Friday, September 9, 2011

Obsession: New Notebooks

Which came first? The love of writing OR the love of notebooks, journals, and paper? Am I a writer because I love words and ideas and the act of sharing with others OR because I want an excuse to acquire notebooks of every size? Have I adopted journal writing as my main spiritual practice because writing clarfies my feelings and my thinking, as well as leads me to a deeper understanding of the person God created me to be OR because I can't resist displays of journals in bookstores, stationery and gift shops or even Target? A favorite memory of our trip to Italy was discovering a small shop with Leaning Tower of Pisa stacks of inexpensive, but beautiful composition books--ferns and leaves and flowers and birds on the covers. That was in Florence and then in Rome I bought a new fountain pen, but my favorite fountain pen remains the one I bought in a closet-sized shop in New Orleans. My heart beats faster just thinking about what I might find during an upcoming trip to Paris. 

And then there are the  accompanying accouterments of folders and memo pads and paper clips in bright colors and sticky notes of varying sizes and shapes. I adore my Dymo label maker like some people treasure a hammer or a paring knife. The right tool is crucial for a job well done. Of course, my laptop and my iphone are key tools for my writing and communicating life, but they function alongside pastel covered notebooks and ones with playful designs of suns or hearts.

The first thing I do upon registering for a writing workshop or a class is discern which notebook to bring, and when I contemplate a new project, I carefully decide which notebook is the right fit. Which notebook will I take to Paris, I ask myself, and I must admit I have not made a decision yet. I have one with an Eiffel Tower on the cover and that's where I have been jotting notes about shops and restaurants and other places to visit. But which notebook will be my journal to record impressions and experiences and feelings? And which one will be my writer's notebook and hold drafts for future blog postings or other projects. OR should I wait to find a little shop down a narrow street not listed in any guidebook, not even Rick Steves, a shop where Parisians go to find the right paper for love letters and and the right notebook for secret daily musings?

I must remember, however appealing my collection of notebooks are to the touch and sight, the real value is the content within. Eric Maisel in A Writer's Paris, A Guided Journey for the Creative Soul, says, "It is never someone else's fault that we aren't writing," and I add, "A notebook does not make you a writer. Only writing does that."

A notebook is merely the container for one's writing practice--and heaven knows, I have a sufficient supply of containers. Time to write!     

Friday, September 2, 2011

Summer Sweeping

I was Harriet Housewife all day yesterday, cleaning every area of the house, except the garage. A satisfying day. As I swept and dusted and scrubbed and vacuumed, I thought about the lines in Gunilla Norris's book, Being Home, A Book of Meditations.
              Time to caress my house
              to stroke all its surfaces
              I want to think of it as a kind of lovemaking
              ...the chance to appreciate by touch
             what I live with and cherish.

True, the house needed a thorough cleaning, but my soul did, too. I needed to restore some order in my head, sweep away the cobwebs from neglected corners in my heart, and polish what had become dull. September 1 seemed like the perfect day to renew the space that shelters me and welcomes friends and family.

The summer has been a social one, rather than a solitary one, with few slots on the calendar available for writing or reading or silent journeys inward. Days chugged along with ins and outs through the screen door, ups and downs with baskets of sheets and towels for the always willing, thank God, washer and dryer, and back and forth to our "urban cabin" in downtown St Paul and here and there for event after pleasant event. All good, but so different from last summer when I spent a month in Door County, writing daily, feeling both productive and luxurious in the easy time. This has been a peopled time--new friends, dear family, history friends--and I regret not one shared minute.

As I turn the page of the calendar into a new season, however, I feel familiar tugs toward my writing. Ideas have not stopped flowing--only the fingers. Little pieces of paper with notes to my writing self stuff folders on my desk. A desk, I might add, once again orderly and ready for my presence. The arrival of September signals a return to, a resumption of what has been set aside during this summer sabbatical. And my house is clean.