A stack of spiral notebooks -- my daybooks/journals

A stack of spiral notebooks — my daybooks/journals

“Each thought that is welcomed and recorded is a nest egg, by the side of which more will be laid. Thoughts accidentally thrown together become a frame in which more may be developed and exhibited.  Perhaps this is the main value of a habit of writing, of keeping a journal — that so we remember our best hours and stimulate ourselves. My thoughts are my company.”
— Henry David Thoreau, January 22, 1852, from the Heart of Thoreau’s Journals, edited by Odell Shepard

“We live in a wonderful world, and the wonders of the world without us are matched and more than matched by the wonders of the world within us.  This interior world has its natural history also, and to observe and record any of its facts and incidents, or trace any of its natural processes, is well worthy of our best moments.”
— John Burroughs, from Under the Apple-Trees, 1916

What’s in My Journal
by William Stafford

Old things, like a button drawer.  Mean
Things, fishhooks, barbs in your hand.
But marbles too.  A genius for being agreeable.
Junkyard crucifixes, voluptuous
discards.  Space for knickknacks, and for
Alaska.  Evidence to hang me, or to beatify.
Clues that lead to nowhere, that never connected
anyway.  Deliberate obfuscation, the kind
that takes genius.  Chasms in character.
Loud omissions.  Mornings that yawn above
a new grave.  Pages you know exist
but you can’t find them.  Someone’s terribly
inevitable life story, maybe mine.


Spring crocuses

Spring crocuses

“It is important that I write something down every day . . . It doesn’t have to be more than a few words, just enough to prove that one day has been different from another in certain of its aspects, otherwise it might seem as if one has no past or future, as if one lives within a twenty-four-hour circle, turning over and over in an endless repetition.”
— Julia Blackburn, Daisy Bates in the Desert

“The main value of the journals is not any of this, but making the reader realize that what’s important about life is not the major calamities or joys but just living the day, just seeing the light on the wall, just seeing a rose open or the birds come to the feeder.”
— May Sarton, from Conversations with May Sarton

I am again reminded how thankful I am to have this blog with its self-imposed deadlines to keep me writing about the commonplace things in my days.  It has turned into something of a biography of my daily life.  And while I may return to the same topics from time to time, each fresh post is a discrete, and hopefully unique, reflection celebrating a new day.

When I use the “search” box, I see that I have written a dozen or so posts about crocuses, for example.  Here is yet another look at this harbinger of spring.

Watercolor sketch of a crocus inspired by an autumn crocus called Saffron: Crocus Sativus by Lindsay Megarrity, from the book Contemporary Botanical Artists: The Shirley Sherwood Collection

Watercolor sketch of a crocus inspired by an autumn crocus called Saffron: Crocus Sativus by Lindsay Megarrity, from the book Contemporary Botanical Artists: The Shirley Sherwood Collection

My watercolor sketch of a single crocus bloom

My watercolor sketch of a single crocus bloom

Pen-and-ink sketch of Queen Anne’s Lace in my Moleskin journal

“This was a big theme, and one I could confidently do:  the infinite variety of nature. . . . Van Gogh was aware of that, when he said that he had lost the faith of his fathers, but somehow found another in the infinity of nature.  It’s endless.  You see more and more.  When we were first here, the hedgerows seemed a jumble to me.  But then I began to draw them in a little Japanese sketchbook that opened out like a concertina.  J-P was driving, and I’d say ‘Stop!’, and then draw different kinds of grass.  I filled the sketchbook in an hour and a half.  After that, I saw it all more clearly.  After I’d drawn the grasses, I started seeing them.”
— David Hockney, from A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford

Walking amidst a prairie of Queen Anne’s Lace at the Union Bay Natural Area in Seattle

When I was walking the loop trail of the Union Bay Natural Area amidst the Queen Anne’s Lace, I remembered an image of David Hockney’s drawings of hedgerow weeds that I had seen in A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford.  So I checked the book out from the library again to refresh my memory.

Pen and ink sketch of Queen Anne’s Lace inspired by David Hockney’s drawings of hedgerow weeds

Now that my watercolor exhibit is up, I plan to go back to sketching and painting in my Moleskin journals, and my first project was capturing the lacy beauty of the Queen Anne’s Lace I saw on my walk.  The variety was amazing.  When I looked more closely, I saw that the little dark spot on the top of the white florets was not an insect, but was one miniature purple flower.  I’d never noticed that before. (Thanks, Wil, for pointing that out!)

