The nature of the journal is its closeness in proximity to the writer. Unlike the keyboard, whose unnatural clunk is never there when you need it, or the napkin which does not offer enough space for prose, the journal gives you space and access to write at a moments notice. In its nature of closeness to me it spends its time in my bedroom in the upper left side of the house I share with two other girls. While not being used I place it on one of my bookshelves beneath my mirror next to all the wonders and worlds it wishes to emulate. Sometimes, after writing in bed, it rests beneath my side table, an antique cigar cabinet inherited from a great uncle. It will sit there for days on occasion when I have little time for casual personal writing.
I’ll admit that I am a bit of a mess when it comes to my room. There is not usually one place that any given object is subject to stay. Currently there is a hand held vacuum next to my journal on top of my dogs’ kennel among an array of other objects that have landed in the vicinity for the moment. Becoming aware of this mess, I quickly move the journal back to the book shelf and the vacuum to the hall closet. My older border collie, Ruby, places a paw on my keyboard and drops a half chewed rope toy in my lap. They are as much a part of the habitus of my journal as any other object. Their hair gets caught in the pages and surprises me when I’m opening its leather cover in the backs of coffee shops.
Once filled the journal will stay permanently on the shelf where the others of its kind rest. Besides these recollections are my most prized possession (besides the dogs of course), my books. They are the ones I cared to buy, gifts, and found. Each one is an old friend, or a friend I’ve yet to meet. I haven’t read all the books I own, but if I have them it’s for a reason. I remember how I came about each one and what compelled me to its pages. Some have histories that span to a time before I was born. My copies of T.S Eliot’s Collected Poems and The Shorter Poems of Robert Browning were both printed in the 1930’s. But there is no rhyme or reason to the way these books are displayed. I’ve tried to keep them orderly, but the best I’ve been able to achieve is to try and keep works by the same author in the same section. The condition of some of the soft covers reflects their use. The first book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series, The Gunslinger, has been chewed thoroughly and is missing both the front and back cover. I have thirty-one Stephen King books, the entirely of the G.R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Series, most of The Wheel of Time Series (there are fourteen), and of course Harry Potter. I have four book shelves and one pile. Although I would sooner give away a book than I would my journal, they are nonetheless, very close to me. Like the journals I have, they tell a story of age and transformation through my tastes and what I’ve retained. As you can tell I went through a big fantasy phase, but I’ve never stopped loving the horror and psychological suspense that a Stephen King book offers, On Writing has recently been given away as a birthday gift to my cousin who I know will make the most of it.
My favorite gift to give is a book; this is often most people’s least favorite to receive. In the same way that I can recall where and when I received a book, I know where, and to who they’re going to be with next. Last week I gave away my copy of Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass at a baby shower where children’s books were asked to be brought in lieu of cards. It was one of my favorite books as a pre-teen and I remember the day I got it very clearly. I was reading underneath my desk one day during social studies class, like I always did, and my teacher approached me afterwards. I had a hard time connecting with teachers when I was younger, but this one in particular seemed to understand me. Instead of reprimanding, or calling my mother, he came up to me and handed me a copy of this particular novel and said, “If you like that, you’re going to love this.” It was a defining moment. Never before did an adult take an interest in my tastes or connect with me on my own level, and it was through a book. I was touched, and he was right, I did love it. When I think about why I want to be a teacher I think about this moment.