My dear friends at KTW (Kitchen Table Writers in Massachusetts) set up a round robin of sharing daily prompts for journaling this month. The group is much more writing-down-the-bonesy than I, who have kept a diary since childhood without sharing it, but it's a rough month health and weather-wise, and it's been a good exercise for me, waking up at 5 a.m. in what Plath called "the substanceless blue" of predawn, plugging into a quote, and writing away. Here is a response to one from Jane Zimmerman:
"TIME IS A SLIPPERY THING"
It's that Einstein notion, doncha know, the hour with a beautiful woman (ahem) that seems like a minute and the minute with your hand on a stove burner that seems like an hour-- though as someone who received first degree burns from three seconds of oven flame, I am not sure who could keep her (ahem) hand on a burner a whole minute.
And it's not just the long and the short of it that slips. It's the in and out, the before and after. Did my sister tell me that the week of her final diagnosis, or six weeks later, the week she died? Did we get the free night in Dublin after the trip to Amsterdam or Edinburgh? (I can see the airport waiting room where we got the news, but can't recall what language everyone spoke.) Did my father wander from his residence before or after the two weeks that scabies ravages the place and everyone was told not to tell?
There is up and down, too: the import of time that slips and slides. The husband's remark that seems so casual and becomes the largest of lies, the first love that looms so huge, think Rosamund, reduced to a crush by Juliet. This is the large and the small of it, the connection to writing, what Woolf meant by "writing means making things large."
Woolf's diaries stopped the slip a bit. They put events in their place, in a place, and if not the historical place, writing puts events in a clean well-lit place on the page and in that cloud of confusion my brain has become sometimes when I try to order my life.
I never got it ALL down, but there, in those 3-ring notebooks on the oak shelves, there, since age 10, is where I have managed to hold onto some moments of being, to be sure still slipping and sliding, but, too, staying. Stayed.