Journal and Journey are similar-sounding enough: well, they descend from the same Latin, it seems. Travelling in my journal is something I can do when I’m not free to move. I can never get enough of journeying, although, when I travel, I worry all the time that I’m not travelling properly.
Last year, I went to Sichuan, three days on the hard bunk in a slow train from the coast. When I got there — after the peppery taxi-driver had stopped in the middle of the road to bawl out a woman in an SUV — I met two truly gung-ho Germans who had cycled from Dusseldorf. Real journeymen; looking for work, in Chengdu.
I think I need three or four notebooks, of different sorts. A book for timed writing (what a good tip that is, to set a timer) which exercises the muscle, or keeps it stretched.
A second book of working notes: ideas and overheard snippets with story potential.
Here is one of these from a note in my phone. A scrawny man on the train to Paraparaumu was reading a book on beekeeping. What I glimpsed was the chapter heading; ‘A Current Flow of Nectar’. The sunshine on the bank of dry golden grass beside the tracks promised a honeyed life. Electric honey.
The third book records what I’ve read; other people’s words.
The fourth book is as misty as the morning swirls over Lucas Creek. When the mist burns off, then I’ll know what to do.
The actual books and the pens take on a fetishistic significance. I like to write in a large book but they’re heavy to carry around. Perhaps I don’t really want to journey at all with my journals. Perhaps I just want to drill down into a single place like a grub driving into a couch-grass root.
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