Archive for the ‘journaling’ Category

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Once You’re Out Of The Business Of Daily Public Writing, It’s Hard To Remember How You Ever Did It. Or Why. Or Even If You Could Ever Do It Again Because Where Did That Time Come From And Where Does It Go Now?

March 11, 2012

The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium. • Norbet Platt

I miss my daily writer self—the one who blogged every day for an academic year, putting the words out there, good and bad, and moving on without regret or revisiting to correct, expand, or edit. What I wrote that year is a treasure trove from which I can draw gems to polish and use in further iterations of thought. There are plenty of clunkers too, but I’ve always been a treasure hunter, a woman of the “sharp eye,” the eye that my Grandpa Wilkins used to tell me to use during our weekly visits to the dump and to the Shantytown that surrounded it where his best friend Whitey lived. I found lots of useful trashy treasures there.

I have other blogs now and usually write once a week on at least one of them. I post occasional pairs of breast quotations and related thoughts. I just began dog8, a place where I’ll post alternative “homework” assignments. I have a blog devoted to autobibliographical musings and another that focuses on the use of quotations as inspiration. Insights into the various Collectorys that define my professional and artistic life can be found in my blogs and my posts. But what I miss is the regularity and inevitability of that daily public commitment. It’s different if I don’t have to do it.

If I don’t have to do it, I usually don’t post because nothing feels significant enough. Why bother? But as I reread my work from those months of dailies, I realize that significance sometimes arises from the seemingly insignificant. Thought is complicated and thinking my way into meaning often takes time. There are seeds planted in one post that reappear as delicate and tender shoots in another, get nurtured to sturdiness in still another, and blossom months later online or elsewhere in my life. Meaning is hard to make and significance accrues. Some people blog to see how many followers they can acquire. Although I know that this would be satisfying, I can’t bring myself to care. I write because I want to remember what I’m thinking, and while I entertain the fantasy that some of my words might mean something to someone else, my first audience is me: are my words true and meaning•full?

I toyed with the idea of making a new year’s resolution to post every day for an entire year. I know myself well enough not to engage in this foolish failure set-up. I do write every day, but I don’t write finished pieces daily. And I want to write poetry. And make art. And do research. And plan classes that will be fun and entertaining and significant. I want to put together the perfect outfit with seven varieties of leopard print or one that mixes and matches eleven different patterns in a fiesta of subtle and harmonious clashery. I want to find a place for the latest mask I found at the Goodwill. I want to read. I want to stay connected to countless people and things and places. And I want to take a walk. I want to take a walk to the Goodwill and look for more masks and leopard print and plaids and books and all the other realia that enchants me and makes me smile. And I want to sit and do nothing. And think. I really like to think and record my thoughts. That’s why you’ll see some of them here.

What words are true and meaningful for you? What thoughts do you record?

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all. • Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

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Save A Hard Copy Of Everything That Might Be Important To You. This Does Not Mean You Should Keep Everything, But Some Day You’ll Be Glad You Did Some Selective, Creative Savery.

March 10, 2012

And bring me a hard copy of the Internet so I can do some serious surfing • Scott Adams, Dilbert

During the latter part of the twentieth century (golly, that sounds self-important!), I taught in a high school dropout prevention program. I often recorded my students’ words so I would remember them. Years later, I’ve forgotten most of those words, but I can revisit them because I have that written record. Now that I teach teachers, I’m especially glad I saved so many things that help me be first person present in my high school teaching past. I’m also glad that I have hard copies of my related reflections. I am both amused and saddened when students tell me that they have electronic copies of materials and don’t need hard copies, dismissing my pleas to print and file. Today’s computer is tomorrow’s obsolete, toxic landfiller. And all those electronic files you saved on your Apple IIe? G-O-N-E!

I’m especially happy that I saved what follows here. When teachers are frustrated by their students’ behavior, it’s easy to forget that what we want them to do may matter very little in the bigger picture of their lives. Sometimes acknowledging those realities is a first step toward helping students engage in the kinds of empowering educational experiences that really do change lives, or at least change perceptions about possibilities. In the quotation/reflection that follows, students’ comments are in italics, interspersed with my own reflective thoughts:

Always the Same • Always Different

So I sit and listen and again I am overwhelmed by all I cannot do, a thousand problems that I cannot solve, the pain I can’t prevent, the angry lives unfolding opening sharing revealing more than I want to know because I’m only one and I’m carrying this invisible sack of worry and troubles of my own, the one that’s hidden from them behind my sunny smiles, the smiles they crave like candy or even some kind of drug, smiles withheld so often in so many places that when they get one, they cannot get enough.

