No parking

There’s always a Christmas-morning kind of thrill when I start a new Moleskine, the page under my pen feeling crisp and fresh. What pleasant excitement there is in the expansive possibilities of a fresh new notebook waiting to be filled! It’s like starting a new semester, where you have the possibility of doing good on past promises: a fresh chance, the opportunity of a do-over. Maybe this time won’t be a re-hash of past missteps: maybe this time you’ll get things right.

National Registry of Historic Places

I have a ritual for the start of a new Moleskine. I open and discard the cellophane wrap and take off the paper band, pressing sharp creases to preserve the folds left by the notebook’s edges. I put this paper band and the “history” pamphlet that comes with every new Moleskine into the back pocket. Then I sort through the stuff from the previous notebook’s pocket, taking out duplicate ticket stubs and the envelope of perpetual carry-overs I faithfully transfer from one notebook to the next: a calendar, leftover money from past trips to Canada and Ireland, and a handful of pictures of J and Reggie. I put these into the new notebook’s pocket, thereby initiating it. This is a kind of continuity, assuring that even a new notebook has some history behind it, like starting a new fire from embers of the previous.

Because I use my Moleskine pocket to store ticket stubs, I end up with a kind of scrapbook or time capsule of good times. When I sort through the old notebook’s pocket, I’m revisiting recent adventures: museum visits, sporting events, films. It’s a reminder of things I’ve done and places I’ve been, an implicit promise that these good times will continue in this new notebook’s “next chapter.”

Stop

If I didn’t have this way of keeping track of days–of literally keeping time–I’d have to invent one, but this method works (for me) as good as any. Now that I keep my daily to-do lists in my notebook, I have that additional kind of daily record–an account of how I spent my time. Although I hardly ever go back to revisit a truly old notebook, they’re all there on the shelf I want to dip into my own history: a silent record of days past.

I like keeping notebooks for their own sake, even if I don’t go back to “use” them. Like a time capsule, my notebooks exist as artifacts in the layered archaeology of my own life, each day piling atop its predecessor. Someday, perhaps, I’ll go back and be amazed at how I used to live my life; someday when I’m older, I think, even this record of mundane to-do’s and their accompanying dramas–these daily obsessions–will fascinate like windows into an age then forgotten. What was it like, I’ll wonder, to be a month over 40, in mid-winter, writing and alive? My notebooks (if nothing else) will remember and be able to tell.

I wrote these paragraphs in my journal this past Saturday on the occasion of filling my latest Moleskine. I always feel a surge of satisfaction when I’m able to turn the page from one notebook to another, and this particular page-turning marked a noteworthy milestone: the 20th Moleskine I’ve filled since I started using them in August, 2002.