My journal is like a button drawer full of odd things. On the left hand side there is often a zigzag line or S curve shape with beads or barbs and a list of people seen or things accomplished. I started out with landscape drawings but this year's book is square, so I shifted to four freehand squares per page to catch fish and reflections, my morning cup of coffee, an afternoon swim, or an evening moon viewing.
These images are done quickly with a non-photo blue pencil or some water-soluble color. Then I go back and add more color playing with different rules in my head. For a few days I first drew in yellow, then went back with red and finally finished with blue. I added water and then another round of black lines for definition. Some days I just shade with a black graphite pencil while other days color is used intuitively. I rewrite my captions later, tracing over the first round, making them more legible and voluptuous. Misspellings look fine until they don't. I find a few minutes here and there, perhaps a morning that yawns a bit empty or an evening that hangs back.
One day we had a delicious lunch where we ran into friends and then on the way back to the island stopped at the salvage store, Liberty Tools, where I found a drawer of aging cloth doll parts next to drill bits. Then there were a set of mysterious drawers with odd labels: left handed kanuter pins, sharp things, and peyote buttons.
These images are not "good," my portraits of friends and family are not agreeable, my sketches of reflections are not graceful, but all are a record of my hand and my summer. My book is a little like the drawers at Liberty Tool, full of left handed pins, painting parts, and wild dreams. I laugh as I show friends my book. "This is what I did on my summer vacation," amusingly reminiscent of those terrible essays we had to write in elementary school.
But I like the concoction of clues and omissions, quotes and patterns, evidence of each of my days for six weeks. I have been good at adding the day of the week and the date. I capture the orange chair on the deck and the view from the so-called island post office. There's Nina with her 18-month old nephew on the rocks at dusk. I have been making little records of boat shapes and angles of the dock at different tides. I take photos and make quick sketches of found sculpture on the shore, the turkeys on my walks, shells that end up at the house, and even the pie that we ate for breakfast.
What's In My Journal
Odd things, like a button drawer Mean
thing, 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 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.
--William Stafford, "What's in My Journal" from Crossing Unmarked Snow, © Harper Collins, 1981