“I hope all your students are deep and funny.”

If you’re read my blog for a while you know there are twenty-something large books in my “studio” — journal/scrapbook things that I don’t want to keep but can’t throw out. They take up a LOT of space, and I don’t “use” them at all. (How would anyone “use” them?) A few of them are spread out on my work table now. If you open one and start reading, well, for the most part, they’re just awful.

I went at 1988-89 (Volume I of that year, seriously) yesterday with scissors and an x-acto knife. I cut out sheafs of pages, laughing, thinking that even if I don’t do anything more with it, and never manage to throw the books out, at least I’ll leave behind the “expurgated” version of “The Examined Life.”

For many years I wrote my personal thoughts and struggles in these books. I suppose it’s a pretty common human thingamajig to struggle over and over with the same aspects of personality or the walls that spring up in life, the stuff you can’t get over, around or through. For me, apparently, it was “luv’,” specifically a marriage that wasn’t working and my desire to have a romantic companion. I don’t know why that didn’t seem to me at the time a good reason to sit down and talk with my ex about our “non” relationship. Maybe I did and it just didn’t make it into “The Examined Life.”

There are greeting cards, photographs, funny things students said (like the title of this post) circular meditations on the meaning of life (didn’t find the answer, so circular). On the other hand, some of it is accurately self-revelatory. I did not purge the book of those bits of elaborate cursive.

Those are not trivial problems but, good god, are they boring to read about.

Mixed in with all that verbiage (rhymes with “garbage”) are some good insights, descriptions of moments which I could not have known at the time were major life moments, like seeing my first rattlesnake, watching the swirling gyre of seagulls rising from the ocean, being looked in the eye by a red tail hawk, the beginning of my hiking life in the chaparral, the beginning of my life with dogs and my first dog, Truffle who was then a puppy, getting my second dog, Molly. I could not know in the midst of 1988-89 how important these things were and how unimportant the other stuff was.

I think, though, this whole thing could be compiled into ONE that I really CAN use, another volume called, “How it All Turned Out here in Heaven” or something. Maybe just denouement. “Getting found almost always means being lost for a while.” Annie Lamont

But it struck me this morning how weird it all is. Here we are, more-or-less consigned to our domiciles, as if this were a second winter without the glorious compensation of snow, relegated to tasks our usual “busyness” would have made it easy for us to avoid.


In other news: if your blender breaks and you want a smoothie, the best tool? The lowly dinner fork.


24 thoughts on ““I hope all your students are deep and funny.”

  1. SPECKLED NOTEBOOK VOL 109 5/11/2020: 79, 607 R.I.P. …
    My entry for the day begins.
    I began the “diary” on my 21st birthday, really immersed myself in journal writing with graduate courses in Thoreau…and later with the Progoff Journal Method.
    During my Dark Night of the Soul, I destroyed my past, including all journals and written history to 1985.
    After lithium and therapy and return to the classroom, I began writing, documenting, gluing, cutting, and pasting. To yesterday’s latest cigar ring, and the notation of the body count.
    I no longer practice what I preached: three full pages a week, down to and including the bottom line…
    More than once I have taken the scissors to the volumes to remove my whining and stupidity regarding academia and teaching.
    The volumes are gutted; what’s of importance? History and family.
    And that’s all I’m going to say about that…for now.

    • Interesting. One of my journals involves a breakdown. It just STOPS in a kind of darkness but the NEXT one (after a long silent period) is one I will not edit. It’s the one that made me think twice about throwing them out without looking at them. ❤

  2. I wish that I had written down more about my life and thoughts over the years, Martha. Now I only remember snippets from certain days, here and there. Even if they made me laugh at myself, that would be a good thing:)

    • I don’t like her work very much. I get the feeling that she goes out with expectations about what she’s going to see, learn, and write. BUT that said, she’s married to my thesis advisor so she can’t be all bad. ❤ I don't think she would like me, either. Could be pure envy.

      • I’m not crazy about her either, but I enjoyed one or two of her earlier works. It’s just that the concept and content of your journals made me curious if she was an inspiration of yours. Clearly not!

  3. I’ve mixed feelings about destroying journals, past writes etc. We destroyed the letters between my mother and father, that has always bothered me, but it is what my mother wanted. I have been finding all kinds of philosophical writings of my husband. They are random, not organized,(makes him sound scattered, which isn’t what I mean) and when I read them, I hear his voice – he was a very deep thinker. They really are reflections on life, society, nature etc. It might be a treasure for someone else one day…then again maybe not.

    • I know how you feel. I felt that often when I was going through boxes belong to my mom. I found many things I’m grateful to have found — letters to her from my dad, some of my dad’s things, letters to her from some of my aunts and people who tried to help her. I kept some of them; others I just read, pondered and tossed knowing I wouldn’t look at them a second time. As I go through these journals I’m not thinking so much about someone reading them when I’m gone. I don’t have kids or a spouse. I don’t even know who’s going to have that job, but whoever it is, it won’t be someone who knows me that well. At the moment, I’m trying to get some space in there and make something out of them because, in their way, they’re kind of neat. 🙂

      • They are kind of neat! It is good you are trying to make it something for you! That’s kind of the plan with my husbands writings.

  4. I have books like that too – and I feel the same way – I want to throw them out but I can’t throw them out. I don’t know if there is gold or garbage in there, but someday I think maybe I’ll be curious about the younger me. I mean, gosh, I really didn’t know myself back then, it was like I was someone else entirely. And maybe she’ll be interesting to me someday in that fictitious future when I have time to examine all those books. But I also worry that I’ll die before I have a chance to decide if I should just burn them. They could potentially scar my children’s souls if they read them (or enlighten them maybe). It’s a conundrum.

  5. Oh my goodness, Martha, this is all so familiar. My bucket (well, boxes) of diaries, journals, old letters, greeting cards and photographs is what inspired me to start my blog 2 years ago. I did get out the exacto knife last year and purge many pages of angst from college. I embarrassed myself re-reading it, but perhaps that’s how I processed “relationship issues” back in the day – although I don’t know how much I really evolved after writing it all down. I wrote a brief blog post last year about shredding some pages…leaving the journal much thinner, but perhaps more interesting. Just keeping my month long stay in London for an Art class. It may be harder to get rid of old letters – some are evidence of old truths of family crap that I might write about someday. Or not. Some too hard to believe without those letters.
    Nice journal slide show. I agree – these are weird times. I should be doing what you are. Finally “going through” the rest of my history so to speak. History is important right?…I ask myself.
    I feel like there should be a support group for those of us who saved all this stuff. 🙂

  6. I personally wouldn’t edit my journals just because they are a reflection of who and what at that single point in time – for better or worse. But if you feel compelled go right ahead and make the cuts.

    • I think it depends on if you have family who might be interested. I don’t. They are only for me. I feel a responsibility to the various people I’ve been over these 30+ years not to leave behind things she and I don’t want to (potentially) share with strangers.

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