I’m obsessively listy. Seeing all my “to dos” and “to buys” neatly arranged like dominos is satisfying; seeing those dominos tumble is even better. A list that has been lined through and completed really warms my ocd soul. A good list is a neat list – I’ve been known to compose one with scribbles and arrows and then rewrite it before it goes into actual circulation – but the crossing off can be more freeform. Neat lines, crossing out, tearing – even some violent scribbling is acceptable, depending on the tedious nature of the item completed. I have a bad habit, too, of adding an item I’ve already finished to the list then instantly crossing it out. This might be because I’m a show-off, or because I’m a perfectionist with a love of categorical accomplishment, but it is also (and less embarrassingly) because I’m a historian by both education and temper if not by employment, and I like knowing all of what’s been done before. Which is why I’m starting a diary.
I’ve written diaries before, but they never seem to last. I get distracted or busy or, truthfully, embarrassed at the drivel I seem to put in them. Even as a girl I remember thinking that I sounded like an overworked soap opera in my private writings. I remember reading about girls who “poured their hearts out” in diaries and felt that I had a heart to pour out too, but my own seemed to produce less literary flame than that of the fictional girls I knew through books. I wasn’t boy crazy, I didn’t have parental or sibling heartache, and I felt that my simple observations weren’t worth the paper. Somewhere around fourth grade I tried committing more of myself to paper, only to realize that a friend was picking the lock and reading my feeble attempts. My mom suggested I write a note asking her to not read past a certain point – and I knew that was futile even as I wrote it on a blank page and circled it with the little stylized hearts that were our friendship symbol. Needless to say, not much more was written in that diary, banal or otherwise. Later blank books were started with fervor, reread with the same embarrassment (and greater self criticism) and abandoned in disgust. This time, though, it is going to be different, because I think I’ve learned my lesson; I’m not going to write about me.
Living here has done something odd to our brains – awakened some farmer gene long suppressed. We watch the weather. Discuss it. Speculate about it. Wait for it. I feel like it is some game that follows rules I don’t understand, and I think I’m going to require more than just conversation and memory to really get it. Instead of writing about my hopes and dreams, I’m setting out to be my own farmer’s almanac this year. Weather, birds, plants, oddities and anomalies are all worth journaling, so that next year, I’ll have something to reference, a list that I can fall back on when I see something and wonder why. In our first year here we had a ladybug infestation, a week of crazy caterpillars and a few turkey and deer sightings. This past year (I am shocked to call it “year two”) we also had the ladybugs – and a terrible bug summer, caterpillars that ate most of my cherry tree, a possum invasion and a week where it seemed there were dead skunks all over the place. We called it the skunk suicide season – and I can’t remember when it was but I am fairly convinced it is happening again.
Living here has made me more aware that there is a pattern to things that I can’t quite see. I thought that I would care less the longer I was here but I find, perversely, that I care more – I’m over the perfect newness of a lot of things, but I’m more interested, now, in how they work and why. I’m also facing down my second gardening season and I want to be prepared. I don’t just want to know what’s coming – if my garden is going to flourish, I need to know. I have a feeling those gigantic green moths appear at about the same time every year. Ditto the cardinals and the bluebirds. Does the finch peck on the window starting in April, or May? When will I see the whistle pigs pop up again, glowering at the world and munching greens?
With so much to observe I think I can manage a diary that will last – no room in nature sketches for naval gazing - and anyway, I’ve taken that public with this blog. I am feeling a bit old – no longer am I driven to immortalize the dark secrets of my heart. No, not me. I’m getting excited about recording the first date this year that I see a tulip peeking from the ground, or the first week that I see the bluebirds nesting. Pot boiler to Victorian sensibility, and I’m still technically in my early 30s. Something seems – wrong. I don’t know that I should be admitting this, and certainly not publically. An intervention could appear any day at the door, or I might be forced to give up my heels and my mascara. Is that a granny apron I see in my immediate future? Still, I might be turning into a Victorian (I have this image of writing outside in the springtime, sketching the flowers – could I be any more shudderingly precious?) but it might turn out to be better reading than teenage angst. And if not, well, at least I’ll know when to open the counseling hotline for the skunks.