Sense diary

I recently started trying to record experiences in the form of a ‘sense diary’, just as an exercise to see what comes out of it. Each day I try to think of an outstanding colour, smell, sound, thing, feel (texture), form (shape) and an adjective. Or as many of those as I can. The idea is inspired by phenomenology – to try to see what the actual experience of living day by day is like. The shocking thing is how difficult it is. I have to think really hard at the end of a normal day to remember any of those things which have stood out to me. Sometimes, it is hard even to remember what has happened that day. (What was it like cycling to work this morning? Windy? Rainy? Nice sunrise? Did I notice anything in particular? Snowdrops? A yellow crisp packet stuck in a bush? The colour of the muddy ruts beside the cycle path?) It has shown me two things: the importance of memory to experience (memory is our only access to experience – even the very very recent past of half a second ago is still past); the fact that most of our lives slip into oblivion.

Here are some of my ‘sense diary’ entries.

10 January 2012
Colour: red of brake lights
Thing: timber I bought
Smell: cooking leeks
Form: sky framed by the buildings round Clifton Green, viewed from the traffic lights
Sound – water boatmen (on radio)
Adjective – shady (big houses in Clifton)

13 January 2012
Colour: rose pink (sunrise)
Sound: whir of electric bicycle
Thing: lychee
Smell: white spirits
Form: underside of mezzanine floor – perspective
Adjective: golden (sunlight through blinds)
Feel: lychee peel

25 January 2012
Colour: blue/grey
Thing: strawberry trifle
Sound: baby coo
Form: net of a shallow box (drawn)
Smell: no smell
Feel: furry hat

Question: when does experiencing become remembering? How?


Frosty moods

I listened today to a radio programme about the poet Robert Frost. He said that the best place to start when writing a poem was with a mood or feeling, the more vague the better. So his poem about a snowy winter’s night did not start from thinking about that relatively concrete situation, but from a mood. Isn’t this interesting? Something vague but emotional allows you to go in search and narrow down. It is just a starting point that takes you who knows where.

On the 13th of last month, our daughter Matilda was born. At this stage, most of her small number of waking hours are spent crying (for hunger and the discomfort of trapped wind mostly, I think). It brings home how this life really is a vale of tears.