A Closet of Journals

Stashed in my closet is a plastic bin overflowing with journals of scribbled emotions, recordings of events, travel notes. From adolescence up until a few years ago, I compulsively filled notebooks with thoughts, thrills, anxieties and dreams. It was as if by recording it, I might save my life.

College journal.

Early journals have the curvy writing of teenage angst, annoyance with my parents, first love, terrible heartbreak. College – more adventures in love, discovering and floundering on my own. Studying was eclipsed by my desire to travel the world, so for a few months at eighteen, I traveled alone through Europe, a lined notebook (now missing) my constant  companion.  The next batch of beat-up spirals are scrawls of years in Kentucky where I enjoyed the friendship and support of the community of fellow Studio 70 artists. Kyoto is next – bicycling through the narrow streets, hours sitting in gardens – dream-like musings. Returning to New York, I filled books with my life in the city, job at the United Nations.  Pages brim with romantic thrills followed by heartbreak. Then, the war in Croatia and Bosnia – meeting and marrying N, having Molly.  The joys of being a mother, the pain and confusion of living with addiction. All of it jotted into these books.

From today I will try to write every day as a way of taking time for myself, of touching/listening to something from within, as a way of organizing my time in a way that some ‘work’ is possible. I would love to write – to have the life of a writer. For this I think I need not only discipline and stories to tell but an ability to listen and to tell, of the inner life. So from today I will take at least half an hour every morning, if not more, to keep this little journal. I can do this now as Molly sleeps…  a way of not just getting swallowed by the daily chores of my life.

I wrote this when Molly was 4 months old. The rumbling of desire to write a book –  I imagined a love story about  meeting and marrying N in Sarajevo during the war, giving birth to Molly prematurely in Italy. I thought I had the elements for a good story — little did I know of  the drama yet to unfold.

I no longer keep a journal. No time? No inclination? Because I blog instead? Perhaps a little of each. I think the answer is in the closet — that bin of books. I will probably just burn them one day. Braver now and less inclined to keep secrets, I am ready to move beyond the closet – and write with the hope of being read.

Summer Torpor Respite

Steamy-hot days seem to wilt everything but the weeds. What’s left of my vegetable garden is being swallowed by renegade grasses and the border of browning hostas and now-skeletal daylillies is barely visible behind pigweed and chokecherry.  The unruly mess of my garden taunts me as I search out a shady spot and a breeze to read the paper. I should weed-wack, mow, clip… but just can’t. Yesterday, it was almost 3 by the time we rallied enough out of our torpor to take the kayak out. We agreed we’d only loll about near a sandbar — no paddling out to the islands. So that’s what we did.

A patch of bliss.

We have a favorite spot not even 10 minutes from our launch — a teeny island that disappears with high tide. Yesterday, the timing was right and our sweet patch was there to welcome us. As planned, we lolled about: floating in the salty shallows, stepping across sandy boulders.

Breezes sent an occasional wave of chatter through the sea grass, a pair of terns swooped through with flirty calls, punctuated by plaintive screeches of the odd gulls. As we stood on the still-wet rocks and watched the Sound move out and the sun go down, the rocky stretch exploded with mini-geysers. Clams! Alas, faster than we could dig with our hands through the rocky muck, they disappeared. Next time, we’ll bring a spade.

The grittier view that reminds us where we live.

Why I Hate Groundhogs

In a brief walk around my garden this morning, this is what I found:

Nibbled Tomato Plant
Devoured Spinach
Decimated Gladiolus
Ravaged Black Eyed Susans

But most upsetting of all is this –

Wounded Tetley

That flash of green is his foot wrapped in gauze. To be fair, the groundhog responsible for Tetley having to wear this mortifying cone is dead. He killed 3 in one week. Not the beast of a rodent lurking around here for years, but smaller ones. A 4th adolescent (at least) has been brazenly loping about, teasing my brave hunter who throws himself against the screen door to get at him.

Not a banner garden year, as you can see. Between the weeds and the critters and some scorching days, I’ve lost heart. Not quite given up but certainly disheartened. I drove by a community garden yesterday – all neatly penned-in and bursting with health. How does your garden grow?

Sunday Morning in the Neighborhood

What is it about Sundays? On my street, there is a divine tranquility, almost silence. Garage doors remain closed – no work today for my neighbors. Through the thick hedge, I can see the passing feet of the odd jogger or dogs and owner. No mowers, blowers or hedge clippers yet. Even the not-distant-enough highway sounds soothing — a steady whoosh rarely broken by the squeal or roar of a truck. It will be another hot one later but at 7:00 AM, the cool of night still lingers.

Across the street is a triangle of land owned by the city, overgrown with weeds. My neighbor has called to complain that it needs cutting because it’s hard to see if there is traffic when pulling out from Sterling Place. But from my window, it’s a field of Queen Anne’s Lace. Maybe I’ll don some boots (tick-terror) to cut a bouquet. Then I’ll water the tomatoes, pots of Petunias and herbs. We’ll kayak. But now, this hour of mine before the house and neighborhood really wakes, I savor the morning light, the kaleidoscope of greens, the quiet.

My Urban Small Town

Last week’s news in my Connecticut city included headlines like “Man Shot to Death”, “Woman Stabbed” along with the usual smattering of theft and drug arrests. Yet this morning I will join my neighbors at the Memorial Day Parade and feel like I live in a small town. Better actually. Here, families lining up along the parade route, sitting haunch-to-haunch along the curb will be Indian, Polish, Italian, African American, Central American, Brazilian…

We will spot each other’s children on the drums, twirling flags, leaping with their dance troupe. These kids grow up together as friends, seeing knowing no difference, hearing no accents. We will cheer the marching bands – even from rival schools, we will greet our neighbors marching with the fire department, the police force. We’ll even shake hands and smile at the politicians we would never vote for. Cheering, we will acknowledge the diminishing number of old soldiers riding gun-shot in vintage cars, World War II medals proudly displayed on pressed dress uniforms that no longer quite fit. We will stand and applaud solemnly as the memorial float rolls by – the number of losses always up, sadder for being unnecessary.

Sitting on the curb for the hour or so it takes for our city to parade by, I fall a little more in love with Norwalk. It is a struggling city with under-performing schools, gangs and more prevalent and uglier crimes than the surrounding, prettier, wealthier, mostly white suburbs five minutes drive in any direction.  I will walk home with my neighbors, these dear friends of shared history of terrible sadnesses, wonderful joys. The smell of wild roses in the air, our feet soaked from the still-wet grass, we will traipse across the field back to our neighborhood behind city hall. We will inventory who will bring what to the inevitable gathering later in the day, to mark this welcome season, celebrate life, to share the love.


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