October 13, 2020
Between work, socially distant coffee meet-ups, and what I hope is a healthy amount of staring out the window at fall foliage, I’ve started a personal project. I’m slowly typing up the journals that I’ve kept on and off since the spring of my senior year of high school. My hope is that revisiting my writings — journaling was the only writing I did back then — will reveal some common threads and get me started down the path to writing a book with a personal theme.
Though I haven’t gotten far, a few interesting things have come to light. I should mention that I started journaling as a way of recording what I saw and thought on a series of walks around my hometown. Later, I did the same in my college town. (Taking regular walks was a graded assignment at my environmental liberal arts college.)
Some of the revelations are amusing. I can’t even begin to picture what a “flat rise” might be, and seemingly every path I disliked was recorded as being “muddy and overgrown”. Early on, when I made a list of things to bring with me on my walks and hikes, item number six was “[m]oney in case of ice cream truck”. Clearly I had my priorities straight.
There are glimpses of my interest in natural resources management, which started about a year before I took up journaling. Once I had learned to identify the invasive bush honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), I let loose with the following rant: “ I have seen more honeysuckle this past week than I’d ever care to see in my life. It’s along every highway and on the slope of every hill. I’d hate to be the DNR worker in charge of removing that… oh wait, there isn’t any.” Interestingly, I also had politics on the brain the day I fell in love with prairie. I was frustrated with the state of things and decided to walk farther than usual, ending up on the Cross Plains Segment of the Ice Age Trail.
In another entry, I attempted to locate the edge of town. I walked up a broad street in the town’s northeast corner, in a subdivision I still thought of as new even though it had been around ten years or more. By the time the road dead-ended, I’d already realized that the town didn’t really have a defined edge. Farm fields, country homes, and other human constructions stretched across the landscape.
One question I’ve had to ask is whether all my observations were sincere, or whether I was trying to mimic the “nature writing” style I’d recently discovered. I think the former is true. My walking and my writing were, and still are, inspired by the beauty of the place where I grew up . While it was sometimes hard to motivate myself to walk, I always ended up wanting to stay out longer and drink in the landscape:
“[M]ine is a beautiful town, and I feel the need to get to know it… to be in the place where I grew up but in a more natural part of it, and to know that my own feet had carried me there.”
“It felt good… to be walking without any clue where I was going — no, it felt great!”
“Other people are driving — I am walking. My feet carried me somewhere, and except for my breathing I left no carbon ‘footprint’. This gives me a sense of joy and power and wonder. Woo-hoo!”