Category Archives: journaling

trust

DSC_0132I love it when a historian echoes one of my hunches. I read a lot of history: biographies, memoir, overviews, always have since I was a girl and became intrigued with the Plantagenets and Elizabeth I. I think I’m looking for tone, the shading I’ll paint under the story I write. I really don’t know; I just absorb and let the vapor appear filtered through whatever it is that makes up me.

So, I’ve read dozens of biographies about Louis XIV, and only this one—by a woman—and just read this week said what my gut told me as I wrote a piece of Louis’s personal story in Before Versailles. “The young King, entranced by the sincerity and intensity of Louise’s feelings towards him, loved her as he had never loved before, and was never to love again.” (Therese Louis Latour 1924) As I read other biographies, in which Louise de la Valliere is a footnote, glanced at and abandoned by the writers, I always felt there was a unique tenderness in the love affair. And that’s what I wrote.

DSC_0132It’s nice to have my hunch validated, even if the writer isn’t current or well known. I think much of what I do has to do with subtlety. And I must trust subtlety.

Grace notes: Saw a dove sitting in her nest in one of my trees. Nests used to mean much to me; they were a symbol of my own task in this younger life I was living.

old soldier

flOne of my first posts on this blog, begun several years ago…….

I called an old soldier for Memorial Day. Elgin, I said, how are you? Karleen, he replied, it’s so good to hear from you.

Tell me about the war, I said. Oh, baby, he answered, I don’t like to talk about that. War is ugly, you know. And so we talked about his vegetables. In his mid-80s, hale and hearty, he’d just come in from the garden, which is full of squash and zucchini and tomatoes and onions and bell peppers.

He was stationed in the Philippines for two years in World War II. Old sepia-colored photographs show a lean, slouching, hawk-faced young man standing with a rifle slung over a shoulder near a pile of dead Japanese. A recent PBS documentary reminded that the battle for the Philippines was hard fought, often hand to hand, against a formidable and determined enemy who almost beat us.

I asked about Edward, his brother-in-law, whose old high school, senior year portrait, gently watercolored as was the style in those days, I have on my altar. Edward is handsome and young and smiling, seventeen, I think, in the portrait. He wears a suit and tie. His hair is neatly parted on one side. He too had been in the Philippines, but he was part of the three-month Battle of Bataan, which was lost. And he walked the long, hard, harsh, killing miles of the Bataan Death March, prosecuted as a war crime after the war ended. He survived and was on a prison ship on its way to Japan, when it was bombed by American forces. So he survived combat and a death march to die at sea. I think he was nineteen when he died. The baby of the family.

flThe news came to a little town in East Texas called Troupe. His mother lost her sanity for a time when the news came, and when she recovered she was never the same. That’s family legend anyway. Edward was my son’s great uncle. And Elgin is his grandfather.

back

doll

I’m back. Here, I mean. What happened? I just got tired. And I was sad about my writing. When I’m sad and tired, I don’t have extra energy. This is what this is. Extra energy. A way for me to exercise writing in a different way.

What does “back” mean? Coming here weekly. Attempting not to bore. Opening up a bit to what’s inside. It also means some chores: selecting what to write, writing it, playing with photos and links, if I want to deepen the entry.

At first I blogged because I was supposed to: marketing. Then it became another and quicker and more fun way to express. Then I ran out of steam and felt empty. So I stopped writing here. Kept on with fiction, but stopped here. Now I have a second wind. Let’s see where we go……………

cameilla

promising

Some days are hard days, lost days where I feel I belong nowhere. They usually occur the day after I go out and visit my mother, who has Alzheimer’s. The push with which I begin the week stops still that day I visit, and the next day is hard. I sat out in my back deck recently, feeling things that don’t feel good, straining to remember various spiritual mantras, this too will pass, etc., and I remembered the one about finding things to be grateful about. This day, it seemed there were only things very small: 7 limes on the lime tree, a slit in the agapantha pod promising the purple blossom would show eventually, and carpenter bees, who love the cedar trim on the garage, and every spring lumber in and drill the perfect little holes in which they live. I like watching these bees. They’re big, but they are peaceful. They  remind me of sightless helicopters when they come home to their hole, humming around it, many false forays before somehow they climb in.

False forays, like this day when I can’t find meaning in my life. I can’t find the entrance to my inner home. I can’t summons passion, but counting the limes, seeing the agapantha, the bees,  quietens discontent enough to go inside and sit down to write at these stories I make up about a family that lived in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Joy cometh in the morning, the prophets say, and by afternoon, the mood has passed. There isn’t joy, but there isn’t despair. I guess our lives are designs only seen later. My mother’s life has impacted many, her pebble thrown into a pond, the ripple outward. Does the ripple stop? For I am impacted by her, and I impact others who impact, on and on it goes. The hum of bees comforts enough to bear all I don’t understand. And I know joy comes some mornings.

fresh

The new year can be a time of fresh starts, and one way is journaling. Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way recommends writing three pages long-hand before you’re fully awake in the morning.

Why? Because you dump irritation, bad feelings, complaints onto the pages usually, and then you begin your day, and a lot of what would have muddied the hours is on those pages, rather than carried outward with you. It’s as if you’ve been heard. And writing three pages every morning creates discipline. (And more, but you’ll have to find out about that by going to her website.)

A lot of people are doing gratitude journals. A blog I read recently spoke to this topic with words from Nicoletta Baumeister:  “Gratefulness thoughts in the morning light are about the setting of the daily lens. What will we take in, what will we seek and what is today’s sense of self? Feeling grateful puts my feet on solid ground, able to work out the next step; whereas, asking what I don’t have sets my day on a frantic course.” She ends her day in an interesting way, too: “A poem, haiku or a small drawing at night has the effect of driving all other thoughts away. The narrowed focus and purity of intent creates a sense of calm after a day of supersaturated activity. It also affords feelings of satisfaction, job well done, if only in the tiniest work, so that I slip seamlessly into excellent sleep. Too many people out there have insomnia!”

Another way to journal is from wonderful Dr. Rachel Naomi Ramen, who counseled a successful but burned-out doctor in one of my favorite books, Kitchen Table Wisdom, to find again these three things in his days: what inspired him, what surprised him, what touched him. I’ve done this one for a long time, and it has transformed journal entries from junior high whining to memory rushes with sweetness.

And that, my dears, is what I want to take forward into this long day’s journey into night, into this particular new year in the journey, into aging, the only way forward in the journey: sweetness. What do you want?