Writing it down

On this date five years ago, I told Facebook that in the previous week I had seen:

1.  a dead skunk under the yellow line on the highway; that is, the painting crew painted right across it.

2. A groundhog galloping down the middle of my lane. I clocked him at 10k.

a bear in the woods

3. two steaming piles of bear poo, about 200 m apart.

4. A guy in hiking gear, backpacking up Highway104 in the rain, sheltered by a lovely green umbrella.

I blamed the sightings on spring. Could be – but what is more startling to me is that I have no recollection of those events at all. None. Zip. Nada. If Facebook hadn’t kept track of it or, more to the point, if I hadn’t written it down at the time, those memories would be lost forever. They are not important memories, but they are interesting events. I mean – really – how do you paint over a skunk? Why didn’t the groundhog take to the ditch? Was it one bear or two making all that poo? And how did the hiker store a huge umbrella between showers? Not earth-shaking puzzles, but inquiring minds want to know. At least – mine does!

Last night, a video-chat with family members prompted me to dig out a sort-of-diary that I’ve kept since 2008, when a dear friend presented me with the leatherbound journal – gilt-edged pages – upon my completion of the first draft of The Great Maritime Detective. I have used the journal to record interesting snippets of ordinary conversation, quotes from great philosophers, old proverbs, jokes, thought-provoking comments found everywhere from road signs to T-shirts, and even verses from greeting cards that struck my fancy or my funny-bone.  

I was sure I’d recorded in that diary some observations made by my eldest son twenty years ago, and I wanted to refresh our stubborn memories.  Apparently, I hadn’t written them down – not in that particular place, for sure. During the hunt, though, I found a few more gems:

There are big ships and small ships, but the best are friendships.

Write your hurts in sand and your blessings in stone.

In every fat book there is a thin one waiting to get out.

A closed mouth gathers no foot.

Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it. This one is an extension of it: Good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment. In other words, live –  and learn.

Plan for the future, since that’s where you will spend the rest of your life – and what may be its converse, in the right light:  Don’t count the days. Make the days count.   Both are true.

I wish I knew who said this: You are never too old to learn something stupid

I have no idea where I found those little nuggets, because I didn’t record their origin, if I ever knew them.

I do know who said Science is a way of thinking, much more than it is a body of knowledge; and Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known and also Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Carl Sagan said – or wrote – all three. They are some of my all-time favorite quotes and I put ol’ Carl’s name with them when I saved them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said Do what we can, summer will have its flies. True, right?

Martin Luther King jr said I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.  Words to live by.

If you don’t find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further – Mahatma Gandhi. A practical man.

Patience is the companion of wisdom – St. Augustine.

I know the origins of those quotes only because I immediately recorded the names of the people to whom they are attributed. Famous people get quoted a lot: one reason they are famous is because of what they say and how they say it.  Their words rumble our senses. But ordinary people are wise and wise-cracking.

Life is full of choices – so take off your shoes- or scrub the floor. A friend, a mother of four, said that often. She also told me I started out with nothing. I still have most of it.

 Another dear friend, who met a lot of trials and tribulations with cheer and wisdom, told me this with a sly grin: Women are angels. When one of us breaks a wing, we continue to fly on our brooms. We’re flexible like that.   It made me laugh, which was her intention. Not long after, I bought a straw broom and wrote on the handle: Do not touch. Monica’s ride.   I have never since had to hunt for a broom (not that the floor is any cleaner).

A writer friend: Fear is the dark room where negatives are developed.

I’ll give the almost-last word to the Greek philosopher Seneca, the last item recorded in the journal, about a week ago: We suffer more often in imagination that in reality.

I am now about halfway through the journal, which is ¾ inch thick. Yes, I measured. You can imagine how much I could go on. And on. You can imagine how wise I would be if I took all these words to heart. Two more things: When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. If you listen, you may learn something. – the Dalai Lama. But – will I remember what I learn? or if I don’t remember, does it mean that I learned nothing?

 The final last word – a First Nations teaching: Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.