Trash Piles

I've had a hard time journal keeping lately and this morning I realized that a major obstacle to my practice is that I have nothing but "fancy" journals right now. Before you ask what this has to do with urban homesteading, hang in there, it relates, I promise. These "fancy" journals are fun to buy, pretty to look at with their block printed covers and inspirational quotes, but they inhibit me. My epiphany is that journal writing should be a bit like composting or maybe even more accurate, like keeping your own garbage dump. They are repositories for the detritus of our brains. Places you throw all the junk into. Like trash dumps though, they can also be gold mines of recycling. Journals, like piles of items we are ready to burn but haven't quite yet gotten around to, contain artifacts that fuel our imaginations.

I used to mine our backyard dump as a kid for treasures, but it has since been shut down. "The dump" (as we affectionately referred to it)was a recessed area near the woods where we would pile our trash. You see, once every couple of weeks we would burn it and it is the pollution from thousands of rural folks burning their trash that has led to the practice being outlawed. I am not advocating for the burning of our own trash piles, but I have many fond memories of that trash pile. For one, once I was 12 or 13, I was allowed to load the trash in the back of our car and drive it down through the pasture to the dump myself, sans parents. It was pure, adolescent pre-driver's licence freedom. Then there were the times my friends and I would go through each other's dumps, Pippi Longstocking-style, looking for "lost treasures." We would find rusted out appliances, old cracked pottery, and feel like we were channeling Indiana Jones. Plus, we would sometimes find things that we thought would be great to use in a clubhouse we never built. Many of these things I may have actually thrown into the dump myself, discarding them as useless clutter. Suddenly, nestled among items that were truly beyond use, they took on a whole new life.

Living in town now, it's hard to store your own refuse pile. Not that I haven't tried, from the original single pane wooden storm windows that are full of lead paint to the brush pile. (I must resign myself to the fact we are just never going to rent a wood chipper.) I didn't know why I kept these things until this morning as I thought about my journal practice in relationship to that dump of my childhood. I keep thinking that the old scrap of fabric or the old windows might someday be useful in a new way to me. The perils of critters who like old wood or the limitations of the size our our little home, make my physical junk keeping practice impossible.

The journal practice I can start again though, dumping all the refuse of my racing mind into a bin where maybe I never look at it again and maybe I find gems later. I just need to get me a cheap, lined, stiff-backed Mead journal that looks more like a brain dump. There is a place for trash in our lives, a place for dumps where our imaginations can stretch. The trick is to actually go back at some point and sift through all of it, putting some of it to new use.

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