Today, I turn again to Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg.
Public school had it all wrong with their topics: justice; morality; liberty; freedom; education. These words are too big, too abstract. There is no juice…The word “morality” makes the mind vague. Now give me “stealing” and I will probably end up writing about morality. Give me “morality” as the topic and I’ll say it’s a good thing and my mind will blank out. As a matter of fact, beware of the man who can pontificate about morality. He will probably steal you blind.
She then offers a list of topics “that have different dimensions – meaning the concrete and the abstract, the tangible and intangible.” Of these, I selected:
What you carry – in a purse, a backpack/what you carry inside
When I walk down the Fox Lake Road with my big dog, I travel light. I usually carry one lidded cup, filled with coffee or water, depending on the time of day, my mood and – now – a new self-betterment program I’ve embarked on that involves drinking more water. My little point and shoot camera comes on the walk because, though we rarely alter from our route, every single day is a different sight. In season, I bring one can of insect repellent. If it’s cool enough for a jacket, I wear one and use the pockets. If not, I can carry it all in my two hands.
Every other excursion is more involved. My purse is a large, soft bag with handles that can go over my shoulder. It has one good-sized inner pocket that holds wallet, check book, a pad of duplicate receipts, coin purse and an assortment of pencils and pens. That leaves the rest of the bag for everything else. I always have two cloth shopping bags folded in there, to pull out if I go to the grocery store, to carry my purchases. I never leave home without reading material. I get quite panicky if I don’t have a book or magazine, in case I should find myself with time and opportunity to read.
I always carry a journal. I use it to jot down bits of dialogue or events, ideas for titles of art work, color combinations to explore, quotes from whatever I’m reading, books I want to look into or movies I might like to see, ideas for articles or blogs, words I want to look up, memorable meals and anything else that comes my way. My last journal had, among other things, the details of two meals – three years apart – that I enjoyed with my sisters, and the scribbled notes for a eulogy for my sister, Sheila, written hurriedly from the passenger seat during a tearful trip down-state. I have recently converted to the bullet journal method which combines, in a perfect world, everything I would normally put in a journal, plus my day-to-day planner, gratitude journal and Christmas shopping list!
If I’m on my way to work, I fill a thermos and pack a lunch. It fits in a plastic-lined bag with handles. That way, after giving the dogs pats and love, their special treat, and the direction to “take good care of things,” I can throw my heavy purse over one shoulder, put the lunch bag over my arm, pick up my full cup of coffee, and still have one hand free to open and close the door.
As for the intangibles, well…I carry a long list of things I have to do, things I should do and – on the periphery, almost crowded out by the others – the things I want to do. I carry along the hurtful things I’ve done and the stupid or embarrassing things I’ve done. I know, because they all still cause a cringe or a blush or a shudder or a sigh when they pop into my mind. I hold onto insults and criticism forever, it seems, no matter how how hard I try to let it go. I carry the lessons I’ve learned and the love I’ve been given. I carry the people who have touched my life, in my heart, always.