With the most beautiful journals we’ve seen yet in this series about personal writing, my guest this week is Angela Brookman – gardener, artist, friend.
I have diary envy looking at her exquisite covers and title pages. Here’s how her practice evolved, from the page-a-day diaries of her teenage years.
My first journals, diaries really, started around the age of about 15, and about the usual stuff teenagers wrote about in the 60s, boys, pop songs, the horror of school, controlling parents etc. I always bought a page a day diary so I could get lots in. Writing got smaller and smaller, codes for secret stuff, just in case parents got hold of it. It would be so interesting to read these diaries now, but unfortunately they are all gone, no doubt burned by my ex husband when we split up. I’d forgotten they were still in the attic! Hopefully he didn’t read them first, although actually in the beginning I was so Crazily Madly Deeply in love with him, pages dripping with sex and passion that I guess he would have enjoyed those bits at least.
I didn’t really get back into journal writing till about 25 years ago, although I did once or twice get into Dream journals. Keep meaning to again, as I do dream quite vividly. Time—and all that!
Anyway my counsellor I was seeing at the time encouraged me to write a few sides of A4 a day, filling them with thoughts, feelings, observations, dreams, lots of things. This got me into the habit of daily journals, and opened up a sea of writing that has never stopped.
One good thing about keeping old journals, for me, is to see how things have changed in my life. One thing is dramatically different in that when I was younger I seemed to be playing out the “dying of love” dreamy Bronte style heroine. I loved people saying to me “Why do you look so sad” I revelled in that. Even 20 years ago pages got filled with the disasters of my relationships, would I ever be happy? What a difference now. Now my journals are pretty joyful really, full of appreciation for the wonderful life I live here in Cornwall. I think it’s good to write about gratitude. It’s easy to think about, write about, all that goes wrong, but when I stop to think about all I’m grateful for in the day, I find I could go on for ever. I realize that when I wrote about all the negative stuff, day in, day out, I just drew more to me. Now the opposite is happening. Of course it wouldn’t be real to not record the not so nice stuff, I guess I just do it in a different way now that doesn’t increase the energy of it.
Another way I find my journal useful is to remember what the heck I did last week. Sometimes I sit on the edge of my bed last thing at night, start to write, and can’t even remember what the heck I did this morning, well I can if I think hard enough. Don’t think I’m quite losing the plot just yet! But it is helpful when I suddenly think “when on earth did I sow those carrots, I did sow them didn’t I?” Just look at my journal, it’s all there. Actually if someone got hold of my journal in a few hundred years, they could probably could write “An old Cornish Woman’s Gardening Journal” Not that I am Cornish, of course.
I write a lot about the natural environment around me, the many creatures that seem to be drawn to here, and have been my friends over the years. It’s lovely to look back and remember them, the pheasants that ate from my hand, the swallows that nested in my woodshed that I had many a conversation with face to face, that I felt proud as any Mum when the babies first took flight, how I cried when they left for warmer climes each September. Foxes, badgers, deer.
There’s a lot about my garden in my journal too, but I also have written for the past about 8 years an actual Gardening Diary, since having my poly tunnel. To start off with, everything was an experiment, so it felt very useful to record everything. Times of sowing, what I grew, how things did. So that the following year I could refer back. I also, quite diligently grew everything by the phases of the Moon. That’s not happening so much these days – maybe I should get back to it… If it’s raining a monsoon when you’re supposed to be sowing your parsnips, you probably ain’t going to do it. And that happens quite a bit.
I used to always buy my journals, with beautifully decorated covers, people would give me lovely ones too. Now I love to decorate my journals, making them very personal to me. That’s quite an enjoyable part of starting a new one. I buy a very cheap, thick, lined note book. The paper needs to feel nice, not too coarse. Then I just let the decorating happen. I quite fall in love with the present one, really appreciating it each time I write, don’t want to fill it up( that’s why I buy a very thick one so I can appreciate it longer!) But then the next one gets decorated, and it’s even better. I love it!!!!
I sometimes think how lovely it would be if I were to come across a journal written by my Grandmother, or even further back. Feeling this, I’d like to think that maybe some day a descendant of mine might come across one of mine and find it of interest. I shall keep writing anyway, till the end of my days. Might be quite useful then, and entertaining, when my memory’s shot, to look back on my life.
Angela doesn’t have website links, so here’s a pic of her stall at a recent craft fare, with her email if you’re looking for a lovely handmade woollen rug.
Have you ever taken a cheap notebook and turned it into a beautiful journal, like Angela? Are you tempted to try?