For those of you who started blogging as a means of recording time and change in your garden, my stack of handwritten garden journals may seem laughable. Even I look at them in wonder some days: I wonder how I managed to be so disciplined as to create twelve volumes; but mostly I wonder how to get back to keeping up those hand-written diaries.
The entires are very different from blog posts because they are not written for an audience. As a long-time writer, however, I'm always conscious of grammar, clarity and legibility whatever and wherever I'm writing. I'm also conscious that I don't have to back-up paper journal entries or worry about incompatible formats.
I don't carry a laptop or iphone with me but I always have a pencil and a Lamy fountain pen (with a box of ink cartridges) and a notebook in my so-called purse. When I can't figure out how to begin a column or a blog post or almost any written document, I begin by sitting down with a pen and a piece of paper. There is something almost primal that happens when you pick up that most basic of tools. That's why I draw rather than paint — and why I draw in black and white rather than color.
This series of garden journals began in 1997 with Mark and I interviewing potential landscape architects to find one who could help us implement the design that we'd created for our garden. The books include musings about the process, lists of plants, highpoints of tours and lectures. Eventually I began to use them like a diary, not worrying if I strayed from gardening. The subjects can get quite rambling — and thus don't necessarily translate into blog posts.
Volume XII is the "current" journal. It resides in a basket on the garden bookshelves, where I toss anything I want to remember or paste into the journal. I write weather or bloom data or anything else noteworthy on my calendar which I can then use to flesh out the journal entries.
It was a perfect system until I got distracted. First, I started making entries that were like little art projects after I took a class and decided the books should be equally about words and images. I spent hours drawing and collaging.
And then I started blogging. It wasn't long before it seemed redundant to keep both electronic and hand-written logs. Until yesterday, the last entry I made in Volume XII was in mid-May 2009, as Mark and I were getting ready to go to Chicago to have a real-life, real time meet-up with garden bloggers from around the country.
I figured if I really wanted a paper journal I could print out my blog posts or even turn them into a book as Jenny at Rock Rose has done. But as more time has passed without me updating my print journal, it's reinforced my sense of the the ephemeral nature of blog posts — something I never felt with my newspaper columns.
My column typically ran in full-color on the cover of a Saturday section front and was available on-line as well. I saved a newsprint copy of each one, knowing a copy also remained safely in the print — and later electronic — newspaper library. But given the unexpectedly fragile future of newspapers, the fate of those hundreds of newspaper libraries around the country is equally uncertain. A fact that was made eminently clear when the local papers dramatically cut back on public access to their electronic library last September.
Based on what I've witnessed over the last few years, what it ultimately comes down to is this: the written word lasts longest when it is written by hand and preserved on paper. So I spent the better part of a week — with my 2009 calendar, my basket of bits and pieces, a stick of archival glue and my pen — catching up. My paper garden journal, like my on-line garden journal, is now on real time.