I love the fall season most of all. I wallow in the bittersweet melancholy of remembrance, even if my memories might not reflect what really happened.
Fall is particularly fruitful for this. Although I’ve been in Santa Barbara since 1977, a big chunk of heart-memory is ensconced in Lafayette, Walnut Creek, and Chico, California, the only other cities I’ve inhabited.
They’re all in Northern California, and consequently, actually have a fall season.
If I regret anything about living here, it’s that I so miss the color, cold, and magic of Fall.
I started keeping a journal in September 1974, my first year at Chico State. Freshman English. Mrs. Bissel. She is enshrined as my most important teacher solely because she required us to keep a journal.
Not a diary, mind you. A journal. The difference in terms is subtle but significant.
She recommended a lightweight five-by-eight-inch notebook—“so it will fit in your purse or backpack“—advising us to keep it with us always because you never know when inspiration will strike.
I was immediately intrigued and bought a slender green Eye Ease notebook at the campus bookstore. Mrs. Bissel wrote with a fountain pen, and so did I for many years, in homage, and because it was fun and different.
I would take my journal to the cafeteria and drink black coffee and thumb through the pages I’d written while my chattering dorm-mates fetched second helpings of tapioca pudding loaded with fake whipped cream.
By the end of that first semester, the habit of writing in a journal was firmly established. For years, decades, I wouldn’t leave the house without my current journal tucked in my purse, a pen with plenty of ink stuck through the spiral binding.
Because I thought of myself as a Writer with a capital W, I never wanted to be without my tools. Just in case.
I have oodles of paper journals, but I’ve turned into a creature of future-present, speaking into the electronic parchment of an iPhone, or typing screen blips on the laptop.
I’m so used to the electronic recording of my written words, I’ve probably lost the ease and speed of handwriting I once utilized without thought. And that’s a pity. A number of studies have demonstrated the connection we make with our innermost awarenesses, thoughts, and feelings, when we write longhand across the page.
It’s my understanding that cursive writing has been struck from the curriculum in most American schools. I perceive this as evidence of yet another effort to separate us from ourselves, to push connection with soul a little further away.
I don’t feel as if this typed or dictated writing is any less authentic than my reams of handwritten journal work. But I’m not sure how I would know if it were.
There are things I can recall only because I wrote about them, sometimes exhaustively, sometimes just a brief mention. I can trace my personal history almost seamlessly back to 1974, notebook by notebook.
I particularly remember the year I attended Diablo Valley College after two years at Chico. This was the opposite of the norm; I was two years older than many of the other students and felt world-weary and wise, à la Anaïs Nin in her Paris heyday.
The other day I mentally steeped myself in that time. I thought of the brown-red leaves that piled into drifts in the abandoned orchards of Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill, the cabin-like houses with smoke coming from the chimneys. I would ride my bike six miles each way to DVC, my face feeling like a block of ice by the time I arrived.
What is it about that particular Fall that draws me, every year at this time, into remembrance? Who was I, how was I, that I so long to reexperience that state?
And even if I could…what would be the point?
I often wonder if our mental and emotional makeup “after the Event” will even have room for nostalgia. While puttering happily in states of bliss interspersed with Helping Humanity, who’d want to travel down memory lane?
Everything will likely be new, fresh, and universally connected. If the sense of time alters, or goes away completely, there might not even be memory per se. It’s all happening simultaneously, anyway.
For the moment, I pick certain threads from my life tapestry and hold them to the light, check the frayed ends, remember how it started and ended. A relationship, an accomplishment, a big move across hundreds of miles.
But that big stuff, what the ego might label as important, isn’t what draws me. I prefer recalling the individual moments of time that are inked into my personal eternity. Through journal after journal, snippets of my past are anchored by the sticky tentacles of written memory.
Maybe, in that After The Event time, there will be the Akashic Records to consult and serve up a slice of time, instead of a handwritten journal, and a holodeck to reexperience it if we wish.
I like to think so. I’m fond of many memories, and don’t want to fall into dislike of them. I’d rather treat them with respect, offer them an honored seat at the table, the way you’d do for an antique relative at the Christmas feast.
And meantime, I can satisfy the nostalgia and this touch of Fall wanderlust with a jaunt over the mountains to Solvang, where color, cold, and magic abound. Order a puffy aebleskiver and a mug of hot cocoa and pull out my journal with its lined cream pages, as elegant as any ancient scribe’s.
I’ll write about the frost, and the horses’ visible breath in the chill morning air, watching us through barbwire fences as we tool along Highway 246. The skeletal trees scattered over barren gold-brown hillsides deserve their own sonata of words.
I’ll record these new memories, even if there’s no need to. Because it’s how I see myself, the wanderer, the writer, the bard.