We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.
~ Anaïs Nin
It rained overnight. Soaking rain. This morning the garden is showing its gratitude by unfurling leaves, stems reaching upright, flower buds suddenly tumescent with the promise of life. The early morning sunlight is sparkling through the treetops and the grass is glistening. Everything seems revitalised and perky. I walked around the garden earlier, feeling the coolness of the day brushing my face, the air calm. A state of quietude. Even the birdsong is muted. It smells fresh, cleansed of the dust stirred about by the ever-present winds of the past few days.
It’s been a scattered month. Like the dust that’s been swirling around, I feel stirred up and unsettled. I can’t believe that August has arrived already. We’ve been home from Italy for six weeks and the memories of that adventure have taken on sepia tones — the alchemy of the tastes, sounds, smells and sights which were so exhilarating, beginning to fade.
There has been much to distract me. A tumult of needs pulling me from my path and my writing. I’ve sat at my desk, pen poised, but remain dismayed at my lengthening list of to-do’s and amore and I are despondent about our unrewarded efforts in the search for that illusive place we would like to call home. May Sarton’s words which I read in bed last night come to mind:
It may be outwardly silent here but in the back of my mind is a clamour of human voices, too many needs, hopes and fears. I hardly ever sit still without being haunted by the “undone” and “unsent”.
I too have a pile of “undone” and “unsent”. Stacked papers with unfinished notes for this project and that article, an email to an Italian friend that’s long overdue, the unfinished brief for changes to my website, and a slowly percolating idea (read: pages of notes and digital documents) on how to resurrect my abandoned Letters from Italy.
In Journal of a solitude Sarton writes that for her, solitude is an antidote to the clamour that haunts her, reminding me that it’s been a long time since I spent any time alone. For almost every minute of every day for the past year I’ve had company — beside me, in the next room, waiting for me, caring for me, or needing me. I understand that this is life for now and that I must find a place of solitude within, even as I’m surrounded by others.
When I was in Turin I committed to a month of sitting in stillness for five minutes each day. During my brief time in that beautiful Italian city this practice, neglected since I arrived home, brought calm and contentment, as well as respite from pain. And as I write about Turin, memories flood in — the taste of gianduiotto chocolate and hazelnut gelato, grand palaces and the sinuous River Po, verdant green hills, spectacular city views, and the heat of the sun on my bare legs whilst sipping aperitivi in elegant city squares.
I miss it.
Writing seems a good way to relive those feelings and experiences — as Anaïs Nin says, to taste life twice. I think it’s the reason journaling is one of the few practices that remains a consistent ritual for me. It provides a space for retrospection and engenders a tranquility that seems to be missing from my everyday life. It’s not meditation in the traditional sense of sitting in stillness and clearing the mind, but giving space on the page to my thoughts in the present brings a feeling of tranquility. Perhaps journaling is a form of meditation, like sketching and painting, or working with your hands. Doing what you love and being in the moment.
Do you agree?
Writing from inside my experiences provides that retrospection — of moments that brought joy, pain and exhilaration. It is I think, what Anaïs means when she says we write to taste life twice. It’s such a delightful, delicious way to think about writing.
It’s time for me to get on. The clamour of the undone and unsent is becoming insistent. It’s been good to pause for a moment of stillness, to relive some joyful experiences, to taste life twice through the words on my page.
I leave you with more of Anaïs Nin’s quote:
We write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others. We write to serenade our lovers. We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal. We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it. We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth. We write to expand our world when we feel strangled, or constricted, or lonely… [Writing] should be a necessity, as the sea needs to heave, and I call it breathing.
So many gratifying reasons to write, don’t you think?
PS: Anaïs Nin started a journal at the age of eleven and continued until her death in 1977. Many of her diaries were published during her lifetime. Her original diaries are in the UCLA library.