Capturing Yesterday


NOTE : The following feature was originally
published May 9, 2007 as part of my AEzine newsletter series. I
will be periodically bringing content back from the archives,
updating/adapting, and re-publishing here.


Yesterday I spent some time digging in the dirt. I always feel really alive when I am outside planting, watering, puttering, etc.

While setting up a new schedule this past week I was able to allocate time (also known as "make time") for two of my favorite things that make me feel whole: reading & gardening.

I grew up in a home that definitely advocated getting outside: swimming, gardening, weeding, bikes, fishing, soccer, golf, etc. If the weather was decent (and even sometimes when it wasn't), you could find my family outside.

All kinds of outdoor childhood memories started coming to mind yesterday as I was changing out dirt in some of my older pots. My hands were dirty, my pants were dirty, and I was happy. All those memories would make great content for a layout or two - a story about my family.

Memories that go along with being outside for me include:

  1. riding bikes around and around the cul-de-sac (and up and down the hill as we got older) until my Mom would ring the bell for us to come in for dinner

  2. racing my brother on our bikes as we rode to the local outdoor pool in the summer

  3. getting soaking wet and cold playing soccer in the rain every weekend in grade school

  4. watching my parents work together in the garden

  5. walking outside into our backyard and seeing all the color and the hanging baskets that my Dad had lovingly created while listening to sports or talk shows on his little portable radio

  6. cold drinks

  7. slip & slide down the hill in the backyard (and the resulting grass or plastic burns that always seemed to go along with all the fun)

  8. the smell of the BBQ

  9. the smell of fertilizer and the amazing aqua color as my Mom mixed it in a giant garbage can to feed all the flowers in our backyard

I had to think a bit to remember these bits of my life - they didn't all come flooding back without effort. But as I sit here and type they are beginning to flood - I am totally looking forward creating a layout that showcases these outdoor memories (with or without photos). This is a big part of my personal story that I have not documented yet.

Today, as an adult, I am getting ready to have my backyard landscaped for the first time. Lots of wonderful, crazy firsts happening around the Edwards' this year. I can't wait to have a place to gather and eat and simply be outside. And make sure I am really living my life everyday so that Simon will have awesome memories to reflect back on when he is older. So that he will know what was important to me and to Chris and that those values will guide him in the future.

I realized yesterday, as I was happily digging in the dirt, that I was capturing life.

I was capturing pieces of my life that I had not thought of in years. I was capturing it through my memories, through the thoughts and images that were playing in my mind as I was creating new ones by simply digging in the dirt.

My point today? Capturing life is not always documenting our right now. Sometimes it is capturing pieces of the past that we want to remember, that make us who we are today. We all have memories - some are good and happy and beautiful in that hazy summer afternoon twilight sort of way; while others are sad, traumatizing, frustrating and dark. Having both makes us real, makes us human.

In documenting life you always have a choice. Not all stories have to be - or need to be - told. It's about finding a balance with the truths of your own personal story. For me, documenting both the good and the challenges helps me process my life as a whole. Some of my stories appear in my scrapbooks and others are kept closer to my heart. Again, part of the process is realizing that you get to choose how you want to document your life.

As you go about your week, be conscious of activities that bring up memories. Grab a notebook or set up a file on your computer and start jotting them down. Go a bit deeper to capture those moments that linger on the fringe of your memories. Maybe you will remember parts of yourself that you have lost connection with, or pieces of your heart that are willing to stand up today and have their story told.


A COUPLE ADDITIONAL NOTES : It's always interesting for me to go back and read things like this that were written three + years ago. Over those three years I have made many, many layouts but not one that relates to the particular content about outside memories. Back on the list it goes.

And I am still waiting for a place in my backyard to gather and eat and simply be outside.

24 thoughts

  1. LisaZ

    2010-06-09 01:46:15 -0400

    I can completely relate to documenting things from the past that you want to remember. Sometimes I look around Home Depot or Lowe's and remember those times my Dad would take me to the local gardening center, not the big box stores we have today, to look thru all the seed packets for our small backyard garden. Ah, those were the days.
    Thanks for reminding me to jot down those wonderful precious moments from long ago. Some of those little things make me who I am today.

