It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m doing what writers do on this last night of the year (besides drinking) — I’m ruminating. I’ve been reading old journals to pare them down and remember dates. To look for seeds that were planted. To understand how I came to be where I am now.
I thought I’d collect a couple journal entries here that describe experiences that shaped me. I don’t know if this will interest anyone but me, but maybe you have spent the night doing the same thing.
Here is the first:
May 17, 2001
I am here at Breadloaf — heaven for writers. A place I’ve longed to be. I am writing at Johnson’s Swimming Pond. It’s not much more than a stopped-up river, mud flats, lots of gnats. But I’m sure many other writers have written in this same spot, have found inspiration.
I drove to this rustic spot near Middlebury College in Vermont for the New England Young Writers Conference with two of my students — Samantha G. and Cathy G. I have no idea what is going to happen, but it looks like a great itinerary. Everything starts happening in about an hour. I am a chaperone for about ten girls out of some 200 students from across the region.
It is so beautiful here. The trees are newly green — just coming out now. The tulips are out. The trees are flowering. But there’s still snow on the mountains. Crickets are chirping. I am all alone right now. Not sure how to explain how important that is to someone who doesn’t feel the need to be alone to keep it all together.
I’ve had some great experiences this year — the Nantucket Boston Writing Project weekend, Martha’s Vineyard Writers trip, The Dodge Poetry Festival, and now this. I have been to several poetry readings — Ferlinghetti, Kinnell, Kunitz, Clifton, Lux, Collins and Kumin. I can’t believe all the opportunities I’ve had. Some would never understand how wonderful this was for me.
I hope I will be back to visit in years to come. Hi to me in the future. What is life like for you 20 years from now? It went by quickly, didn’t it? Well, it’s time to see what this weekend has in store. These gnats are starting to bug me.
Breadloaf, Vermont, 5.17.2001
Sad to think most of those poets have passed on, but that last mention about me in the future is what grabbed my interest. It’s not quite 20 years in the future, but pretty darn close. And it’s not surprising that a mid-life mom, wife and full-time high school teacher was so thankful for time to herself back then. I could have told her she’d have plenty of time to herself in the years ahead.
And so it goes.
In 1997 I wrote a 12-week journal following the assignments for The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. One of the assignments was to write a letter to your present-day self from your 8-year-old self. Here is the letter I wrote:
Dear 40-year-old Julie,
Remember me? I’m the little girl who pretended all the time. I loved to read and draw. I thought you were going to be an artist. Everyone was always giving you colors and markers and drawing books. I was designing and sewing Barbie doll clothes when I was just 8.
And I had complicated stories going on in my head all the time. But that is where they remained. I was too shy and quiet to let anyone know about this world living inside my head. I could look at a picture in a book and create a whole story around one picture. At 8, the world of books also was opening up for me. I was reading all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books in third grade — even the big, fat ones. I ate up books every day. I couldn’t get enough.
I guess I just want you to remember me and how much I loved creating — everything and anything. So don’t be scared — you can do it, you can do anything. Don’t worry about what anybody says about you. Get out and enjoy the sun. Have fun. Laugh loud and long. Be silly. Don’t forget me!
Maybe it’s time to do The Artist’s Way course again!
2018 was an amazing year. Lots of changes. Lots of adventures. Lots of ups and downs. Lots of firsts — and maybe lasts (we’ll have to see).
2019 promises to be just as interesting. Or at least I’m determined to make it so.
No doubt, there’s no one to doubt me or judge me or stop me, but me.