Posted by: jeannineatkins | August 26, 2008

Morning Gifts

Yes, coffee is one necessary pleasure, but I’m talking about the cryptic notes I sometimes write in the near dark. My husband is a gadget guy, and one of the best he’s given me is a notepad that lights up when you pull out the pen. When I can’t get to sleep quickly, I try to put my mind not on boring sheep, but on the writing I left earlier that day. Maybe this doesn’t bring on sleep fast, but it beats worrying about stuff I can’t do much about (not to name the daughter living in a big city across the country, who neglects to call me, say, every twenty minutes as I would like; well, maybe not.) Sometimes I even come up with a few good ideas. I used to think I’d remember any ideas that were near-brilliant, but as my memory deteriorates, that’s just wrong. Now I try to reach for my light-up pad and scrawl fragments and the occasional sentence. In the morning, most of these, no testament to my memory, appear like wonderful small surprises, though there’s the occasional: huh? It’s a lovely way to start my writing day, one short step ahead.

My friend Mary says she keeps a pretty journal by her bed, and some mornings slips in half-asleep, half-awake thoughts. She tells me these are mostly of the grateful variety, not the complaining stuff we often let out as we walk the dogs. She also reports dreams of the kind therapists and soothsayers would love, while mine just seem mundane or messy. My dogs don’t allow for much morning lolling. Besides, the night notes may be all the bad handwriting I want to deal with before getting to my laptop.

I’ve been listening to an audiobook of The Poet’s Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family compiled by John Lithgow, which I like, though I object to the grandiose subtitle, and get annoyed by the labels put on the poets, and I don’t always want Lithgow’s summaries and critiques. But the readings of poems by various actors are often stunning. And having a few words between the poems gives welcome space and sometimes an interesting biographical note. I thought my handwriting might not be as gruesome as Robert Frost’s after Lithgow mentioned Frost could not decipher the poem he’d written for JFK’s inauguration, so recited another he knew well from memory. But when I went online to check this, someone pointed out that in 1961 Frost was 87, and especially on a glary bright January day it might have been a matter more of poor vision than sloppy penmanship.

P.S. For a review of this book Kelly Fineman wrote last year, please to to the comments and click on the link!



  1. I need one of those journals–it’d really beat running all the way across the house to my office! Does your husband remember where he got it (or did he build it himself?!)?

  2. I will say now what I said when I reviewed this book last year: Kathy Bates’s reading of Gertrude Stein is just mind-numbing.

  3. Yes, running from bed to office .. I’d forget more than half of my thoughts. It’s called nitenotes and there’s a It’s a pad, not a journal, and as I’ve run through the pads I use index cards, which fit, though they are messier. My husband came up to see me sprawled out and writing and said it would be a good blog picture — I thought I’d stick to words!

  4. Thanks for the link, Kelly. I got the whole thing from the library as an audiobook, so may be hearing more poems, which I’m enjoying. I did have that same take as you on the subtitle — give us a break. I find Stein a bit mind-numbing already, but I’ll see when I get to the S’s….

  5. whoops.. sorry Becky, that should be (singular)

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