Journal Without Words

I called up my friend Lisa for help. I was having difficulty writing in my journal.  I was having a futile struggle with writer’s block.  Even when I tried to talk, there were no words.  My mind was full of turmoil yet I was incapable of expression.

Lisa had given me a blank journal. The words "Daily Reminder" were printed in gold on a green hard cover. There were a couple of pages for names and addresses in the front. In the back were a few pages with varying formats. There was a full page for each day of the year including February 29th. As it proclaimed on the title page it was a "Standard Diary...for Any Year (c 1989)." But this was not just any year, I thought. This is the year that needs to be written in this diary. So why, then are all of these pages blank?

Lisa she asked if my problem was really so important. I couldn’t explain why I was so agitated over my case of writer’s block but I was able to blurt out something about "sacred" and that my problem had something to to with the book she had given me as a gift.

I felt a breakthrough. I was able to write down what she told me....

She told me to find a feather, a stick and a rock. She talked of a vision quest. She said "you're venturing out to a place of understanding and on the way in the natural outside world gifts are offered by our elders... the trees, rocks and birds . Be aware of them... Observe. All three will be present. It is a matter of observing. Find the third item. Respect this thing. Bury some tobacco in the ground." She spoke of a bad spirit disturbing the peace of her home. A mean dog lived next door. The Feather, Stick and Rock were to be offerings to heal her house.

When I arrived I had already buried some tobacco by a tree outside of Lisa's house. The feather, the stick and rock were in my shirt pocket. I began, "What I need from you, Lisa..." but I was unable to finish.  No, that wasn’t exactly right.

I had a few more false starts. The best I could come up with was "To share, I need to tell the important people in my order of discretion how to talk to me because they are confused."

What I said disturbed her. I thought at first that I had spoken some deep dark secret that upset the peace of her house.  She was upset that she had canceled her plans for the evening. She did not understand why I was so intent on seeing her. She was no less upset when I tried to assure here that my quest was sacred. 

An image may present itself vividly. There may be a haunting feeling about a phrase or expression that is not easily explained. A feeling of significance may seem out of context. Yet it can be futile to attempt to dismiss the image, the phrase, or idea -- no matter that thethought is not clearly defined.

It is tempting to edit out apparent nonsense with the idea that "I don't understand it, therefore it is meaningless." It would also be tempting to call my the apparent nonsense fiction or to set it aside and try to forget it. 

I am practicing the habit of "telling on myself." Secrets need not be nasty or evil to be destructive.   Shame alone is adequate -- shame of what may be perceived as foolishness -- as stupidity. We can be destroyed by shame over ill formed expression. 

I may never understand some thoughts and expressions completely.  Rewrites and correction after the fact may improve readability, editing out much of the apparent “nonsense,” but I can’t help feeling that by removing some of the discomfort, I’ve also removed the significance.

by Mike Akana

journal without words