Maybe it’s the erratic gusts of wind that barreled through Los Angeles recently, blowing the neighborhood crows off their usual graceful course. Or maybe it’s the 2021 goals page at the front of my planner, written with such grim determination just a few weeks ago and which I now cheerfully pretend not to see. But something in the air is telling me that now is a good chance to write about the idea of wavering, of uncertainty, of going back and forth.
Let’s begin with the contradiction in trying to record time passing: it takes time, which is always passing. Out of all the journals I’ve tried, that’s most apparent in the Hobonichi 5-Year Techo. I started it on a whim in 2019, so this is my third year in. People sometimes ask whether it’s hard to keep up with writing in it. Yes…and no. If there’s any clearer answer, it lies somewhere between the two quotes I’ve written just inside the cover. The first is a message printed inside the 5-year Techo’s box. Approximately translated, it reads:
Even if you look around and think no one else is there,
you are always there for yourself.
For the you that there is only one of, what will you write for yourself?
Actually, each entry is almost insignificant.
I was startled and laughed out loud when I heard her say this. It’s not often someone says “insignificant” in such a soothing and kind voice. But something rang true about the words together with the delivery, though I didn’t understand exactly why until later.
To me, the quotes above represent two different approaches to writing in the 5-year, which I move between constantly. When I started the 5-year I believed that I would, in fact, write and draw in it every single day. The box was quite motivating. “There’s only one of you! Try to jot down something, anything, or you might disappoint you for the next four years!” I’ve managed to maintain monthlong streaks of writing daily thanks to thoughts like that. But more often, especially these days, several pages stay blank before I catch up. In the photos, you may notice red tabs sticking out of the journal. Each marks a day I am hoping to go back and paint something specific for later. There were many more tabs that I took out because I completely forgot what I wanted to draw there, and whatever I wrote in the adjacent box was no help at all. I mess up in other ways, too: three different times I’ve accidentally skipped a page and wrote my entry on the wrong day…for a week. (Those pages feature some very cross notes in the margins indicating the correct dates). When these things happen, there’s an initial stab of annoyance and regret. I worry the memories are less fresh and immediate because they were recorded late, or in the wrong place. That’s the dread that comes with the commitment to a multi-year journal: Will you look back over five years and see only mistakes?
Now the word “insignificant” reveals its surprising gentleness. After all, those errors are encased in a single day, inside many days, inside a journal that’s for an audience of one. The harm it does is entirely up to them, isn’t it? Even if the fleeting poppies on the hills bordering the freeway after the rains of April 2020 didn’t actually get painted until January 2021, I’m not less glad I tried to record them. These small details that normally disappear, or at least become unanchored from their when and where—I end up simply grateful to have them, however imperfectly. And whether carefully or carelessly observed, even mundane repetitions might emerge into clear and surprising patterns. Like when, without meaning to, I listened to the same song on January 15 two years in a row. Or how, with every year I keep this journal, I can guess with more accuracy when there will be more crows than usual in the neighborhood pines, waiting for me to come out and throw peanuts on the sidewalk for them. (I suspect it’s been the same birds, or at least ones from the same family, making the rounds for the past couple years. Clearly, they don’t need journals to keep track of time. Or peanuts.)
Routines, resolutions, regrets, they come and go. But taking the long view, a deeper, natural rhythm of life endures. And really, time is more elastic and forgiving than we might imagine, once you flip through it a few times.
Text and photos by: A.C. Esguerra
Where to find A.C. : instagram @blueludebar
BK Artifacts featured in story:
Also, if you are interested, you can find Hobonichi 5-year Journal here!