Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Diary Writers of My Traveling Man by DeeDee Lane

Writing My Traveling Man got me thinking about times in my life when I kept a diary. As a young girl I was enthralled by the notion of having a small pink covered book, latched by golden clasp, and opened with a miniature skeleton key. Yes, I was enticed but never owned one of these super-secret thought holders. Looking back I’m sure I suspected in my family of six privacy was not a given, I’d most likely lose the key, and what thoughts were so precious I had to record it thus?

 As a college student I took longhand notes and this practice morphed into 6 X 9 ½ inch notebooks where I recorded my thoughts. But my journey as a diarist started in earnest when I began to travel as a young adult. Usually I was on my own and the journal became a place to share with a “friend,” record the daily news, and remember the important events of my trip.

Like many others I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and faithfully wrote my morning pages for a good stretch of time. This daily action inspired me to read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards so my morning pages became morning drawings.
Because a diary is so central to the story of My Traveling Man I wondered if we ever write our journals with the expectation they may be read by others. In this novella I set out to celebrate the journal writers, diarists, and note takers who traveled the Oregon Trail between 1846 and 1869. Their thoughts and notes provide the everyday person’s mindset of pioneer’s traveling this arduous trail. Additionally, they give us an idea of natural landmarks used to mark the passing of miles. For example, an experienced wagon master believed he must get his train to a certain large rock by the fourth of July to be ahead of winter snows. The rock became known as Independence Rock and you can still see many emigrants’ names carved in it if you travel the trail in Wyoming. Some of the diaries published today are actually packets of letters sent back to family in the east as the pioneer traveled west.
Though I do not believe my diaries should or will become public, I do believe in this note taking communing with self. At this stage my diary is a large notebook, not pink and no key. In it I write small passages but more often tape photos, ticket stubs, love notes from my husband, letters from my friends, or small mementos. I don’t suspect it will be an historical document one day but the action of writing, taping, and remembering gives me pleasure. In this I feel a bond with the diarist of the trail.
DeeDee Lane

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