Tuesday, February 22, 2022

In the Margins

I recently completed a quest inspired by the Apostles. It wasn’t as cool as that sounds. In fact, it wasn’t a religious experience at all. This is the part where I back up to explain.

The margins of my notebooks are littered with scribbles. Most of the scribbles are – no surprise – directly related to the book I’m writing. There are words and sentences pointing to where they should be inserted. Some are notes to myself to check for continuity when I type it or tiny diagrams to keep track of days of the week or where characters are sitting. If something happens two days after Thursday, it better sound like a weekend. And if the turn order mixes up in the middle of a game, readers will notice even if the players don’t.

But sometimes these notes don’t have anything to do with the book. I generally have a notebook within reach, and it can be a convenient place to jot stuff down. This is where the Apostles come in. I don’t remember how it came up, but my husband and I were trying to remember which of the twelve had been introduced in the first two seasons of The Chosen. With a notebook in my lap, the first thing I did was write the names along the margin so we could check them off as we thought about it. When I stumbled on that list of names a few weeks later, I smiled at the memory of why they were there. And then I wondered how many other random things might be recorded on the edges of my notebooks.

I grabbed a stack of the last half dozen or so for my quest. I found some unusual – if not terribly interesting – scrawls. There were several math problems. I occasionally write while my kids are doing homework nearby. If someone asks for math help, I’ll demonstrate a similar problem. I found the word “socks” written all by itself on the top of a page. No one in that book was talking about socks. Have I ever had characters talk about socks? If I made it entertaining, I was feeling more genius than I am right now. Was that a laundry reminder or a very unhelpful acronym?

Across the top of one page was a string of capital letters that would probably be meaningless to anyone else. I remember having my notebook at a cross country meet. When it was time to stop writing and start cheering, I marked the first letter of each girl’s school as she crossed the finish line. I can keep score in my head when there are only two or three teams, but this was the conference championship. I used my handy paper to track our school’s performance. (2nd place!)

There were other letters in a different notebook. I printed E A D G B E and no longer know why. Is it something to unscramble? Coincidence that all the letters are music notes? I didn’t hear a familiar melody and feel I would have sketched a staff to remember something musical. I did write a song title somewhere. It was one I liked on the radio and wanted to look up the artist later. I wrote an address because I knew I’d have my notebook when I needed to put it in the GPS.

There are several pages with pen scratches in the margins, places where I was in denial about running out of ink. Those do have to do with the book and with me not wanting to get up to find a new pen. The only place pencil appeared were the following lines: Hi! This will break. Ha! It did not. The lines also stick out for being not in my handwriting. I believe my daughter wrote that after asking if I thought some wiggly lead would fall out of her pencil if she tried to write with it.

I found a lowercase m with a tiny vertical line under it next to 2m with another line. That doesn’t jog a thing. I kind of wonder if it’s something algebraic, but I wonder if I only think that because there was other math. The most confusing discovery was a series of tiny vertical and horizontal lines. It sort of resembles Morse code. It is not a code I recognize or remember. It will stay tucked in my notebook with all the other little stories I didn’t intend to write. I didn’t even know I wrote mysteries.

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