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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Aunt Florida's Diary


Some years ago, I remember coming across my great-great aunt Florida Tunstall's diary. She was born in the 1850s and lived into her late 90s. My grandfather, her nephew, could have filled me in on many of the questions I have about her, but he passed away when I was fifteen and we didn't talk so much about family as we did about his time on the railroad and San Antonio in his youth. If he mentioned Florida, I don't recall anything specific.

More recently, I came into possession of the diary and kept it around for a couple of years only now and again regarding its contents. Since I now have the time to devote to such things, I've begun transcribing it (fortunately, there's not much to transcribe; only a dozen or so pages) and am more than a little surprised at the workings of this eighteen-year-old's mind and her aquaintance with people like General Ranald MacKenzie.

I just hit a passage where her betrothed is away and she's apparently had a heart-to-heart chat with Gen. MacKenzie. I get the impression she had quite a few admirers (a number of whom she wasn't too fond of) and I can't say for certain, but she comes off a little flirtatious. What intrigues me is that she has several male confidants (MacKenzie among them) and I'd like to find out if this was a common social experience in post-Civil War Texas. She doesn't say much (so far) about any similar conversations she's had with any girlfriends and as I think about it, maybe that's because she was selecting male interactions to live the impression that she was indeed the belle of the ball.

I think that much of our substance isn't to be found in the content of what we leave behind but as much in the form of the composition of that content. Nothing exists outside the text because all is con/subtext. Just as I'm leaving these cyber-notes around about this or that topic or event, what might be most pertinent is how those notes are formed. Just so, Aunt Florida may not have been writing consciously for an audience 160 years down the line, but I suspect she picked and chose her words to express not just herself at that moment, but how that self would be perceived after the fact.

This has left me at odds with the idea of blogging for some time. I don't want to particularly share my deepest feelings with the world in a confessional form; however, we all share something more of ourselves when we put something out in whatever wider sphere whether we intend to or not. This isn't about metatexuality, it's that we communicate much more about ourselves and the world as we encounter it than we are immediately aware of.

The specifics aren't easily verbalized; that might not be necessary, even. The meaning or intention of any given moment may not come clear until some time later. I'll follow up on this more in a different blog, but I write this now almost reflexively. Below are some pictures from Aunt Florida's diary; but they're also a part of my family's and my continuum. It's unlikely that we ever get back to a specific point of origin because we don't need to; that origin is ever-present. How we grow or learn from it, how we act on or react to it is immaterial at a base level; we are that origin, that continuity. There's no point of departure to return to. We take it with us wherever we are.

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