Making Smart

Things are getting harder and harder to write, and I just figured out why. I’m wanting more and more to make an impact, to impress someone, to be read and heard, and that’s making it harder and harder to write.

I’ve written in a journal with some regularity – I think the longest gap in over a decade would be about two weeks – since around 2001. I have them all on my book shelf, staring me down, willing me to do something with all that writing. For a long time I wrote daily – usually when I was single, because it’s an easy bedtime routine. Every time I’m in a relationship, it gets harder, because writing with someone in the room just sucks. But I keep meaning to go back through all those books – the conference and workshop notes, jotted contacts, random ideas, flights of fancy, words of wisdom, and strokes of pure genius that hide within them. I have a lifetime of material to mine, sitting right there – leads to follow up on, things I’ve forgotten and want to remember, paths to retrace and entrench.

I would remember my burning desire to build water filtration systems (where is that book with all my diagrams?); to ride horses around the world, or camels (after Jordan); to be an Amazonian tropical field ecologist; when I was trying to navigate a shift from academic evolutionary ecology to restoration ecology, agriculture, agroecology, and eventually, when I found it, permaculture. Somewhere in all those are relationships come and gone, burning desires, frustrations, deep depressions, changes of heart and great fortitude in the face of everything falling apart. But most valuable to me are the notes: the places I went to learn, the people I’ve learned from, the contacts and ideas I captured. Most of them are contained in those journals because I could rarely bring myself to so segment my life into life-journals and research-journals, so all into one book at a time it went. (It makes packing easier, too).

Not doing that has been bugging me for years, but not enough to make me figure out how to do it. For a long time, I thought I’d be writing a memoir, but – how dull, pedantic. Now I think just mining them for those pieces of information alone would be worthwhile. Maybe something will come up of more value. Maybe not.

But otherwise, why trace a path and then never return to it? Why would one choose to record the past and then never look back? It is merely narcissism and fear of forgetting (or worse, of being forgotten?). I can’t imagine my daughter or anyone wanting to do any more than give them a cursory skim — there’s simply too much material there, and so much of it is navel-gazing meaninglessness, a very much amateur writer figuring how, at least, to put words on a page.

But at least here, then, to start: I am opening a book covered in silver foil wrapping paper, first entry February 26, 2009: after returning from Peru, my second-last spring semester at University of Calgary. I am still inspired, enthusiastic about where I’m going, optimistic, hopeful, and driven. Two index cards, covered in affirmations and words of hope and motivation.

I opened it. Read one entry, then another, and another; into the middle – a camping trip with my first girlfriend, totally different than how I’d remembered it. So much, though – still me, same me, and glad to see some of the things I’ve checked off; some of the things I worried about — not having kids for the sake of positive change, and then regretting it — I won’t have to worry about.

It’ll take a long time to go through all those, and it’s late.

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