And so I sit and listen and begin to understand that this always comes first. This dreadful torrent that pools in front around among us—each story adding to the waters that swirl with blended colors of our private agony. We stir the waters, salty with our tears, seeing each other with eyes washed clean. Every year the same. Every year different. Games and names and sharing our shallowest safest memories until we cross this bridge over our waters into another world. A place that’s real. Circled round, lounging on floor and couches, waiting for someone else to trust. Open. I’ve seen this many times, but I always wonder if. If the time will come when ones together become us, when we see the sameness underneath the difference, when what matters less is overwhelmed by what matters more. And so it begins.

My stepdad says I can’t go nowhere in the house. Just stay in the garage he says and if I want to be there I got to pay rent.

He stops.

There’s a freezer out there, but they got a big ole lock on it so I can’t get in. The only bathroom I got is in this trailer my grandma left in the yard, but it don’t work so I go in the yard at night if I have to and just cover it up.

He stops again. We wait. He doesn’t sa anything else. No one says anything. He’s hanging out there. Naked. Me? I want to jump in and say something. Offer something. But it’s not my tie. Another voice, so quiet we can hardly hear begins.

We sold our Levis yesterday. We were holding on to those, my mom and me. We like them a lot, but they wouldn’t give us anything for our Wranglers. My mom is gonna get a job pretty soon. Waitin’ for a call. I wrote a poem about being homeless. Wanna hear?

She pulls a piece of paper from her backpack—her new backpack—we can still do that much around here—supplies and backpacks and winter coats and PE clothes and bread and peanut butter and Ramen noodles and sometimes milk and even juice. She reads her words about doing homework by the glow of a cigarette lighter and dreaming of the better life she’ll have if she can only graduate.

And I wonder. What the hell am I doing? What am I promising? Acting as if this place we sit ifs the gateway to some promised land that offers all the things they’ve never had and maybe never will. We sit surrounded by pictures of their dreams and homes and happiness, cars and children, freedom to be to do to have to dream and have it all come true. I lose sight of why I’m here. What I can do. It gets lost in the sea of what I can’t. But still I, still we, listen.

I’m pregnant. Again. You’re gonna know soon enough so I might as well tell you. This time, it’s twins.

Period. We wait, but she just sits and glares. Folded arms and I know she’s just waiting for the word—any word—a wrong word—so she can up and bolt and leave this place and run to get the only piece of love that life has given her. Pick him up from daycare. Go to the park. Push him on the swing. Imagine that the life he’ll have is different form her own. Now this. And what’s it going to mean? We wait. Staring into space. Avoiding eye contact. Is it safe? Will it stay here? Will he be broken never to be fixed if we remove these masks, dismantle the facades, discover we are all in places we would never choose?

So I’m sleepy, you know. And you all poke me when I drift off and yell in my ear and I jump and you think it’s pretty funny, don’t you. Well, I’ll tell you this and you can see how funny you think it is. My dad left and he isn’t coming back and I’m working now ‘cause my mom’s two jobs just don’t cut it any more, not with five kids. I’m the oldest, man of the house now, my mom says. I work till four every morning and damn straight I’m tired. So leave me the hell alone, okay?

He slouches back and closes his eyes. We wait some more. And so it goes.

There are many spaces we inhabit that are filled with adolescent or adult angst and challenges, but often we don’t know our students or our friends or our colleagues or co-workers well enough to know what kinds of difficulties they may be grappling with. Sometimes we don’t even know these things about our families. As you go through your day, I hope you’ll take care of yourself, of course, but I also hope you’ll be charitable and kind, knowing that you don’t truly know what kind of burdens may be weighing down the others you encounter.

I also hope you’ll keep a hard copy of important information you may want to revisit some day!

What is it about today that you may want to remember tomorrow? How do you plan to do it?

I finished the paper, but the computer ate it. It’s gone. I have my notes, but nothing else. • Comments I’ve heard countless times during my teaching career, W-OZ

 

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The Lost Blogs of W-OZ

June 30, 2010

Don’t be too harsh to these poems until they’re typed. I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty: at least, if the things are bad then, they appear to be bad with conviction. • Dylan Thomas, letter to Vernon Watkins, March 1938

I write. If you know me, you know that no comments you make are safe because if you say something even mildly amusing I’m likely to record it on an ever-present 3×5 card. My family knows this is true. I remind them by quoting them, providing the date and other provenance for their bon mots. (Josh, remember when you told your dad and I that you didn’t want to work in a group with someone who thought Art Deco was a big band leader?)

