Collecting

I think the heavens were weeping gently last night over the lack of rain. I say this because sometime in the middle of the night I could hear the teardrops falling quite softly on my skylight. I stepped out in the dark and, sure enough, there was a light shower dripping from above and wetting down everything all around me. This is the first rain I’ve seen around here in many months. It was such a tease to have only such a tiny amount – within moments the clouds ceased to let go of their water, and the skylight over me remained quiet the rest of the night. I awaken again at first light and see the clouds have completely covered the sky. Oops, I take that back. I see a little bit of moon sort of tucked in between the two large cloud masses as I first look out the back door of my kitchen.

I suppose that the change of weather is now upon us. The warmth of early October is now only memory. Soon the days will be shorter, nights much longer than they should be, and I will be spending time indoors looking for something more significant to do with my life than watch the big dumb box on the wall. When I was a kid I had all kinds of indoor activities to do to keep me busy in the wintertime. I collected things, lots of things, including postage stamps, coins, baseball cards, comic books, rocks, and I even stacked away old newspapers to look at from time to time. I would have all of these things spread out all around me in the evenings when I was a little boy and just sort of sift through them and wonder about them, and think to myself how I might be able to organize them in some meaningful way.

I read recently that people who collected things when they were little also pick up a lifelong desire to write. I don’t understand the association between these two activities, but it was true in my own case. About the time that I could figure out what a story was, I began writing one. I guess I am just a collector of words. Some people collect butterflies, others antique cars, but I somehow seem content to just put words together and organize them into little collections. I know now that I should have been putting into a journal all of these words that were running through my mind and out onto paper and keyboard. Now I am getting better at doing that and somehow it satisfies an inner urge. The baseball cards and the postage stamps? I never got quite them sorted out and categorized the way I wanted them to be. I don’t even know where they are. Whatever my brain was trying to do with them, maybe only entertain itself, it now finds a similar pleasure in collecting and organizing words.

I have so many words just laying around in stacks, words that I have strung together on my own, that need to be organized and categorized into something more meaningful than in old notebooks and binders. When the days shorten I’ll get busy with this activity. Nobody will read much of it. I hardly have time to read it myself, but I like knowing where all the words are located so I can quickly get to them, and, you know, reorganize them.

I have put my journal on to my Kindle. It makes me feel good knowing that I can carry the words around with me. Silly thing, I suppose, but it makes me feel like the words are alive; that they are not idle, broken, lost, or useless to me. When I wrote my second novel, most of the material came out of piles of notes and old poems that I had written in my early 20s and late teens. I had stashed the notes away, unread, for a long time. Then I figured out a way to make them join, cohere, and dance with on another. It felt wonderful to see this formless and disorganized collection of words and thoughts take on a shape that had some meaning for me and a few readers.

I learn something from reading the journals of other writers, like those of Emerson and Thoreau, and more recently, the journal of Henri Amiel. These people also get frustrated with their words. What the heck do I do with them? When I think I have put them together in some meaningful manner, more show up in my mind. If I am not careful they also show up on tablets of paper, locked inside digital voice recorders, and become buried deeply inside of my computer, scattered among many different files. Yes, journals are amazing little collections of words. I love them.

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