Woodlice and Pilgrims

Last night, I again read the next chapter of A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries (1984), by Thomas Mallon in bed. It was the chapter “Pilgrims”. These are diaries by authors who wish to wrestle with God, get to know themselves, find their calling (spiritual or worldly), or bear heavy burdens or blows of fate and wish to test or increase their strength. Some succeed in their efforts, some fail, some deceive themselves. Mallon categorizes Henry David Thoreau as one of these type of journal keepers, also May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude; Anais Nïn (Mallon keeps referring to her as “Miss Nïn”, which I found condescending and irritating). He tells of a Dr. Ira Progoff who made money by teaching Intensive Journal workshops in the 1980s for people wanting to grow into their potential and change their lives. Self-realization for everyone who can afford the courses.

There’s also the diary of Josh Greenfeld, A Place for Noah, about the hardship of caring for his mentally handicapped son. Aram Saroyan’s journal about the last illness of his estranged father, Last Rites. C.S. Lewis A Grief Observed about the death of his wife Joy and his subsequent grief and crisis of faith (I read this one years ago but can’t really remember much about it). Then there’s Laurel Lee’s Walking Through the Fire about dealing with Hodgkin’s disease while pregnant. Alan H. Olmstead, a newspaper editor who wrote Threshold, about his struggles after retirement. And Florida Scott-Maxwell, who started a diary at 82 to record opinions on questions that debate the human condition about which she suddenly felt passionate, after a tranquil phase in her seventies.

Then there are the spiritual diaries, written for example by Richard Mather, Johnathan Edwards, Søren Kierkegaard, Thomas Merton. Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm. Then there are the journals of Angelo Roncalli (Pope John XXIII) and that of Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings (he was Secretary-General of the UN in the 1950s). Mallon has judgements about each of these diaries and some of them don’t sound like I’d like them, but most of them seem interesting. If I put all of them on my TBR, it’ll be huge. Maybe next year I’ll come up with a plan to read a few diaries.

Despite it’s being Sunday, I was quite busy today. First, I got up late (read Barnaby Rudge in bed) and had a long walk in the woods with Curious Dog. It was pleasant in the morning but got too hot during the afternoon. I met or saw a few people collecting mushroom. One neighbour had half a potato net full of what looked like porcini mushrooms. I said, “Good pickings”, he said, “There’s no end of them” in passing. I saw a lot of what I took to be parasol mushrooms, but as I’m not an expert, I couldn’t swear to it. Maybe they were something else and poisonous. Anyway, I don’t collect wild mushrooms in Bavaria, because they are still contaminated with radioactivity from Chernobyl.

After the morning’s walk, I became quite active and partly disassembled the living room book cabinet (which never contained many books only crockery and keepsakes and other stuff). Mum has emptied it out and wants to get rid of it, as she says she’s never liked it. It’s a large one, with glass doors in the top part and either cupboards or drawers in the bottom part. It’s made up of two wide elements (about a metre) and one narrow one (about 50 cm). They are two metres high. I took apart the narrow one and carried it up to my room (with Mum’s help), where I already have one of the wide elements. It was originally a huge cabinet. My parent bought it secondhand years ago, and I’ve had that one element in my room for years, too. Now I’ve got the narrow one as well. I need to align them with a mason’s level and attach them to each other with screws, but to do that I have to take the stuff out of the existing element and I didn’t feel like doing that today. It’s probably going to be a pain and maybe I’ll wait until next time in Bavaria when I’m on vacation to do it. My room is currently a mess. The rest of the cabinet will either go to the neighbours if they want it, or I’ll take it apart and get rid of it at the municipal waste collection point. It’s not really a style that anyone wants in their living room anymore, but it’s a bit of a pity, as it is good quality.

There were a lot of dead woodlice under the part of the cabinet that I dismantled. I bet there’s more under the remaining parts. Yuck!

Keep safe, world.

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