Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Thanksgiving Journal

When we think of Thanksgivings of the past, our memories can often blur into visual "bytes" of rising before sun-up, basting turkeys, cooking down cranberries into a sauce, hanging harvest decorations, watching a wave of people rush into and then out of the house, washing and drying dishes in a bright, steamy kitchen, and laughing with others, like yourself, festively dressed in fashionable high heels, but also in slightly worn-torn aprons.

But what does Thanksgiving really mean to those partaking in the meal with you? There's a special window of time during Thanksgiving when you can find out. You know that time in between the Thanksgiving meal itself and dessert, when you need to digest the first part of your meal before you can even think about cutting into the pumpkin pie? Instead of rushing off to watch the football game or get a jump on loading the dishwasher, grab your journal and instruct everyone at the table to "set a spell" to talk about the things that they are most thankful for this year. Write them down in your journal.

Or, ask everyone if they can recall their most memorable Thanksgiving (outside of this year's!) and why. You may find out some interesting anecdotes about your relatives that can help you appreciate them even more. You might even hear stories from the old-timers about those who have passed on whom you may have never met. The practical joke Great-Uncle Joe pulled 50 years ago could sound remarkably like something you, your son or your niece might pull today. More than looks often run in the family.

Sometimes Thanksgiving is the only time the whole family really gets together, and it's a day that often goes by far too swiftly. If you record some of what people say and do during Thanksgiving, you can savor the day longer and your relationships more deeply.

Forget videocams. They put people on the defensive and no one feels comfortable enough to say anything substantial in front of them. Plus, hardly anyone ever looks at them again once the camera is put away. On the other hand, people open up when you sit down at a relaxed table and chew the fat (and the Turkey bones), as you just happen to jot down a few notes in your journal all the while! ◦

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

100 Memories Travel Journal

Hilary Liftin from Los Angeles described an interesting travel journaling tradition between her and her husband in the April 2005 issue of Real Simple magazine in an article called "Write It Down -- It's not a list. It's a lifeline." Whenever jetting back from a vacation together, Lifton and her husband pass a paper back and forth between themselves to log 100 memories from the holiday they just experienced.

In order to complete their list before touchdown back home, they have to dig up some obscure images, such as Entry number 12 from a Mojave Desert escapade: "By the pool at 29 Palms Inn, Chris briefly looked like a skinny Elvis." or Entry number 48 from another vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine: "We flew a kite until it fell in the water and a wave snapped it in two." Liftin finds that making these entries is "a way for us to preserve the random, funny, sweet little moments of our trips that would otherwise be forgotten."

Newlywed Liftin also said, "We love the tradition of our memory lists so much that if and when we have kids, we'll undoubtedly force them to participate. I can hear it now, 'Aw, Mom! Do we have to do the memory list?' In this age of digital cameras, it's nice to put more effort into remembering than the click of a button."

Note from me: However, these snippet memories can make the perfect companions scribbled next to photographs from the trip when a scrapbook or photo album is later assembled. ◦

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Day of the Dead Postscript

Rituals are part of being human. And observing holidays and special occasions are rituals important to many of us. To follow your own personal, family or religious traditions can keep commercialism at bay. Taking note of what holidays mean to you in your journal or blog can be a special way of celebrating.

After you read my post "Day of the Dead Journal," this postscript serves as a journal writing follow-up. Which special people close to you have passed on this year? Or which people in the public eye, such as the pope, also went on to the next world? Every Nov. 2, reflect on these people in your journal. This way, you are actually building a Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos altar or ofrenda using words.

What did these people mean to you? Can you remember something they said you will never forget? Do you remember something they did that made you laugh? If a loved one could visit you for a few minutes, what would you say to them which you didn't get a chance to say while they were alive?

Look through photos of someone special who died and feel the memories the pictures evoke. Write these memories down in your journal. You may want to include those things you'd care to share with others on your blog, and leave the personal, or more intimate, feelings expressed in your private paper journal. ◦

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Day of the Dead Journal

The trick-or-treaters have come and gone, and outside of seeing the little kids dress up and present their smiling faces and pumpkin buckets at my door, I have grown weary of the commercialization of Halloween. Instead of scary skeletons and ghosts, I push-pinned three Scandanavian cloths on our doors printed with images of a large gourd, a giant uncarved pumpkin and autumn leaves, respectively.

My husband and I also covered a small bookcase with a Guatamalan cloth and placed an eclectic collection of items on top to serve as a Day of the Dead altar. It is not an altar of worship, but of remembrance, prayer and meditation. According to Mexican tradition, children are honored on Nov. 1 and adults are honored on Nov. 2. The practice is reflected in the Catholic holidays of All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day.

We are honoring three special people who passed on this year. My husband's father, Ramiro, a special friend and fellow poet Carlos Cortez, and my beloved sister Darcy. A small sugar skull with blond frosting hair represents my sister. A pin with the face of Carlos Cortez sits atop a small box, and a photo of my husband's father bring his memory to mind.

We leave rock salt, a clove of garlic and a shotglass of water on the altar as symbols of food in the afterlife. We scatter petals from fall flowers across the altar which are so colorful in their reds, yellows and oranges that spirits who have passed away might see them through this small window of time. We light two votive candles each night to help us stop, remember and pray each time we pass by. ◦