It’s always been about the words. I began writing my thoughts very early on in a diary and then eventually in journals. By my teen years I never went anywhere without my journals. I carried a backpack with all that was precious to me, and that’s where the books safely stayed. Shuffling between two homes meant I needed to keep whatever I could possibly need at any given time on my person. This is where the carrying of a bag came into play. I always had a bag and inside of that bag, my deepest thoughts.
Actually, I still have two of the backpacks I carried through high school. They’re full of those diaries/journals, artwork, some random school awards, and the scraps of a time I don’t recall much of other than what I wrote. (I attribute that to the drugs) But there are plenty of scribbled thoughts jotted down on corners of paper and napkins, and whatever else was used as a medium. I had a gnawing need to keep track of how I felt despite not knowing what was really going on around me. Or inside of me for that matter. Sometimes I’ll take a peek back and try to make sense of the jumbled guts I recorded, but it mostly translates as confusion, anger, and despair. I was hurting.
When I first met my husband at the reckless age of 17, I still carried a backpack stuffed with my writing. I really couldn’t part with it. It was as though it was the sum of me. An explanation maybe. I needed those words to tell the story though it was still unfolding. When he found me in the park days later, I was writing, trying to process the changes of moving from Michigan to Mayberry Arkansas. My world had changed so suddenly and I wasn’t fully convinced I would stay here long. While the life I left up north wasn’t much of a life at all, it was still something I knew. Familiar. Wild. Here, I felt like a foreigner, quickly singled out by the teens at the pool for my vintage 1950’s ruched bathing suit and oversized Jackie O sunglasses. I was pasty white while they glowed golden in their bikinis. And when I spoke they said I sounded different, like I was from New York. They sounded different. And so did my now husband who had such a deep voice and Oklahoma drawl that I could only understand a few words, and then had to use context clues. I spoke so fast, he just nodded out of courtesy not knowing what I had really said. All the O’s here are short while I still say them through my nose. We’ve come a long way but have thoroughly disputed if a pen is a pin, or apricot is long-A apricot, etc.
Suffice to say, I stayed put. And I kept writing. And I read him some of my offerings so as to explain my brain, and he listened. I didn’t know if he really understood until one evening while with others he began to brag on me about my writing. I knew then that he had indeed understood even though we had come from very different places, and were very different people.
Fast-forward through the years and the journals are still here. I have taken several sabbaticals and I have thrown myself headlong into it. My darkest days are the ones I did not write. I used to pour out my aches and longings but when I found it to be too painful for words, the pages remained blank. This only proves to me that I am most alive while scribing. Most aware when recording. Most okay when I let it flow, no matter how poised or disheveled my words.
All this came to mind yesterday after finding a worn leather satchel from a thrift store. It spoke to me (as second-hand items do) and I dished out the $15 to make it mine. It felt like I had secured a safe house for my journals. A place to keep them safely together. If you understood my need for being kept and together you would understand why I was like a little girl racing home to put my books inside first thing. I tucked them in and just looked at them.
“I’ve prepared a place for you.”
An old/new bag. A hippy-girl heart. A beatnik soul. A contemplative spirit. A place to gather, collect and reflect. All I could need at any given moment to make it all come together inside, on my person. My apothecary jars… physician’s bag… mother’s purse… tactical pack… all right here.