Friday, December 18, 2009

deux fois cent

“I take a long look
A long look
It's a hard climb that takes a long time
I can see where I'm going
And some places I've been
I take a long, long look”

~ Sandi Patty, Long Look, from Le Voyage.

Today's entry to this blog is my 200th, and thus an occasion to consider the draw of writing to record thoughts. The world and ways of words and wonder comprise my movable feast. When I think of this verbal vocation, it is with gratitude for what has become a means for continuing discovery. When I was a printmaker, the work was inextricable from the need for printing presses. In my first career, photography, there had to be studio and darkroom space- not to mention the plethora of tools, papers, films, enlargers, chemicals, and hosts of hardware for both film exposure and for printing. By contrast, written observation requires almost nothing. A pencil or pen is applied to paper as footsteps reaching a new meadow. Pages rolling through the typewriter map my city streets, coasts, and country roads.

Materials and tools are to be animated in their application. My photo gear continues with me as part of my bookbinding equipment- and as means to accompany written thoughts. Those utensils which respond to the stirrings of the creative spirit are at the ready. Just downstairs from where I note these words- at the Boston Athenaeum- is a collection of Benjamin Franklin's books. Of these, my favorites are his volumes of Diderot's Encyclopedia. They are as Franklin had left them- with bookmarks, folds, and marginal notes. Well-used tools of the craftsman.

Indeed, my gratitude for the writing impulse has been expressed before. Now, the purpose beyond the craft itself deserves its due. When journaling became very important to me, increasingly more of my time was set aside for this. I remember hearing myself say to my friends that I wanted to write through my culled ideas and hopes. I described the process as "doing the long division," rather than to simply calculate for instant answers. My elementary math teachers required that we "show the work," demonstrating how results were reached. By giving place to thoughts, otherwise voiceless words are distinguished- even if humbly so. Expressing the inner life by configurations of letters and images becomes a pursuit within the grander voyage.

Navigating days and distances as a writer has revealed some unexpected liberties. Regarding content, form follows sincerity- and the idea of "poetic licence" is an encouragement to explore forms of expression. The liberties I refer to here are related to the freedoms opened up by writing. When I traveled as a photographer, my purposes and intentions were often questioned. Traveling as a writer- albeit a journaling scribbler- prompts gracious and courteous treatments in public venues, inns ("this'll be a fine room for you to write in"), restaurants, on flights, and in museums. (Aren't museums places for musing?) Penciling words into notebooks permits me to freely move about the aisles of this world. In addition, that idea-scribing penchant has bailed me through banal meetings in the past, dull events, and aimless lectures. More importantly, creative projects provide constructive ventures other than employment travails and perfunctory obligations.

In several days’ time, the next essay will begin taking shape. At this moment the topics are as yet unknown to me. But there will be something, as surely as there will follow another day of journaling- through my coffee breaks and lunch hour. For me, it is a privilege, and never a tiresome task. In a discourse about her love of gleaning through jotted ideas, Elizabeth Berg wrote:

“Nothing matches this feeling. Nothing brings me this particular kind of joy. And I need it. I crave it. When I don’t have it, I suffer. I feel like a drug addict with an exceptionally wise drug of choice.”

The need to continue writing is equivalent to the necessity of perseverance. In a world replete with instability and static, the critical need to keep balanced and finely-tuned is all the more urgent. The word vocatio translates as a summons. It is a call to persist- not simply in letters and imagery, but in faith. A reminder not to forget to dream, and to go forth with a solid aspiration for better days. There are blessings now, and there is room for improvement. Each day is a step. Alongside the paths of steps, carefully-recorded written words attest to what happens- and how the movements are interpreted. When I organize groups of manuscript records, the basic steps are known in the field as arrangement and description. To do this well, the materials and their respective contexts must be comprehended, otherwise the composite collection will not be coherent to future researchers.

Retrospectively, there is a broad view that presents both ends of the active lives of noncurrent archival records. By contrast, journaling lives in the here-and-now, notwithstanding distant recollections and anticipated aspirations. An archivist’s view of a continuing journal would be that of observing the active life of a current chronicle. Without an end-date, it is an ongoing documentation. There are yet more words to arrange, more journeys to describe.


Joe V said...

Congratulations on your 200th post. I continue to look forward to your words and pictures, both literary and visual images. This piece speaks to me about the journalling process as specific and different from other methods and purposes of writing.


Anne said...

Love the Elizabeth Berg quote. I am so there. I am thinking about the fact that you write through boring events. Do you ever feel as though this inner escape you have into yourself through your writing is a nuisance to others? Do they notice that you have somehow left them to be alone with your pencil and paper? It is a blessing that I often take advantage of, but I wonder how much of the present life I am missing because my mind is always somewhere else, creating stories and reliving memories in my mind instead of living in the right now with those who are accompanying me.

speculator said...

Thank you so much, Anne and Joe. I really value your words.

Anne- You might notice that I use very small (and discreet) notebooks. As well, I tend to carry a newspaper around- or a stray envelope- these can be appropriated in the event of an idea!

James Watterson said...

I too love the Berg Quote! I just received my traveling companion in the mail from our generous friend Strikethrough. She sent me the Lettera 22 that needed to be fixed in the mail. After an hour of tinkering it is in proper working order! I will be taking it with me on my journey home and I think while i'm there I will try to pay Tom a visit, I really need a new ribbon. (I have spares at home but they are no where near as dark as Toms Ribbons!!!) I took the ribbon out of my SC Skyriter but had to flip the little metal screw on ribbon holders upside down to get it to fit. So temporary fix for now.

I can't tell you how insane it feels though to go from an Olympia SG to a Lettera 22. Both great machines but polar opposites when it comes to the feeling of them.

Is the 32 a little bigger than the 22? Because mine looks just like yours, just the label is on top instead of right above the keys like yours.

snohomishwriter said...

Hi. I tried to leave a comment yesterday but I may have missed a step. Anyway, I really enjoy this post. I think you've captured the necessity and rewards of constant writing very well. I look forward to working through your previous posts.

lissa said...

I like the idea of writing one's thoughts down though I have never actually kept a journal. I suppose there is a certain joy in putting one's thoughts and ideas down and perhaps to be ponder over at a later time.

just this morning, two cars collide right in front of me and think, 'well, that's something to write about' but then I dismiss the idea because it really doesn't involve me in any way except that I am a witness.

I suppose journaling or writing is our way of witnessing our own lives. I guess that's why famous people's diaries and papers are so important to our society, they contain our history even in small forms.

I am thinking of keeping a journal but somehow I just can't seem to bring myself to do this - I found I have a lot of thoughts to put down but only when I have no notebook to write in - it's as if my brain won't allow me to think when I see an empty page

I am beginning to post some of my thoughts at my blog, perhaps that's enough for now

happy 200th post!