Journals and Emergency Evacuations

I live in Southern California and last week with only moments warning, we were told we had to evacuate due to fast-moving fires which were within a mile of our house. Having moved to California from Florida four years ago, I understood danger. We had dodged three major hurricanes and the final one flung us across the coast. Maybe it’s the continuous beautiful weather here which makes me feel safe or maybe it’s my perpetual state of denial, but I never thought I would find myself again at the edge of another natural disaster.

Needless to say I wasn’t prepared. My papers were not in order and my manuscripts were scattered on my desk and vital papers filed appropriately in my filing cabinet, but not together. Thank goodness, my husband is quite organized and he had the passports and insurance papers all in one file.

My packing was more sentimentally-motivated. I quickly thought of what was not replaceable. I grabbed my portable laptop. It held all correspondences, manuscripts and contacts. Next, I thought of all the family photos and evidence of raising three children. I piled the albums into a large plastic box. Then I thought of my journal collection spanning more than 40 years and wondered if they should take up valuable trunk space. Surely they were not replaceable, but I or anyone else would care if they got burned? I left them behind.

Now after returning home, I wonder if I made the right decision to leave all my journal musings behind.

Do any of you have any thoughts on this? What would you have packed if you were just given moments to get out of your house?





1 Response to “Journals and Emergency Evacuations”

  1. 1 louiseg88 November 23, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Hi Diana — we ‘met’ at my blog, Recover Your Joy. Your question is one I have experienced. After the debris had settled from the encounter with the ‘bad man’, I discovered that everything I owned was about to be auctioned off due to the storage not being paid. I didn’t have $8,000 to get it out and so had to let it go. The woman who owned the storage company was very kind and offered to let my daughters (then 16 and 17) retrieve their personal belongings. The one thing each girl wanted was a book I had created for each of them for their 13th birthdays.

    The book was the story of their lives told in photographs and letters. The letters were written by friends, family, teachers, car pool buddies, etc. I had invited them to write the letters for each girl so that I could include them amidst the photos and the story I wrote for each book. There were over 60 letters in each book.

    When my daughters each turned 18, I updated their books with more letters and photos. They still cherish them today, and continue to haul them out to show friends and family, or to simply muse over in the quiet of their daily lives. — My daughters are now almost 21 and 22.

    In the process of that debacle of my encounter with an abuser, I lost all my journals. The angst ridden scribblings of my teens, the torment driven musings of my 20s and the coming of age and motherhood writings of my 30s. Gone.

    Of everything I lost, I miss my journals. The rest was just stuff. Memories live in our minds and hearts. But our words, our thoughts, our musings. They can only be found on the pages we have filled letter by letter, word by word. Our spirits are infused in the ink we scatter across the pages upon which we capture our experiences, explore our thinking and set our spirits free to soar.

    Perhaps it is, as a fellow muser, that putting my thoughts on paper gave my life substance. It grounded me. Perhaps it is that for me, my musings gave meaning to my existence, or perhaps in putting my thoughts on the page, my mind became free to create new thoughts, new spaces to roam, new adventures to unravel. Not having those journals disconnected me from my past. From my creativity that once was. And while I continue to muse and scribble in my notebooks, those thoughts from long ago are gone. Those cherished words have disappeared.

    For me, those journals are a loss. I don’t think of them often — I can’t change what happened — but I do miss them and I regret not having fought harder to get them back.

    Thanks for visiting my site. I look forward to exploring yours!

    Louise Gallagher

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Quote of the Week

"A writer uses a journal to try out the new step in front of the mirror."

~Mary Gordon

About Me

I am a memoirist, essayist, poet and teacher whose passion is keeping a notebook. My notebook is my muse and my alter ego. It contains personal snippets of my life and observations from the world around me. Diarist Anaïs Nin has been a great source of inspiration for me. My hobbies include writing, writing and more writing, but when I have extra time, I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, yoga, working out, cooking and hanging out with my family and Maltese Poodle, Spunky. In order not to become ensconced by the glare of my computer screen, I also teach in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and in various conferences and festivals around the country. My pleasure comes from sharing my joy of journaling with professional writers and anyone interested in writing.

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