commonplace journals. . .

by mulberryshoots


my commonplace journals

Today is Wednesday (“why I love wednesday and thursday mornings“) and I just cut out a recipe for Japanese sake-steamed chicken from the NY Times Dining section. The description of a small chicken steamed gently over sake and water, rested, succulent slices covered with a sauce made of ginger, soy, garlic, lemon, orange and rice vinegar sounded like the perfect thing to make for dinner tonight.

A Japanese kabocha squash that has been languishing in the wooden bowl on the counter will be cut up into chunks and  simmered in a dashi broth with a little soy added. Bowls of white rice will accompany the chicken and the squash.

These recipes will be added to the current volume of scrapbooks that I have been creating for years. In them, I have assembled everything worth keeping that refreshes my spirit and stimulates my appetite for cooking, reading, writing, anything that I want to remember and think about more. For example, the article about the lady who put in plants with plumes that mimicked the exotic roosters is saved in one of these books(“why i love wednesday and thursday mornings”.)

Last year, as I was doing research about Ralph Waldo Emerson, I read about his habit of keeping what he called “Commonplace Journals.” He used them as a way to capture one’s thoughts and to collect and savor the things that appealed to him. He encouraged this practice because the journals were a tangible tool and handbook for trusting your own intuition and being self-reliant (“emerson and the heart“).

The photo above of my scrapbooks illustrates the kind of collage that I put together to represent where my head was at the time for that particular volume. Although there were many images of wishes and desires in these volumes, they represent much more than that. Their pages captured something intangible, an energy or a kind of longing that embodied my spirit as it hovered around in those days. It was a way of putting together a pastiche of where I wanted my life to be going, or perhaps end up, a way of awake dreaming for what my life could be.

I believe that making imagery visible makes what you hope for more tangible. At least that’s what these journals have been for me. Paging through them, some of them from twenty years ago, I can see the person I was back then. Somewhat dated, to be sure. But the spirit of who I was and what I wanted to realize still comes through loud and clear.