Keep Keeping a Logbook

Keep Keeping a Logbook

09/08/2021

Welcome. I pruned the trailing jade plant yesterday, made a noodle kugel for Rosh Hashana and rode my bike into Manhattan for dinner.

That was my logbook entry for Sept. 7, 2021. Nothing fancy, no editorializing or reflection, just a record of a few things I did. I log my day whenever I remember to do so, but I’m not too hard on myself when I miss a day or even a month. The goal is to create a low-key record of how I spend my time. It’s been especially useful during the past year and a half, when days have tended to bleed into one another.

I was so glad to hear from readers who have been keeping logbooks — some since I suggested it a year ago (inspired by Austin Kleon), others for far longer. Here’s what some had to say about their logs (messages have been edited for length and clarity):

“Each morning I spend five to 10 minutes writing in my calendar about the day before. Tiny writing, sometimes hardly legible, but I am lost if I don’t do it. I appreciate the constraint of space. (I use a Met museum desk calendar and enjoy the artwork.) Somehow the new day doesn’t start until I’ve taken a few minutes to reflect on the day before.” —Alice Maxfield, Southampton, Penn.

“I’ve kept a log/datebook for years. When my daughter went through cancer, I kept track of her chemo, visitors, cute moments with her nurses and doctors. And even though it was a scary and hard time, I’m glad to have all of those moments documented.” —Cynthia Thornquist, Helena, Mont.

“I have found it useful in many ways. When did I go to dinner with my sister, take my father to the eye doctor, change the sheets last, hike on that recently discovered path? All there, recorded in two- or three-word phrases. During shutdown I added a line: What did I have for dinner? Since one day bled into another and I live alone, with no one to question about a meal’s history when I find leftovers in the fridge, I honestly sometimes could not remember what I’d eaten when. I am still recording my dinners since I made a vow a year or so ago not to waste food.” —Linda Holzbaur, Ithaca, N.Y.

“When my family began quarantining in 2020, I started a log on Facebook. I thought it would last a few weeks and be a way to look back once the pandemic was behind us. Each entry marks the number of days of the pandemic, lists a few things that have happened since the last log and offers some thoughts on current events or other activity.” —Erika Spence, Winter Park, Fla.

“Each evening, just before turning out my bedside light, I write down three things that brought me joy (sometimes as simple as ‘coffee tasted good’ or ‘played with the dog’), three things I accomplished (sometimes as simple as ‘unloaded the dishwasher’) and two things I am looking forward to the next day. It keeps me grounded, and it keeps the days from running too much together.” —Lydia Noteman, Columbus, Ohio

“From my late dad, I picked up the habit of keeping a five-year journal, which allows one to write a short entry for each day, across a five-year span. Now I find myself, as my dad did, looking back across several years, comparing and remembering what I was doing on, say, the last three or four September 1sts. Keeping a log is definitely therapeutic and helps me slow down the whirl of time passing — kind of!” —Stephen McKinley, New York City

Remembering Michael K. Williams.

The actor Michael K. Williams was found dead in his home this week, at 54. Jonathan Abrams revisited Williams’s portrayal of Omar Little on “The Wire” — “a performance that helped make Omar one of the most memorable characters on a show that was full of them, presenting his vast array of complexities and contradictions.”

Precious Fondren attended a vigil for Williams at the housing complex where he grew up, in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Assemblyman Nick Perry, who has represented the neighborhood for close to 30 years, said of Williams, “He lived elsewhere, but he always seemed to feel that he belonged and owed something to the neighborhood he grew up in.”

In her appraisal of Williams’s roles on screen, Salamishah Tillet writes, “He chose to breathe life into characters so unconventional, so complex, and often so contradictory that they couldn’t be boxed into the traditional categories of race, sexuality and class into which they were born.”

Here’s where you can watch “The Wire,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “When We Rise” and more of Williams’s work.

P.S.

Take a look at “Giant Steps,” a short, fascinating video in which the Israeli animator and artist Michal Levy uses animation and the music of John Coltrane to depict her experience of the sensory mingling known as synesthesia.

I’ve been reading about James Turrell’s Roden Crater, “a controlled environment for the experiencing and contemplation of light” in the Painted Desert of Arizona. This story in Smithsonian Magazine will make you want to see it as soon as it’s open to the public.

Make sure you’re someplace you feel comfortable dancing before you click this link: Camila Cabello performing “Don’t Go Yet” in the BBC1 Lounge. (Then listen to her cover of Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U.”)

Tell us.

What are you looking forward to as summer ends and fall begins? Write to us: [email protected] Be sure to include your full name and location and we might feature your response in a future newsletter. We’re At Home and Away. We’ll read every letter sent. More ideas for passing the time, whether you're at home or away, appear below. I’ll be back on Friday.

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