Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chart a Course
Friday, August 21, 2009

You’ve seen my heart at every compass point –
to the north, the south, the east, the west, we’ve met.
You’ve followed me and now you know how quick
the weeds take over paths; my paper piles
grow and shift. My plans expand and scatter wide
until retrieval flusters even me.
You’ve seen me pull life back from cliffs of chaos,
back to order, sense, and light, but not
without a cost: I weep, I sleep, I eat
whatever calls to me, with consequence.
I spiral downward, grasp at branches, roots.
Yet still you say you want to go with me.

You say, “Forever,” and I, “Forever,” back.
I take this gift you offer and head east.
Ask my Seven Valleys Writing Project colleagues. They'll tell you that my yellow table is a magical place, a place where my mind calls out and words and ideas come running, each morning. I sit with a view to the east (through the dining room windows, of the lawn and trees and secret garden and pond out back) and to the south (past a tray of plants, toward the book shed and the garden shed). The table itself, resurrected from wastelands of discarded furniture in the basement, painted bright Rustoleum yellow, was nothing special to begin with, but the pilgrimage there each morning has fed and nourished my writing habit, especially in the past couple of years. It has also been the staging area for tremendous change and imaginative new directions for my life.

I was experimenting, during the month of January, with a new technology for my daily morning gratitude journal. I had no classes to deal with, as it was our winter break. Usually I write my gratitude journal page by hand, using a black gel pen in a small black spiral bound book. I started keeping such a journal about 15 years ago; on a shelf in the den there are scads of them lined up, pages and pages detailing the worries and events and triumphs and tragedies of my life as a divorced mother of two sons, teaching middle school English, playing music on the side, and searching, again and again, for love.

For more than 15 days in January, I brought my mini-laptop to the yellow table, where I spend these morning minutes, and made the same types of entries, only now by typing them into a Google document that I continually added to, typing the date in just as I usually wrote the date at the beginning of each new entry. Something new and exciting about typing, rather than writing, some of the repetitious parts of each entry...I couldn't pin it down, couldn't say what it was, but it seemed fresh, desirable...so easily stored at Google, where 'net space is infinite.

Then, suddenly, that freshness was gone and I was longing for my black gel pen and my small black spiral journal (the most recent one of which still had some blank pages). I did not bring the mini to the yellow table that day...instead, I wrote on paper, just as in days of old. It felt good. I wanted to be there. No tap tap tapping, no swirling the cursor around as I was thinking -- just looking up, out the window at snow or wind or sunshine, whatever was outside, dropping my gaze back to the paper and the pen and much more quietly entering my thoughts on the white page.

I'm not sure whether I'll ever try computerizing my morning meditations again. It could happen. But I really seem to need to touch the paper with the pen, to hold the pen in my hand. It doesn't bother me to blog these thoughts on a computer, but my morning meditations are different. They are partly a ritual, where content is not the only point. The repetition of some words in each post formalizes my thoughts in a way that seems to require the older technology. Perhaps it is true, as contemporary technology gurus are saying, that new technology makes us use our brains in different ways, even alters our brains and the way they function. My return to pen and paper is a vote cast for a different way of thinking, at least for that moment each morning.