Years ago, Mom bought a hardcover photo book on special, and I had fun picking out the pictures, putting it together, and sending it off to be printed. Now, that photo book is a treasury of memories, and it bears an appropriate title, Michigan Memories. Today, I thought I’d share a memory of my own from before our family moved to New Zealand—a funny one that I enjoy looking back at from time to time!
It must have been one of those beautiful autumn days in Michigan when red flame decorated the trees and the air seemed to nearly sparkle with the crisp joy of the season. Throughout the year, from soon after spring grass came up in the fields until there was little left to feed out and winter brought its frozen crystals to bear on the water in the bell waterers, we spent an hour or two every evening working to move our birds to fresh pasture. It was always a boring, but important job, and I tried many different things over the years to try to alleviate the boredom.
This year, 2009, for the first time, I had a camera—and not the kind with film that has a finite amount of pictures and you are done. This was a digital camera, and I could take pictures to my heart’s content—and I very nearly did!
I was eleven, still very much in all the joy of a girl whose life revolved around the different seasons on a 40-acre farm. We had a family business firmly rooted in said farm’s soil, and many hours were spent keeping it up. Winter brought many sled and skating parties with the cousins. Spring peepers brought hope to the end of snow and starlings, and later, robins, ushered in the warmth of summer about the same time Mom headed out to the garden with her packets of seeds and I felt the fresh coolness of newly-tilled soil under my bare toes. Summer was sunshine, avoiding mosquitos, staying up until 10 pm in the long twilight, and playing many games with the cousins in between building villages out of teepees in our woods. Autumn arrived with crisper mornings and Canadian geese riding high above our heads, their honking drifting back to us in never-ceasing cadence. And so the seasons went, each one enjoyable, full, beautiful.
And though change was coming on unsteady legs, I felt prepared for it. Excited, even. Around two months out from the biggest adventure of my life, I had much planning to do—and lots to pack into my new backpack. I’d been envious of my brother’s backpack for years, and now that I had one, I was determined to use it.
We were moving to New Zealand.
This wasn’t anything like the seven-hour drive to see my grandparents that we had done every Christmas since before I could remember. This was an adventure; the fulfillment of a life-long dream to ride in every conveyance possible. Because now, we were going to fly on an airplane!
And as I walked through the clover from one pen of chickens to another, the turkeys gobbling around me every time one of those straight “V”s of geese came honking past overhead, my mind whirled with ideas for all the things I wanted to take on the trip—things to keep my hands occupied for every minute, so I wouldn’t be able to complain of even a single dull moment.
I had my camera with me—an appendage those days, much more important than my carefully packed purses that, when I was younger, I’d been determined to take with me wherever I went. As the ideas raced through my mind and I tried to compile some semblance of a mental list, I realized pretty quickly that wouldn’t work.
Off to my left, a line of trees ran along the border of our property. Our pens of birds were spread out somewhat, and every now and then we had to wait a while for Dad to get one job or another completed before we could go on and do another job. While we children waited, we often ran to play in the trees—and, I suppose, tried to escape the work that inevitably caught up with us again.
That day, we must have been fairly close, because I found myself under the shelter of one of the tree’s branches. Gathering several leaves and breaking a few twigs, I arranged the leaves on my knee and held a twig in my hand, pretending to write. Then, I took a picture—to remind myself that I wanted to take a pen and notebook.
I don’t remember how many different pictures I took of leaves and stones and twigs that evening, trying to make a photographic list of all the important items I couldn’t leave behind. But I realized, about ten or fifteen pictures in, that it was going to be hard to even “read” this list.
Flipping back through the pictures on my camera, I reminded myself: Paper. Pencil, pen, a coloring picture, a book or two to read . . . and by the time I got to the end, I was already forgetting what the beginning pictures symbolized.
Dad called for me, ready to move the next pens. Tossing my leaves and sticks to the ground and brushing off my skirt, I pushed out past the sweet-heavy scent of pine needles and tramped through the spindly clover. I’d have to find some other way to take notes. I couldn’t write on leaves—for one thing, most of the leaves easily reachable were too little, and cutting words into them with a stick or sharp rock against a larger smooth rock took time.
Then, I remembered—wonder of wonders, I had the ability to video something, and video equaled audio! I quickly turned that on, and as I headed back to the pens, I rattled off in a just above whispering tones all the things I had been trying to remember.
Later, in the quiet of my bedroom, the curtained walls separating me from the rest of the basement, I rewatched the video, chuckling at the jiggling pictures of feet in crocks wading through the grass.
I had my list at last—and I was well prepared for my international traveling!
I’ve since had a good chuckle at myself, both at how eager I was to use my new toy and also the memory of the jerky footage of grass. But hey—you must use what you have at hand to record what you need to remember, right? I think that’s why some writers actually carry a little notebook around them—it’s a necessary element of their lives.
Have you used any somewhat unusual or unique methods to take notes before? Share below; I’d love to hear!
Also, would you be interested in hearing more Michigan memories?