calls. Tomatoes ripe.
And I’m serious.
So what do I tell the new journallers? I tell them the truth. Write what you want. You can never go wrong if you follow your heart but please write something. Record this day. Do it for you. Do it for someone else down the line. Do it because you bought the journal and it’s aching for someone to give it permanence. Do it because someday someone who never got a chance to meet you will want to know what your life was like. Do it because one day I found a photo of my grandmother who died when I was nine days old and longed to know more about her life.
So if for no other reason, I say while I pat their hand and give them a brand new pen to use because pencil fades and we want these words to last a long time—Do it for me!