"Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Toward the door we never opened
Into the rose garden..."
When I was fourteen I got my first diary. It was a little brown leather book with a tiny key attached, though I don't remember that I ever locked it. Perhaps I'd lost the key. I wrote in that diary for about a year until one day my Mother said to me "You write such lovely things in your diary, Dear." And then I realized that what I thought had been my 'private' thoughts, had been invaded. Not that I'd written anything that subversive, but just the same, I never wrote in a diary again until much later in my life. During my married years I didn't dare keep a diary as I knew full well my husband would have snooped. "Secret" thoughts were best kept safe inside my memory.
I wish now that I had kept writing diaries all those years because that was a time of growth and insights into "Life". Now, as I grow older, my memory is fading, especially for the details of those long-ago days.
One of the writing groups I instruct is called "Write from the Heart". It's a memoirs group, and I encourage the members to keep journals (diaries) because it's the best way to capture that moment in time, what you were thinking, feeling, and why. In that group we write from prompts, and from each person's story you'll find yourself spinning off to other stories that have long lay hidden in your memory. As it's a multi-cultural group, there are varied points of view on common subjects such as school memories and first loves, and growing up in war time. Having this group has been a rewarding and enriching experience for me, and as well for the members. I've been teaching this class for a few years now and the same people keep coming back, as well as new comers. It's not only valuable to write down our memories, but it's fun as well. This was the first week of the new session and we started out writing about where we got our name. (My blog name, wynn bexton, for instance, comes from a Welsh derivitive of my first given name and my mother's Saxon-sounding last name.) The assignment for this week's Memoirs is "Write about your family: what are your roots? Where did you family come from?" This might inspire a few people to start a more formal geneology. I've done one of my Dad's family (all Welsh coal miners) but I want to do one of my Mom's (from Nottingham, with possibly Saxon roots).
"I'll note you in my book of memory..." Shakespeare, (King Henry VI)
I began writing a journal again in the late '70's as a way of recording the changes and sometimes turmoil that my life was going through. It wasn't just daily gossip and anguished thoughts though, I would often record I Ching readings, poetry and significant quotations.
In looking back through my notes from those days, I could see myself changing, growing, and maturing. The '70's were a huge time of change for me, from married to single, to moderately well-off to living in a hippie house and trying to survive, the sole support of two growing kids. I wish I had started keeping the journal at the beginning of this psychadelic adventure, but it wasn't until about '78 that I got myself a notebook and started writing down my thoughts and feelings. A lot of it is probably rubbish. The angst of living-on-a-shoestring, the turmoil of unrequited love.
But looking back, I can see where I was growing, and along the way, the mistakes I made (and hopefully will not repeat). And one thing I noticed was, each time there was a crises in my life and I got through it, the next time it was easier to cope. This is the makings of a 'survivor', and through the years I got stronger and regained a better sense of "Self".
The other day at Memoirs we were discussing whether or not we should 'rip out' certain pages of our old diaries rather than leave them there for our children/grandchildren to read after we are gone. I've debated this. Do I really want my heart's secrets known? On the other hand, those thoughts were part of me, no matter how off-beat, silly or sometimes naughty.
That was what was happening in my life then. And, growing through it, I became what I am now. Awhile ago I started keeping a collection called "Confessions of a Black Sheep" . I've written 25 stories so far. Not all of them I've shown to my children. But friends who have read them say they are interesting and worthwhile enough to be published. I don't know about that, but I feel they are good stories, worth keeping in my book of memories.
I still keep a written journal as well as an on-line one (for fun and writing inspiration). And starting this blog about my writing life has been a great motivator to focus on a specific theme.
Because I am a travel journalist, I keep travel journals for each trip I take. And of course the years I've lived in Greece, I kept journals. Now, out of those journals and with the letters home that people saved for me, I hope to put together a collection called "Life Below the Acropolis". As these stories are mostly connected with living a writer's life, I will put some of them in this blog.
I teach a class in Travel Writing, and suggest to the participants that they must keep journals while travelling, because the little details, sights, sounds, smells, etc. that you see along the way will quickly fade from memory. When it comes time to write your story you may have forgotten some important aspects of the trip. It is also useful to send home travelogues by e-mail. I've done so the last couple of years, and this has provided me with a lot of material for travel stories, as well as enjoyment from my friends at home.
Keeping journals/diaries is a way of writing from the heart. And what we are thinking, feeling, dreaming of at that particular moment in time is a valuable part of our lives, worth recording.
"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train." Oscar Wilde