Portrait of Rainer Maria Rilke by Leonid Pasternak

Portrait of Rainer Maria Rilke by Leonid Pasternak

Beginnings are filled with such expectation. We are excited about what is to come, the possible futures that lay before us. Usually, they are coupled with a child-like optimism and a healthy dose of apprehension. New projects are undertaken because we have a need, some desire to see the world changed, to create something new, or embark on a new journey. Other beginnings are more mundane than that - a typical Monday morning, the first page of a novel, the first scoop from a half gallon of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla (let’s be honest, this one is pretty special).

All of these emotions are swirling around in my head when I get a new journal. Some of us have pretty strong opinions about what type of journal to use - lined, unlined, bullet, Field Notes, Baron Fig, Moleskine, Leuchtterm, Rhodia, or whatever happens to be on sale. I recognize that by including such a list that I have revealed I am one of those with a strong opinion about journals, not to mention writing utensils. In my head, the only real choice for me is which color of lined, Moleskine journal I should use. Even that choice is a recent development for me since I’ve been using only black ones until recently, I’m trying to branch out…

The real question I wrestle with isn’t so much the journal, but what to write on the first page. This gets us back to that whole expectation, optimism, and apprehension bit. In the not too distant past, I would buy a journal and it would just sit on the shelf or in a drawer for a long time because I didn’t know what to write in it. I wanted the words that I penned to that first page to be something meaningful and worthy of this new beginning. It’s important to me because I carry this thing around with me to meetings, church, library, and pretty much everywhere I go that I might need to write something down. It was a mental hurdle that took me a while to get over until I decided to make it more of an epigraph. Epigraphs are wonderful because they allow us to use the words and prayers of others to help guide us down the path, to set our course for a faithful journey. Then we must get to moving.

I typically choose a poem, excerpt from an essay, or quote from a novel to help me chart the course for the ideas, plans, and prayers that will fill the rest of the pages. Since the beginning of my new journal starts in April (National Poetry Month), I thought it appropriate to revisit one of my favorite poems from, Rainer Maria Rilke.

Only in our doing can we grasp you.
Only with our hands can we illumine you.
The mind is but a visitor:
it things us out of our world.

Each mind fabricates itself.
We sense its limits, for we have made them.
And just when we would flee them, you come.
and make yourself an offering.

I don’t want to think a place for you.
Speak to me from everywhere.
Your Gospel can be comprehended
without looking for its source.

When I go toward you
it is with my whole life.

- Book of Hours I, 51

What poems, prayers, or quotes are guiding you in this season of your life? I’d love to hear what inspires you! You can also tell me about your favorite journal or writing utensil, though I doubt you’ll convince me to change mine…

Tim Bomgardner