Memory is the diary we all carry about with us, wrote Oscar Wilde.
But for me, diary is memory. Years of memories.
Family, home, garden, daily life.
Diaries played a small role in my overall life, but became a huge part of my post-accident experience. With little sense of time, and often no memory of events just minutes after they happened, I started writing in my journal again.
Little things. Big things. Write it down quickly.
A doctor played a key role. She told me to record events as they happened, figuring I could share these entries with the medical professionals I visited. My memory and speech problems were so bad, she noted, that “No other specialist will take two hours to try to figure out what you are saying. Write.”
Of course, that’s not word-for-word. But I scribbled down her order.
I returned to keeping journals. Some of the entries were so painful, I vowed to never re-read them.
The best? Entries about time with family.
Next best: time in the garden.
I used to keep a journal to track my gardens’ progress. The major triumphs and minor tragedies, the plans carried out and those forgotten.
Now, no longer able to garden, I was reduced to observing. But observing led to writing and writing led to “remembering”.
The first spring bulbs to bloom.
The first night-bloomer of the season.
The first time the fern-leaf peonies – presents from friends Les and Sandra – bloomed.
The hollyhock that bloomed in two colours.
The mysterious flower that showed up one summer.
Red currants, seeds planted by birds or breeze.
When your brain doesn’t work efficiently, you misplace things. When you’re in too much pain to move, you can’t go looking for things somewhere else. So I learned to keep the garden journal on the verandah, and other journals in every room of the house.
An onlooker, seeing me writing on that lovely verandah, might have thought: “What a charmed life.”
But as my mother always said : “Never envy others. No-one knows what troubles they have.” I was – quite literally — writing to save my life.
Looking back, I’m astonished at some of the lovely things that happened. Things to be grateful for. People to be grateful to.
I’m shocked at the development of this garden, as captured in my journals.
Grateful to my husband, for building arbours, dividing plants, maintaining the garden — in addition to everything else that landed on his plate.
Some of what I read evokes real memories. They bring tears, laughter, delight, wonder.
Some of it is not at all familiar. It’s like reading about someone else’s life, but knowing it’s yours.
Photos by Hamlin Grange