Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tear Sheets and Four leaf clovers!

     I have been going through some of my stacks of tear sheets of articles, or quotes, or other writings that have moved me. I must whittle down my stash. We have a big house, but we are slowly being pushed out of our closets and upstairs rooms by stacks of stuff that at one time I thought I should save.  I am somewhat of a frustrated writer, having had a dream all my life of writing essays, articles, a novel... something that would be published somewhere. Maybe I thought some of these tear sheets would help me write something someday. And of course, now you can find most of this information on the Internet anyway. Someone has created a Wikipedia post on the topic. If not, there are others with such interests and the information is usually there. So I must cull these collections of paper.

    Well, while culling.... I found an article from the June 2001 magazine: "Personal Journaling": Writing about Your Life. Of course this article suggested saving these little snippets in one of your handwritten journals, cutting them out and pasting them in, and perhaps jotting down what moved you in reading the piece in the beginning. But I have a lot of hand written journal also and they are piling up. I have started entering some of these little blurbs into a piece of software that I have, called InfoSelect. It is a personal information manager and is meant to also handle email, contacts, etc. But I like its method of storing information and the ability to call these little snippets up in small windows so you can look at them together, separately, etc,--however you wish to look at them. But I haven't figured out how to scan things into it and so entering a lot of these pieces of information by typing will take a lot of time.

     At any rate, the article from "Personal Journaling" I was reading talked about how to notice things around you and how they change over time. For example, look at what's posted on your refrigerator door now, perhaps doctors' appointments now, and think back when it was primitive crayon drawings done by your children. Look at the foods in you pantry or in your refrigerator and recall the jars of baby food and now if you have teenage sons, the steak, spaghetti, and pizza, next to your own healthy celery sticks and yogurt. Check out your phone numbers you use most now and think back to your list of most important numbers from the past: maybe babysitters, the cleaning lady, or the carpool members---now, your internist's phone number. What about the types of paper in your recycling bin. Has it changed recently? Have the types of magazines thrown there changed? What about the catalogs that you now receive in the mail? What about styles of clothing and shoes? You must have different clothes in your closet that you no longer wear. How is it different from what you are wearing now? Noticing all of these changes might show some very dramatic changes in your life and demonstrate how your daily life has been modified. And more importantly noting these changes will stir memories and recreate states of mind that you thought you had forgotten.

     The secret is in the observations of these minute and mundane segments of your life. There is history, feeling, and perhaps understanding in these vignettes that this exercise creates.

     We often think of ourselves as always having been and continuing to be the same person. I have often said: "I don't feel any different now at 70 than I did when I was 30." I allow for those first 30 years of life to achieve some degree of maturity, but I believed that my thought processes were the same now in older age, as they were at young maturity. But this is not a true statement. Our experiences are always changing. We are adding new ones and forgetting older experiences. Our brain pathways come to prominence through high use and then fade when those uses become infrequent. One could say that even our materialistic self is constantly changing. Since our intake of food, water, and even the air that we breath contains different molecules every time we engage in these survival actions, replacing molecules that are lost through excretion and breathing, we are a totally different person than probably 6 months ago. We are totally a different molecular structure. Life consists of recorded memories of experiences and even those experiences and their memories of them are constantly changing. This exercise emphasizes this point.

    The article ended by the author describing while on a walk with her teenage son in a park, leaning down and picking a four-leaved clover. She walked a little further on and found another, and still another, amazing her son. She was able then to show him how to find two also. She says all you have to do is look. All of the three leafed clovers look the same but the 4 leaf one is different. You have to learn to look for that difference.

    My grandmother on my father's side could do that. She would walk across a yard whether at her home, at our home, or even a neighbor's yard and reach down and pick a four leafed clover. I actually have a five leafed clover preserved that she picked and gave to me when I was a teenager. No archival polyethylene sleeve for me; I just placed the clover on some adhesive tape sticky side up and covered it with Saran wrap. It has preserved it for about 60 years. But I could never get the hang of it finding these little green treasures. Maybe I will try to use the method of looking for something different, not the same. But we are in the middle of a winter cold blast and also there is snow all over the ground here in Milwaukee, so trying this trick will have to wait until spring. Anyway, my husband takes great pride in his green turf and we do not have a lot of mowed clover. Maybe I could look in my "wild flower" area, my jungle as my husband calls it.

     Contemplating four leafed clovers makes me think of a photo. I wonder if I can find that photo now. I have to give you a back story on this photo. My father's father was a tease. He made me cry as a child with his teasing. My grandmother would stop him: "Ubbo, leave her alone now." But it was just in his nature to be kind of a mean tease. At least it seemed mean to me as a child. My grandfather ran a threshing ring and so young men in the family knew him. My uncle recalls working around the thresher and actually being kind of afraid of my grandfather. But he did admit that he had learned that my grandfather respected hard work and if you put yourself into the job, he would lay off you with the teasing. Anyway, I have this photo of this grandfather who made me cry walking across his backyard with my grandmother, both bent over at the waist. I know what they are doing. They are looking for four leafed clovers. Grandpa is helping Grandma in her searching task. Seeing that photo now forms a entirely different view of my grandfather. How could a man who would do as shown in the photo -- walk slowly across the yard with his wife looking for 4 leafed clovers possibly be mean? He couldn't. It is a nice view of my grandfather who died when I was 11 years old.

     You see what this old article has done for me? It has brought out memories and it has even transformed my memories. These old stacks of snippets and tear sheets have served a purpose for me.... But I know I must cull them. I will be moved by something else I read and will feel the strong need to keep the piece. I will tear it out and store it away in some unorganized pile somewhere. Indeed, there will be more to take their place.

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