There is a quote from Henry James’ book, The Art of Fiction, that says to be a good writer, one needs to “try to be one on whom nothing is lost.” I try. I really do try. It’s a struggle for me because I’m always somewhere else. I’m either listening to the song in my head, trying to figure out how to solve whatever challenge has presented itself or daydreaming about what I’d do if I won the lottery.
In an effort to make the documenting of all of the things that haven’t been lost on me easier, I’ve taken to carrying around blank index cards a la Anne Lamott. Unfortunately, I still have just as many blank cards in my various bags as I had when I placed them there. The one tool that I do use, however intermittently, is the notes function on my phone.
I recently perused these notes, to see what it was that I thought needed to be documented. I share them with you now, and you can decide for yourself if anything has been lost.
The first few notes are a shopping list for the ingredients for Pancho Villa Stew; a line of text that reads “Lg itns16122v 15.7 cubic feet,” which must be something other than the measurement of a human large intestine, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what, exactly; the pin to unfreeze my credit reports; and the name of a movie, Leningrad Cowboys go America.
Based on the dates, these notes were taken prior to my determination to not lose anything. The next one, though, is a real gem: Crab piles of beige and hold sand flecked with sparkling bits of broke. Shells. Dog pees. Insult to injury, die one she killed last night. This is prize-winning stuff here.
Next are more shopping lists, a quote from Jack London, a shopping list, and then the details of a dream, written as a list: Dream. Final Exam. Hospital. Not dying. Go to bathroom. Come back person waiting for me. Crack head on floor. Find me under bed. Exam over – crying. Back to Dolly’s house. Keep dog cause she’s being a pain. At least I didn’t die, I guess, and I got to go to my grandmother Dolly's house, which makes it the best dream ever.
More shopping lists follow (I shop a lot I guess), and then the inexplicable, “While you were sleeping. My crazy Uncle Irwin who fell asleep in the Mac and Cheese.” While You Were Sleeping is one of my favorite movies, but I don’t have an Uncle Irwin, that I know of. And certainly not one who fell asleep in the Mac and Cheese (although I do know someone who did).
Another list: fun, charcoal, beer, being corn. Seriously? I get the charcoal and beer, and maybe I could purchase fun somewhere, but being corn? Something was definitely lost here.
The most recent note actually makes sense to me, maybe because I wrote it just recently about an elderly woman at the rehab center where my mother was recovering from a fractured pelvis. She was tooling around in her wheelchair and rooting through the uneaten trays from the kitchen looking for dessert. She found a piece of cake, and my mother and I watched her enjoy it. She was clearly in heaven. I just hope she isn't diabetic.