Reflections - Write it down!

I have a grandson going into Grade One!

Soon he will read! Soon he will write!

“T” looks like a table. “S” looks like a snake. “B” is easy to remember if you say “bat and ball.” “D” will be written correctly if you say “doughnut and drink.”

Maybe someday he will write me a letter?

When I think of words, of knowing what these squiggly combinations of things we call letters actually means, of combining them into sentences, of the miracle of conveying a message from one person to another, of writing ideas down, I always think of Helen Keller. Lost and alone in her world of darkness and silence, she later called herself “Phantom.” Her teacher, Annie Sullivan, continually spelled words into her hand, believing that words would be a bridge from confusion to clarity.

“Once I knew only darkness and stillness... my life was without past or future... but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living.”

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

How important is it to have words - to write things down?

“Do you keep a journal?” my friends asked when I started to write my memoir.

My answer, “Not the kind you are imagining.” I don't write juicy details of my love life, nor personal philosophical ponderings.

I was given a diary for Christmas when I was 12 years old. It's not very interesting. “He said...” and “She said...” and “I went to...” It's more of a series of observations of what's happening around me than expressing my interior.

I suppose that's what makes “The Diary of Anne Frank” so powerful. She does reveal her emotions, inner thoughts, private puzzles, fears, and loyalties.

My husband gave me a spiral bound tablet when we were first married. On the cover he drew the mountains and river and log cabin on the property we were aiming for in our imagination. I wrote one page for each month of that first year. But I was so naive, so hopeful, so unwilling to share my anxiety or miserable loneliness. It is not an accurate portrayal of those first months of homesteading.

Twenty years later I did the exercises in “The Artist's Way” by Julie Cameron. She assigned her readers to “write three morning pages” every day. “I did this...” and “I plan to do that...” Again, not particularly enlightened.

My Mother and Dad saved the letters I wrote home. They are fun to re-read. The children's antics, family customs, bears in the yard, homeschooling projects, garden harvest. The snow is deep. The river is high. The berries are ripe. Everyday events are recorded, with photos of the children tucked into the envelope to illustrate.

And I write lists. I always write lists. Grocery lists, to-do lists, packing for outings, prioritizing projects, Christmas wish lists, Christmas card address lists.

Wedding album, baby books, photo albums, I suppose we all have those.

My signature is on various documents, ID, ownership, contracts, debts owed, bills paid.

Now I keep a daybook. In fact, I have about twenty years’ worth of daybooks – appointments, accomplishments, phone numbers, more lists.

Then there was the blank, beige, spiral bound Journal the volunteers gave me three years ago at the cancer ward. Sheesh! You really think I want to remember this episode of my life?

I hated that thing!

I wanted to throw it!

But then, one day while I was waiting for yet another appointment, I grabbed a pen and started to scribble. I numbered my disconnected thoughts and rapidly filled pages. Soon I had captured 185 separate questions, things I had learned, glimpses of faith, angry rants, pieces of helpful conversations, names of people who cared about me, slivers of hope, sequences of events, tiny good things that had arrived unexpectedly, miserable moanings, my husband's steady guidance.

Words on paper, however random and disjointed, began to soothe my whirling tormented mind. The words helped me sort thoughts into categories, address unanswered questions, build a pathway of faith, stop repeating swirling fears.

With all of these jottings over all of these years, I continue to write my memoir (I have finished three more books which will be in print very soon). I have this wealth of resources to draw on. Reading what I wrote long ago is like finding a message in a bottle, a time capsule, a letter from the previous Me to the now Me, to preserve for the future Me.

Scrambled mismatched jottings become smooth paragraphs. Rambling disconnected scraps become intelligent pages. Through writing my intangible ideas settle down, take shape and become actual reality.

That reminds me of another place where chaos transforms, through the power of words, into order and beauty.

“In the beginning was the Word.” John 1:1

“In the beginning, God created...” But there was darkness. Then “God said, 'Let there be Light' and there was light.” Genesis 1:3

Moses is credited with writing those first five books of the Bible. David wrote much of the Psalms. Prophets and Apostles penned what they saw and heard.

This collection of pages we call “The Bible” holds treasures others have experienced, which we can benefit from now and pass forward into the future. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119: 105

What do you write down?

Can you capture a fleeting butterfly idea with the net of words?