Friday, January 15, 2016

Keeping a Journal

Do you keep a journal?  I don’t.  I’ve tried, but nothing much has come of it.  There are three or four journal books stashed somewhere in my study.  Each with a few pages of inconsequential jottings, and then nothing.  My kids are going to wonder what dad was up to, and why he never followed through – if they ever find them.  The most significant events of the day are often matters of confidentiality, and the rest are mundane.  It’s true that some conversations end up as grist for posts on Country Parson, but that’s not the same as keeping a journal.  Matters that are very personal are not matters I am going to put on paper.  Chalk that up to being raised in Minnesota.  We only know about what’s going on in Lake Wobegon because Keillor eavesdrops.  

For a few years I kept daily records of our adventures on various trips.  Editing them into a narrative, and adding photos taken along the way, made for something to share with family and a few friends, but for no discernible reason I stopped.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it goes back to the Minnesota thing where it’s in poor taste to go on about places and adventures that others may never get to enjoy.  I remember a couple who would return from somewhere with slides and little homemade booklets to share during presentations at church fellowship events, during which they proudly announced the number of countries they had now visited.  It qualified them, they assured us, to be reliable sources of wisdom about world affairs.  In the ebbing days of apartheid, they reported on their guided trip to South Africa, and how fortunate it was that the blacks could rely on the kind paternalism of the white regime.  Some wisdom that was.

We’ve wandered around parts of Europe, the South Pacific, up the coast of Southeast Asia, and through northern China: not all at once of course.  Many photos remind us of it, but for some reason I had stopped keeping a daily journal.  I deeply regret not documenting our week in Istanbul, that amazing womb of Western civilization.  When I go back to look at the photos, I can’t be sure where each was taken, but we had a great time.

Old journals are often sources for academic study of former times, but I wonder how reliable they are.  If I had kept a journal of my consulting career, I no doubt would have made myself a hero constantly engaged in battle with business and community leaders who, with all good intentions, were consistent in ignoring my counsel and making really bad decisions.  Reflective old age suggests that I might have been more like Don Quixote riding off without the help of Sancho Panza.  Thank goodness I became a pastor. 

In a few week we will be off on another adventure that will take us from Maui to Buenos Aires,  the Falklands, around Cape Horn, to Santiago, with stops along the way and lectures by geology professor Bob Carson from our local Whitman College.  I know, Maui does’n’t fit, but it’s been our place of winter refuge for many years, and we’re going by way of Maui.  I am going to try to keep a travel journal this time.  The plan is to jot notes in my notebook, and transcribe them into a readable narrative each evening.  Not to be defeatist up front, but plans like that tend to have the duration of New Year’s resolutions.  We shall see.  I’ll let you know.

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