American Elephants


My Secret Vice by The Elephant's Child

I am compulsive.  I am not comfortable unless I have a notebook or tablet at hand.  I make lists. Oh, ordinary enough ones: grocery lists, Christmas lists, birthday lists, to-do lists, lists of all the birds I’ve seen at my bird-feeder, that sort of thing.  Then there are lists of plants seen at the nursery, plants seen in the botanical garden, plants I covet, economists, historians, books I want to read, books I want to take out from the library on a trial run to see if I might want to buy. Names for snow, names for storms.  Names of scientists I find interesting and their specialty.

I make lots of book lists; histories on specific periods, histories I’ve read, environmental books, best children’s books,  a list of the best books I’ve ever read, lists of authors I’ve liked, movies, recipes.  I have lists of family names—Grizzella and Tryntje are favorites.  I have an annotated booklist in three parts that I share with friends (who think I’m nuts).  I have a 68 page list of quotations insights that I’ve collected from my reading to which I refer frequently — which bores my family immeasurably.

Then there are the unintelligible lists—the list of ideas jotted down in a hurry, often undecipherable in hasty handwriting,  and I wonder what I could possibly have  had in mind.  I have stacks of notebooks, and have to go back through them to see if they can be discarded and find that I am fascinated with a list I have made long ago and wonder why I troubled to write that down.

My compulsion seems to be a matter of putting it in writing. A line from Richard Mitchell comes to mind —”the business of writing is to stay put on the page so you can look at it later and see where you have been stupid.” Not a direct quotation, but that’s the idea.

Writing it down fixes an idea in your mind. If I have made out a grocery list, I can usually remember everything even if I leave the list on the kitchen table.  A list may organize my mind, but I am, in general, no more organized that anyone else —probably less.

Am I alone in my personal weirdness? Anybody else out there? Just curious.




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