Thursday, January 03, 2013

The archives.

Today, around 11 a.m., I was driving along 5600 West, from West Valley City through Kearns to West Jordan. During one part of my life, I drove along that road a lot--for soccer games, especially, and for a few blocks, it was also the westernmost leg of my daily walk. One year, there was a huge migration of tiny orange butterflies, and we saw them, in flight and grounded, all along this road

Like every other place in the valley, lots of things along this road are still recognizable, and many things have changed. When we lived out there, our subdivision was called "Oquirrh Shadows," because the Oquirrhs loomed to the west. The wind blew fierce and wild. The road still feels like a wide, windy corridor. All the shapes of the houses seem familiar, except for the new ones built in big developments to the west, in what were once fields.

There was a new building, a plain boxy structure built of some kind of beige brick, not a single frill or ornament, except the letters spelling out SALT LAKE COUNTY ARCHIVES. I wondered briefly what might be archived there. Wondered if maybe something fanciful, or scandalous. Probably not--probably just minutes and records.

Early this morning, my daughter left. Her flight was at 5 a.m., which meant she left the house at 3. I got up to give her a kiss and a hug goodbye. All day, I've been in a little haze--of interrupted sleep, of the end (almost) of the holiday visits--and thinking about the new year, what I want, how to focus my efforts to those ends.

I have a document called "Daily Writing" that I have been keeping--not daily--for a few years now. So when I turn my attention back to writing, I usually start there. Sometimes I look through it. Does it create momentum or drag, to look back at what I've composed there? What is this activity, anyway--recovering pieces of memory from the shred of a voice, a little note, an old poem or part of a poem?

In my archives--it is an unsystematic archives, it is unstable, it has no specific focus, it is copious and diffuse, it is unsearchable by any method but the delve--there are old journal articles, college papers, drafts of poems by myself and others, letters, drawings by my children, immunization records (although I cannot be asked at this point to find them at any point when they might be of use), certificates, photographs. Sometimes I think it is time to get rid of all, or most of it. That prospect overwhelms me. Periodically, I will find myself in a ruthless mood, and will just toss things with very little examination of the specific things I'm getting rid of.

Would a complete purge constitute a clean slate? Sometimes I think so, but mostly I do not. The deep structure of the archive, as it turns out, is in my brain, where there are and will be--have never been-- any more clean slates.

Today's stats:

New music: Whatever they were playing on KRCL midmorning; Foster the People
Long walk: one
Writing: added notes to "Daily Writing"; this blog post 
Enjoying my life: two grandsons came over for pancakes, watercoloring, block-building, and Spiderman. A quiet moment with the historian when he came home from work.


  1. Your archive is anything but plain and boxy and beige.

  2. It is for things like this that I love the blog better than the FB. I love re/tracing the shape of a thought -- not just jumping to the conclusion.

  3. You just need an archivist. What? Its a thing!

  4. Clean slate = overrated. The thing I've always admired about your work is that it feels incremental. You need archives to pull that off.

    Loved this post.



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