At 5 a.m., the aviary choir runs through its note lines, high and squawky or melodic. Most people are still asleep, thus the usual swish of traffic is a faint whisper in the distance. Although I am not really pleased at being awake at this time, I decide it's a good time concentrate on the journal I've been meaning to write.
Prior to this gift of a quiet couple of hours, I attempted several times to pen my magnificent, insightful thoughts on life, love, art, history, philosophy. I always leave out geography and science and mathematics and not because I am so good at them I'd shame the rest of the world.
Love I figure I could wax prosaic about simply due to the numerous times I've been mired in it.
Above is an example of how I get distracted. I begin to research journal writing. I preach. I switch from pencil to pen to laptop. I make a plan. I never actually get to the diary itself.
Several days, I am interrupted by house showings. We have our home up for sale and it's not doing well. Everyone else I know sold their place in under a day. Not us. We like to wait until the market cools, then obsessively clean every day, and hop in the car and wait down the street while potential buyers stroll through. Voyeurs in our own neighbourhood. You'd think that would be a good time to journal, but with the stress of removing the last possible piece of dust and jamming the cat into her carrier, I barely remember my shoes let alone a diary.
When I do have time and still nothing flows from my fingertips, I glance back at old journals for inspiration. Here’s an example of an old travel diary: “Eilat. Amazing topography. Dinner at Pago Pago. ‘Wasaga Beach - even a ferris wheel’. Swim, Sun.” Isn’t that descriptive? Not for you, I’m sure, but it’s strange how these few words immediately bring back the trip.
I smell the azure sea, blink at the reddish sand, wonder at the luxury of the hotels. Pago Pago smells of fish and salt from its open windows, a long wide wooden deck of a restaurant. Strolling in the warm night, hand-in-hand with my husband, we wander through a fair and I transpose back to childhood playing with my cousins and my sisters at Wasaga Beach. The fair a weekly treat. We have lots of time to swim in the pools and loll in the sun on this trip.
Another journal does the same for me. “On top of hill - Israel, Saudi, Egypt, Jordan. Egyptian soldiers at breakfast. Nuweiba - famous Bedouin group. Coloured canyon. Dahab means gold; city is yellow.” From high above, I can see the vast scrubby desert undulate in all directions. Turn in a circle and you can see four countries, our guide tells, so we do. Each of them burns in my memory. I am amazed, aghast, frightened by the beauty of the land and the ferocity of human beings. How can we as a species hold so much anger and greed when we have this vastness, this sandy parchment, these green oases at our feet? Naively I gaze at the Egyptian soldiers on the other side of the barbwire fence, calmly eating their breakfast, smile and talk and occasionally touch the assault rifles by their sides. Once in the Sinai Peninsula, we hear that there is trouble in Sharm El Sheikh, so we won’t go that far. Its history is rich and terrifying. In 6000 BC, it was broken off into Bedouin, Greek and Roman sections. The latter of course attempted to force a “christian” conversion on all, resulting in years of battle, death, destruction.
We pass by the port town of Nuweiba, famous for its Bedouin camps, but we see only rocky hills and pebbled dirt. We have a guide, a driver, and an armed police officer with us, because even tourists are subject to the violence this year. The city of Dahab is a yellow bulb on the dirty brown landscape. Its name means “gold”.
This is what I get from one page in my diary. We don’t reach the city of St. Catherine’s and Mount Sinai until the next entry. So naturally I begin to think.
Perhaps, at least right now, at this age, I don’t need to write in detail. Maybe point form is fine. After years of typewriters (I can hear my granddaughter asking, Gramma, what’s a typewriter?) and computers, writing with a pen is slow, visceral. No thesaurus is a click away.
I like the idea of jotting. It’s quick, yet not easy: I’ll have to pick the right words that will trigger the memory to return. Yet obviously the name of a city, the timetable of our day, can evoke the trip we took. Perhaps that will work for day-to-day stuff too. I know I like making lists. This would be kind of a life list. Short, but to the point.
PS Post blog - sold house.