Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thoughts on a Journal

Currently Reading: The Journals of Louisa May Alcott and Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

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It's a privilege, really, to read someone else's private words. A privilege that, quite frankly, gives me a sense of unease and guilt as I read, knowing as I do that she really didn't want her journals to be read after she was gone. Several times these past weeks, I have found myself whispering a quiet apology as I open the covers and slip back in. But I feel I have given her journals the reverence they deserve, and so my guilt does not linger long.

She's witty. She's ironic. She's sharp. Those deep brown eyes don't miss a thing and she records what she observes and feels with a clarity, honesty, and insightfulness, even at a young age, that is truly remarkable. She writes about her world and her life with passion and earnestness, but with a dry wit, and with sarcasm or irony tinging her words. She can make me laugh out loud. She can make me reread a sentence again and again to wring every nuanced meaning from it.

Reading her journals is inspiring and exhilarating. But mostly, I just find myself enjoying her company. Her happy moments, her despondent days, her commitment to her family, her plans and goals, her tireless work ethic- I have gotten to know them all. And I have gotten to know her in a new way, in the raw, real words of her life. I witness the change in her voice as she grows older and her experiences shape her; I hear the world-weariness that never quite goes away, her attempts to resign herself to her duties and her life. I love her younger years the best, because I identify so fully with her there. As she gets older, her journals become descriptions of daily life, her family and her work, less about herself and her feelings. Her opinions are still there, still sharp- but she seems to write her journals less as a means of introspection and more as a narrative of her days.

I understand now the rhythms of her life; I see now that she had to write mostly to provide for her family. I find myself wondering what books she would have written if she had the time and the quiet she desperately wanted, if she could have written for herself, without the pressure of writing for necessity.

There is great beauty in her writing, even though it's a journal and not meant for a reader's eyes, which just shows that she was naturally talented, her writing just an extension of how she thought and spoke.

I haven't finished yet. I don't really want to. 

I was thinking of going on to one of her novels next, but I cannot pull myself away from her world, so I will be moving on to her collection of letters. Through the letters, I expect I will be seeing her life from a new perspective, a different angle, providing me with what I desire most: a multi-faceted understanding of her life. 

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