What am I astonished by today? This notebook. I started writing it on Thursday, 20th October, 1988, which makes it the oldest notebook I have. It begins like this: “First day. A bad one. Things aren’t going well.” And that’s all I can make myself read. It just feels excruciating to look at any more of it, like an invasion of my own privacy. Is that an exaggeration? I just dipped into the middle pages to see if I could manage a few more words. No, I could not. So, back on the shelf it goes.
One day I might put all of the notebooks on my shelves into some sort of order. A few of them have dates on the cover, but most don’t. It’s the kind of easily put off sorting out I thought I might finally get done in lockdown. But it’s starting to feel too late. We are almost out the other side, heading towards…well, I don’t know what. So, that task can wait.
I’m also astonished by how many words there must be in all those notebooks. Millions, I’d guess. And there are millions more on my laptop. All just sitting there. Unread. Yet, perhaps, waiting to be read. Or at least, waiting to be turned into something readable, something worth sharing. Is this what happens when you lose your grip on Mary Oliver’s third instruction for living a life? You notice. You are astonished. But you never get around to telling about it.
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