I write. I write to comfort myself. I write to remind myself. I write to record things that I want to remember. I write to think. I write to create. I write to discover why. I write to save moments I don’t want to forget. I write because it is the only way I will be able to recall what it was like to be me, now, in this moment. I write to capture silliness like the Real Housewife of New Jersey who said of another that “she’s like parsley; she’s everywhere.” A real-life example of a simile is hard to come by and now I have one. Bravo, Bravo!

Writing is not my problem. Word processing is.

As an artist who works with pen and ink and scissors, I am keenly aware that I need to preserve my ability to use my fine motor skills, yet as a twenty-first century worker, I am also keenly aware that the demands on my hands have never been greater. My ability to record, to respond, to generate, to immerse myself in a sea of words of my own creation has never been greater. The temptations and possibilities and expectations of electronic communication overwhelm me.

I write. I write my blog with a Pilot BP-S fine point pen. Black ink. In a dollar store journal. You know the kind. The one with the old familiar black and white cover that provides two-hundred pages of lined paper to fill. Sometimes I write directly on the keyboard that leads to the screen, but before I can, I have to generate the ideas and the blank screen seldom inspires my creativity. Blank pages do.

I have tried dictating my thoughts, but I’m not an oral/aural writer. I need to see what I am thinking. And I need to capture it quickly before another thought overtakes it. There’s something about the connection between my brain and my hand that works differently than when I try to use voice recognition software to record what I want to say. When I try to speak my thoughts without writing them down, I am quickly lost in not-remembering.

And so, I write. And someday soon they’ll appear, The Lost Blogs of W-OZ. The missing days of band names and travel thoughts and written ramblings about this and thatery that I’ve been writing, but not recording here in the certainty and seriousness of type.

What is your writing process? What are your writing challenges?

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. • Vita Sackville-West

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If Words Are Evidence, You Should Be A Detective.* Remembering The Holidays In Southern California, December 1995

June 24, 2010

For Friday, June 17, 2010

Words are only postage stamps delivering the object for you to unwrap. • George Bernard Shaw (apropos because what I just found in the back of my journal was a variety of fifteen-year-old musings, long forgotten)

Of course, I saw relatives during a holiday visit almost fifteen years ago. Just about every relative or in-law I have lives in SoCal. But I don’t spend much time writing about family relationships. Perhaps I should, but I like viewing these connections through a lens smeared with the Vaseline® of forgetfulness.

Someone was probably grumpy. Someone else probably said something hurtful to somebody that s/he’d like to take back, but it’s too late because you can’t put the peel back on a banana unless you’re stuffing it with chocolate chips and marshmallows so you can wrap it in tinfoil and roast it over a fire. I had fun. I was ready for the solitude of home. The imagined home of nostalgic reminiscence is not the same as the home you create for yourself. The media-induced wonder of familial delight can be elusive.

That’s not the stuff I saved all these years ago and recently found in the back of the journal I used while traveling to Washington, D.C. It’s not just band names I collect. I am fond of signs, forever imagining the creative inspiration that led to a business name:

Lady Mina Skin Care & Electrolysis
The Hall of Frame
The House of Madame JoJo
Gaga Coffee House
Betty Arms Apartments (Oh, Betty, what are you doing without your arms?
Wine Mess Liquors
Inn Kahoots
Clear H2O Cafe
Poly Plaza
Kitty & Doggy Dunk
Anastasia’s Asylum (a restaurant, not an S&M attraction)
Bamboo Pizza Coffee Shop
Morry’s of Naples—“Your Party Store”
Doo Wash Café, Laundromat, Cleaners, Restaurant
Rushing Mighty Wind Christian Assembly
Hair Explosion Salon
The Grateful Head Salon
To the Maxx Hair Salon
Hair-Um (Have you noticed how many puns are used in hair establishment naming? They seem to be a Mane Attraction when naming Clip Joints.)
Jungle Video
Prayateria
Orchid Bowl, Home of the Galleon Room
Geoffreys of Malibu (a restaurant)
Mrs. Steve’s Donuts, Chinese Fast Food, Ice Cream
Comida China at Patty’s Chinese Express (the melding of cultures in SoCal is always interesting and I am also reminded that Via Verde is way more swanky-sounding than Green Street)
Vinyl Horse Fencing (Hmmm, I have several vinyl horses and they stay in place whether I fence them or not.)
Here’s one I want to answer the phone for: The Macadero Apartments in Atascadero. I would want to be wearing a bolero while doing so, perhaps a sombrero as well.
Chateau Lisa Apartments (Betty Arms? Chateau Lisa? Come on, folks, I know you love your names, but Bobby Avenue and Frank’s Bank and their ilk lack a certain je ne sais quoi.)
Haus of Pizza
Bobby Ray’s 24 Hour Restaurant
Hedda & Kranky’s Ice Cream
The Egyptian Pharmacy
Creative Cakery

And, of course, there are many communities like the Diamond Grove—A Gated Community for Active Adults. Do the gates keep people in or out?

