Thursday, November 15, 2007


I always meant to be a writer, not just to be a writer, but to write -- whether or not I got published.

At present one of my too many projects is typing up my paternal grandmother’s journal which she kept faithfully all her life. I’m not going to do the whole thing, but I did type out one whole trip she and my grandfather made and now I’m typing up 1935. As she writes, she is sixty, the family is struggling for money, and she is rounding up her credentials in case she has to return to teaching. IF she could get a job doing that. But most of the entries are “did the wash -- it rained” and “baked a cake for supper -- good.” I also have a bit of my maternal grandmother’s journal, which is rural and largely about how many eggs she got, since they badly needed the egg money. When I’m going along in those journals, it’s as though I were them -- just a little bit. We’re poor in solidarity, I guess.

When I was young, people gave me diaries with locks for birthday presents and I dutifully wrote in them, trying to be passionate and conformist at the same time -- so self-conscious I was like a puppet. When my marriage was in trouble, I wrote notebooks to myself, then began to suspect my husband as secretly reading them, and then laid some traps for him that proved he was. So I wrote in them what I ought to have said to him. It was the wrong delivery system.

When I went to seminary, nearly forty years old, I wrote one page a week, single-spaced, made copies and sent them back to my home church as well as to family and friends. I did this for four years and have them all.

In 1996 or so I discovered email and internet bulletin boards and then list servs. I have pages of messages back and forth that I couldn’t bear to lose. Some of the people have died. Some of them I’ve forgotten but remember when I leaf through those files. Some of them would be very angry that I saved what they wrote. Those were the days on the internet when one “flamed” others and told major secrets and got lost in the amazement of it all.

For the past few years I’ve been blogging. And doing Print on Demand. I deliberately blog on a topic as chapters of a book -- er, blook -- and then print it on The Edmonton Unitarian Church once published a book of my prairie sermons, called “Sweetgrass and Cottonwood Smoke.” I still have a box of them under the bed. They show up on the used book websites. Soon my biography of Bob Scriver, “Bronze Inside and Out, A Biographical Memoir of Bob Scriver,” will be distributed by the University of Calgary Press. Then what’s the next step? I don’t know.

But what moves me most is that often late at night or early in the morning -- sometimes they sort of run together -- I get an email about some blog entry that I wrote many months, even years, ago. Maybe just an obituary of some older Blackfeet friend that I typed up, adding comments, and it will say, wistfully, “Did you really know my great-grandmother? What was she like? I grew up in the city and never met her.” Then I wish her grandmother had written a journal, just about how many eggs there were and what a packet of buttons cost. Nothing dramatic.


Sylvia Vaughn said...

About 3 weeks ago, I found your Blog regarding Thomas Welsh and Jeannie Gillis Welsh. They were my 3rd Great Grandparents. I would love to pass on some information I have. We are cousins.

Sylvia Vaughn

Patia said...

This is such a lovely post.

Dave said...

Your commitment to the written word and the DIY ethos are truly inspirational.

Cheryl Hagedorn said...

I was wondering if you had considered giving your ancestor a blog. As silly as it might sound, Jim Buie did that for his mother. He took bits and pieces and posted them for others to read and enjoy and then eventually collected them into book form. If you decide to do that, please let me know.