One purple floret atop the Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s lace pierced by a tall grass

The infinite variety of nature

“Each day I begin with the empty page.”
— Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams

When Terry Tempest Williams’ mother died, at age 54, she bequeathed her journals to her daughter.  The beautiful, cloth-bound books took up three shelves on a bookcase.  And when Williams opened them a week after her mother died, she found that every page was blank.

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice is Williams’ attempt to decipher the meaning of her mother’s gift.  Williams is now 54 herself, the age her mother died, and over the course of her life she reflected on many possible meanings to the mystery of the empty pages.  For example:

  • “To withhold words is power.  But to share our words with others, openly and honestly, is also power.”
  • “When silence is a choice, it is an unnerving presence.  When silence is imposed, it is censorship.”
  • “Empty pages become possibilities.”

This book prompted me to think about what legacy will I leave my daughter.  I actually don’t want to bequeath her too much material stuff.  I want her to be free to acquire and collect things that reflect her own values and lifestyle, and not be burdened with my things, valuable or not.  What’s most important to me is leaving memories — of times shared, family recipes, etc.  This blog, in some ways, could serve as a legacy of my life, at least the parts I am willing to make public.

All legacies are incomplete.

“I thought I was writing a book about voice.  I thought I would proclaim as a woman that we must speak the truth of our lives at all costs.  But what I realize . . . is that I will never be able to say what is in my heart, because words fail us, because it is in our nature to protect, because there are times when what is public and what is private must be discerned.  There is comfort in keeping what is sacred inside us not as a secret, but as a prayer.”
— Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds



An Answering Spirit

December 16, 2011

Cedar by Emily Carr, 1942

Totem Forest by Emily Carr, 1930

When I travel, I like take along reading material that relates to my destination.  For my weekend trip to Vancouver, B. C., I packed The Complete Writings of Emily Carr, and from that 900-page volume, I read her journals, called “Hundreds and Thousands.”  It was a perfect choice.

Emily Carr was an accomplished artist and writer from British Columbia.  She is well-known for her paintings of Northwest woods and totem poles.  But she was also quite gifted at painting with words.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading her journals for her thoughts on making art, making money, solitude, loneliness, and for her vivid similes and metaphors.

I was taken by one passage where Carr defines the difference between keeping a journal and writing a letter:  “Here I am, little book, having neglected you for some time.  I have written to Lawren twice, so that does you out of your little spiel for I work it off on him instead of on you.  It’s all the same as long as you can get it off your chest, only it’s easier when there is flesh and blood at the other end and, more than that, an answering spirit.”

I think that having flesh and blood at the other end of my blog, and more than that, the occasional answering spirit (my readers’ comments), is what has motivated me to keep posting for almost three years now.  Last week I reached a milestone — my 1,000th post!  I’ve never kept a diary or a private journal for so long.

It’s always rewarding when a good writer articulates something that rings true for you.  I love the idea of an answering spirit.  I hope that you keep your comments coming.  I really do appreciate every one of them.




I didn’t have much down time during my trip to Colorado this summer, but since I’ve been home, I’ve been able to do a few watercolors sketches in my Moleskin sketchbook.  I thought I’d share them with you:

Sunrise at Estes Park with blanket flowers

Blanket flower

Tourists on a snowfield in Rocky Mountain National Park

Red Mountains

Mariposa lilies

Colorado Columbine

Nature Journaling

February 19, 2011

The nature sketchbooks of Molly Hashimoto

Union Bay Wild Exhibit: Paintings and prints by Molly Hashimoto

The Elisabeth C Miller Library at the Center for Urban Horticulture is showing an exhibit of nature paintings by Molly Hashimoto through March 24th.  I aspire to keep a nature journal, so it was encouraging to see some of Hashimoto’s on display.  The “Union Bay Wild” exhibit is definitely worth a stop.  And while you are there, stroll the grounds to see what’s blooming in the botanical gardens.  You can link to the library website here: http://depts.washington.edu/hortlib/index.shtml.

Seen on a recent stroll through the gardens at the Center for Urban Horticulture

Hellebore, Center for Urban Horticulture