I also enjoyed the compelling endorsement on a Saturn billboard, a family group who assert, “We’ll probably buy another one.”

Target announces that it’s having a “Re-Grand Opening.” What does this mean? And how grand will it actually be?

And finally, signs remind me that we can rely on advertising when we have difficulty formulating a philosophy of our own: Sauza comforts us with the reminder that “life is harsh” and that our “tequila shouldn’t be.” And then there are the friendly folks at Long Beach Cellular who provide this piece of advice: “To stay on top you got to stay in touch.” Bless their hearts. It’s too late to correct them now, although I definitely prefer my philosophical statements to be grammatically correct.

What’s your favorite sign?

“On the eighth green of Los Coyotes Country Club Golf Course is a six-year-old custom home being offered by McGarvey-Clark Realty. . .two ten-gallon salt water aquariums introduce a living room accented by a marble fireplace.” This December 23, 1995, clip from the Santa Ana Register reminds all of us that copywriters are human. I imagine as I read it that as potential buyers enter the foyer, the fish speak: “Hi, we’re the fish and this here’s the living room. Sushi, anyone?”

• This quotation is on a junior high school reader board, but by the time I’ve written it down, the school is gone and I don’t know its name.

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Medicine For The Soul* And A Prescription For Happiness

June 10, 2010

For Monday, June 7, 2010 (I have been unable to access my blog for posting for several days, so I’ve been writing, but not posting and hoping for better luck.)

People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading. • Logan Pearsall Smith, Trivia, 1917

I’m shopping with my grandsons and they want books. I do too, although I hesitate because I know I’ll have to schlep them across the country. I’ve done this before, seeding the volumes among my clothes, weighing my suitcases down until I can scarcely lift them. I always promise myself I won’t do it again, but I break this promise every time I leave home. Books are the addiction I cannot resist. They delight, comfort, inspire, and inform me daily.

I pass up many enticing volumes, making lists in the notebook I carry everywhere (remember my hunt for cargo pants with pockets?). I see them in bookstores and in the Smithsonian’s gift shops. I read about them in the newspaper: John Horgan’s Bookshelf column (p. A17) in the June 4, 2010, Wall Street Journal is devoted to a discussion of Nicholas Carr’s (2010) The Shallows. This book will be one of my first purchases when I return home. I won’t be able to wait for the paperback and I know I’ll want my own copy to write in as I continue to collect inspiration for The techNObots, an artmaking project that focuses on the human costs of technology.

Digression: I know it’s not advisable to write in books that belong to schools or libraries or other people, but I love to converse with books. I date my comments and can see the progression and origins of my thoughts over time as I reread and continue to reference my favorites. This form of journaling is relatively painless since it doesn’t require thinking up something to write about nor does it require finding something in which to capture your thoughts. Inspiration and margins are right there.

Horgan reports that Carr’s book explores what the internet is doing to our brains, quoting from the book: “When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.” I’m in a motel with unreliable internet connectivity, so slow that many of the systems I’m working with time out before I can complete my work and I am unable to whiz around cyberspace in ways I’ve become used to.

This is frustrating since I feel beset by expectations that I’ll be able to work anywhere, anytime. It’s also freeing now that I’ve gotten my grades in and I’ve read students’ final essays posted online. I’m not going to worry about connecting while I’m out of town. If I’m able, I’ll post. If I’m able, I’ll check my email. But I won’t be spending hours trying to do what should theoretically take minutes. If I do, I’ll be spending all my time off in the frustrating quest for connection instead of exploring the historic city I’m in, thinking about what I’m presenting, and processing what I’ve heard from other presentations.

I’ll also have more time to look for books.

What kinds of books do you find it hard to resist?

Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one. • Augustine Birrell, Obiter Dicta, “Book Buying”

* Inscription over the door of the Library at Thebes

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The Train Is Moving Fast, But My Mind Isn’t Keeping Up

June 3, 2010

For Thursday, June 3, 2010

A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours. • John B. Priestly

I laughed when Steve Carell, the boobish boss on The Office said recently, “I don’t know what to do. My mind is going a mile an hour.” That was probably fast for Michael Scott, Carell’s character, who often thinks he’s thinking when he’s really just stirring up big clouds of mental obfuscation.

