January 2, 2019
Last night I was reading, or if I want to be precise, rereading, the book Travels WithCharlie. It is John Steinbeck’s recounting of his journey across America in 1960. He traveled with his French poodle…Charley …and they were on a journey to rediscover America. It was a personal journey of rediscovery for Steinbeck, but from it came that wonderful combination of travelogue, social commentary and revelation that I loved when I first read it in the late sixties as a teenager, and I thought it was worth a look again today.
I had gifted the book to our son Tony for Xmas, not remembering if he had read it or not, but thinking that in his work (which requires him to think much about the future of communities) it might be good to be reminded of the past of our nation as well. It’s funny to think about my youth as being part of our nation’s past, but there you are. The world changes so fast today, and the word we live in…the America we live in…seems to me to be a very different one from the nation I came to know as a kid.)
In any event, I am once again captivated by Steinbeck’s voice as well as by the substance of his observations. Some are deeply reflective…others humorous or spot-on portraits of people he’d meet. And, in looking at their strengths, frailties, fears, or dreams, they seemed familiar and I found comfort in thinking that, even if our nation has changed, many of the people who inhabit it may not be so very different. A good thing, I think.
As I read, I considered our upcoming trip…a voyage to the South Pacific (I’m earning our passage with a series of lectures…a good gig by any measure). I thought that perhaps I should try and journal…that perhaps I could capture bits and pieces and see what narrative might emerge from that journey. And then, reflecting on the fact that this was the start of the new year, I considered the idea of journaling throughout the year.
Now I’ve pondered doing such things before. I’ve failed miserably. I can use the excuse that the days were too busy…they were. That there was never enough time…there wasn’t. But I know, at the end of the day, it was the lack of commitment and discipline that was the root cause. Like playing an instrument, an undertaking to write…even for oneself…requires commitment.
So this time we’ll see if the passage of the years has brought greater strength of character. (If this were an email or text I’d include an emoji with a wry smile at this point — but I think we’ll do without emojis. This is going to be an old fashioned undertaking and if my words fail to convey my sense clearly enough then the fault is with me, I guess, though I’ll admit that I also don’t want to believe that we’ve become so attuned to visual prompts telling us when to smile, laugh, frown or cry that we can’t make that decision on our own.)
All of this pondering was a 11:37 pm on January 1. Far too late for me to start my first entry. Sleep was already close to claiming me, in any event. So here, on January 2 of 2019, is where I start. This may prove to be mundane and of little interest or no interest to anyone one other than myself but that’s OK.
If I persevere , perhaps there will be flashes of insight or humor or maybe even a story or two worth reading….who knows. I don’t. But we’ll see.
Happy New Year.
This was the book I bought years ago….still remember that cover. And for 75 cents how could I go wrong.!