Recently, I’ve had an urge to go through my old journals. Perhaps part of it is narcissism, but a much larger part is about returning to a time when writing came easily – when it wasn’t a job, but a joy. Creative writing -poetry and prose -were my forte, and in the 90s I was on fire with inspiration. Thanks to a few points in the right direction (courtesy of some rather incredible people, poets and writers themselves), I immersed myself in waves of words -I swam merrily through the oceans of worlds created by Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Delmore Schwartz, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, WB Yeats, Pablo Neruda, Gwendolyn MacEwan, and a fine Irish poet by the name of Rhoda Coghill (and that’s a really, really short list).
I can’t say what changed between then and now -I still write occasionally for myself but I find a much greater sense of peace, fulfillment, and wordless, “winged joy” (to quote Blake) in painting. It’s probably no accident that my interest in visual art came about as a result of my passion for writers; I even wound up working in an art college in 1998. My passion for writing lead directly to my passion for painting; words lead to the wordless. It makes sense.
Still, in finding a sought-after journal of mine from ’98 this morning, I was struck by a mix of feelings. Nostalgia, of course, was one reaction, but it was the writing that hit me; here were the breathless words of a young woman in her 20s, trying to make sense of an evolving identity in a strange environment. It feels so good to look back at an older/younger version of yourself, to accept that version unconditionally, and appreciate how far you’ve come since. Growth is really measured in small moments.
Here’s a little nugget that made me laugh: I am not profound. I am merely wordy. That was then; now, I’m wordy for a living, but profound? I’m not sure I care anymore -which somehow seems like some kind of growth. And to quote Rumi, “your grief for what you’ve lost holds a mirror up to where you’re bravely working.” I like that.
Time capsules say many things and may even contain our muse.