I thought about his words on the train. I brought along, as I always do everywhere I go, a bag of work. I seldom leave home without it. Work. But everything I bring isn’t really work. There are always books to be read—trash, of course, and this time, even a bit of treasure I don’t mind carrying thousands of miles back and forth across the country. There are projects I want to think about. There is art to be made. Poetry to be written. It comforts me to imagine that I might be able to bitpiece these things into my time.

These other pursuits sometimes crowd out the work that has to be done, stretching deadlines to their limit, but once again on the train, I find myself content doing nothing. Time on the train is strange.

It seems as though there is lots of it. I’m riding for days, one coast to the other. During workdays at home, I get plenty done. But on the train, the days move quickly by as I procrastinate, putting off what needs to be done in the luxury of lots of time in which to do it. Molasses minutes slide by and I look out the window. The hours accumulate and nothing much happens.

I can’t explain why I don’t feel motivated to do anything because I don’t understand these suspended moments. I am comforted by having something to do if I want to do it, but I don’t feel compelled to actually do anything. My mind is going less than a mile an hour. It’s scarcely moving at all. And it feels pretty darned good.

How and when and why do you do nothing?

All of us, from time to time, need a plunge into freedom and novelty, after which routine and discipline will seem delightful by contrast. • Andre Maurois (one can only hope)


A hobby is only fun if you do not have time to do it. • Leo Beenhakker

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No, Doug! Not The Trapeze Again!!!!!!!! And Other Stuff Heard On A Motel Television. Tales From A Procrastinator’s Diary: What I Do When I Don’t Want To Do What I’m Supposed To Be Doing And Decide To Do Something Else Instead.

May 24, 2010

Look for the ridiculous in everything and you will find it.
• Jules Renard

You already know that I am making a serious study of the art of procrastination. Sometimes procrastinatory acts are themselves the beginnings of something artful. The following found poem captures a moment in time during the evening of August 16, 2004, from a motel in North Bend, Oregon, where, I am sure, I should have been doing something much more productive like grading papers or planning interesting and engaging classroom activities.

Instead, I was channel surfing and writing down the first sentence I heard on each channel as I tried to get up the energy after a long day of teaching to do what needed to be done. I’m sure this rejuvenation strategy worked since I finished all my work too. This material is from pages of an old journal I recently found and wrote about several days ago.

Perhaps this is not yet riveting, but perhaps it could be, or perhaps, as Aldous Huxley said, “It was one of those evenings when men [and women] feel that truth, goodness and beauty are one. In the morning, when they commit their discovery to paper, when others read it written there, it looks wholly ridiculous.”

No, Doug! Not The Trapeze Again!!!!!!!!!
A Found Poem Recorded by W•OZ, August 16, 2004, North Bend, Oregon, motel television

The older you get the harder it is to cope with things.
Man, you’re the best!
No, Doug! Not the trapeze again!!!!!!!!!
Not sleeping well at night?
There’s a good possibility the bed is part of the problem.
The company said it wasn’t my fault. It was Nash.
Nasty hardwater buildup. No match for LimeAway.
And you thought the Olympics were exciting.
That’s an awkward combination.
I sure miss you, Ed.
At least I can still listen to your voice.
Nobody sang “Pretty Little Filly” like you did.
When the bachelors catch the scent of a young female in heat.
In spite of the low expectations CBS executives ordered twelve additional episodes.
All right, you kids, want short string paddle toys? I got ‘em right here.
Big giant guy; struggle and sweat.
Get rid of the odors.
Make money your first day.
Now that’s what I call magic.
Turning a plain old backyard into a big symphony orchestra.
Completely different!
You feel good?
They make’ em with all white meat chicken and it comes with its own sauce for dunking.
Order now.
Hundreds of northwest residents flee their homes.
You give me a kiss—you get a show.
I make sure it’s conditioned with Old English.
This is my new game table. I’m introducing it to the world.
The missing man is a diver named Randy Fry.
When you’re in a canoe and they want you to paddle, you’ve got to make nice easy strokes.
I wear the sable for the weekend.
I’ll say this for Harry Jeckle: he doesn’t mind paying for top class work.

Albert Camus said that “all great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning,” noting that “great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant’s revolving door.” I am a collector of many kinds of oddservations. You never know where an idea will come from or what you might be able to do with the initially ridiculous.

What have you oddserved lately? What might you do with your oddservation?

The intelligent man [or woman] finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man [or woman] hardly anything.• Johann Wolfgang von Goethe