“Attention without feeling…is only a report.” –Mary Oliver–
Over the course of my life I have had the chance to read several volumes of my great-grandmother’s journals…I read the first one before I was ten when I found it in a box at my grandmother’s house and asked if I could read it. I can remember thinking– “Really??,” as I read what she thought to write down. Baking apples, cleaning the wardrobes, washing down the floor, the weather, my great-grandfather’s comings and goings and visits with her grandchildren. Not a stray thought or feeling…a reporting of a life lived.
I loved seeing her hand, imagining her with a pen at her writing desk or in her comfortable chair, and piecing together a sense of her busy, manual, days of keeping house and home together for herself and my great grandfather as well as maintaining relationships with the extended family…grandchildren, cousins, etc.
Gift and insight that all of her volumes are, each time I read her words I long for more. I long to know what she was feeling, what she thought about, what the view was like from her kitchen window.
Why did she write? Given the volume of her writing, I’d say it helped her in some way. Was it her way of accounting for her life? Leaving a record of deeds and acts? Did it give her a sense of accomplishment to list her day’s activities?
Though I long to know more about her feelings, her curiosities, frustrations, and joys, I don’t know that the times and her upbringing would have allowed for that. I come from a fairly tight-lipped stock of people. Your bootstraps are yours to pull up, you do your best, and do your part.
But one thing I do know. My great grandmother chose to write. She chose to leave marks upon a page that offer windows into her world.
I don’t wash down the floors as often or dust the wardrobes too frequently…heck, at ALL. But I too write. And I try to do it with a freedom she didn’t seem able to enjoy.
I thought afresh about all of this as I wrote in my own journal while perched on the steps of the Farmers Market this past Saturday morning, observing the sea of humanity, munching on a cinnamon bun, and sipping a cup of dark roast…
Writing about a life lived is more than a reporting of deeds…it is paying attention to the in-breaking of God and wonder, the impact of the senses, the fullness of heart that draws me onward. It is honoring this…in ink and typeface.