  2. Kimb

    2010-06-09 02:32:02 -0400

    Ali I am so happy you share things like this with us. Not just your beautiful ideas and wonderful wisdom's but also your "real"..Can't tell you how many times I have been lifted out of my self induced scrapping funk just hearing little things like your "Additional Notes" It's such a big relief to hear that even the industries finest doesn't always manage everything she would like to...
    Oh and this "We all have memories - some are good and happy and beautiful in that hazy summer afternoon twilight sort of way; while others are sad, traumatizing, frustrating and dark. Having both makes us real, makes us human." is so going onto one of my scrap pages...

  3. Nicky from Canada

    2010-06-09 02:34:31 -0400

    Looking forward to seeing the finished projects in your outdoor space. We live in ours and everything is better outside!!!
    Thanks for sharing

  4. heidig

    2010-06-09 02:46:35 -0400

    I'm sure I read this when it was first written but today it really strikes a cord with me. Thanks for making me think of my childhood memories and their need to be told - good or bad.

  5. Lana

    2010-06-09 02:54:22 -0400

    Beautiful, Ali. Your posts are always so engaging and thought-provoking.

  6. Peg

    2010-06-09 03:13:09 -0400

    Thanks for sharing the glimpse back but more importantly for sharing the addt'l notes. I've gotten so much better about beating myself up for those sorts of things but they still happen and I still feel like I want to keep it from happening and hearing that others, especially someone I've got so much admiration for and received so much inspiration from, have the same challenges is so validating. The comment about the outdoor space particularly...the house seems to be a never ending project!
    Last night Noell's Paperclipping Live was discussing how she handles unfinished projects and the flood of new ideas that always seem to come along. I don't know that her process will work exactly for me but it was good to hear about it and think about how I might approach it for myself.

  7. Krystal

    2010-06-09 03:26:25 -0400

    Ali, I am reading an amazing book currently called Last Child in the Woods. The author talks about society and children and how they're affected by what he calls "nature deficit disorder." Anyways, your post made me think of how awesome it is that you're getting outside! It's wonderful to drive around town and see people outside working, kids playing, etc. I'm only 24 and have noticed a HUGE differnce in the amount of time spent outside.

  8. Jessica Woodford

    2010-06-09 03:28:36 -0400

    Those are some of my favorite flowers! Thanks for brightening my day! :)

  9. christen

    2010-06-09 03:58:12 -0400

    wow - thanks for sharing this! it is really bringing back some fun childhood memories for me. now i need to write them down.

  10. Monika Wright

    2010-06-09 04:16:33 -0400

    Reading this made me think of my Opa. He loved gardening, and so do I. And, I want to tie that story into my life now in the mountains of East mother-in-law was worried I wouldn't like it here since I had always lived in the suburbs. We love to talk about the wildflowers in season and what's up next. An added bonus is that my 2 girls are learning the names of flowers on our nature walks around the property. ON THE LIST for a new layout.

  11. Sarah

    2010-06-09 04:23:44 -0400

    What beautiful memories!
    Per your recommendation, I requested WRITING MOTHERHOOD for my first ever mother's day present. I like the book and the writing invitations... to recall and document bits & pieces of life. Thanks for the recommendation as I move forward with my Mommy Journal.

  12. Noell Hyman

    2010-06-09 05:08:48 -0400

    I love this article. I can't wait to see the story on a layout sometime.
    Ali, we do not have a very great-looking backyard yet. It's very bland. A grey cinder block wall surrounds us. But we have a table and we have always eaten outside almost every day of the year. All you need is a table.
    Gradually we've gotten the grass to finally turn green this year (it's not easy in AZ) and I now have one potted plant. Eventually it will be beautiful, but I'm not waiting for that day to come! Eating outside is the best, even if the gathering place is not. :)

  13. Anne

    2010-06-09 05:24:26 -0400

    I think you mentioned that you recently made time for TWO things you love doing: reading and gardening. You mentioned a lot about gardening in your post this morning, but- I am curious, what are you reading these days? Love your blog Ali!

  14. Marian

    2010-06-09 05:59:00 -0400

    It's interesting that you mention the smells you remember. That's one thing I realized when I was doing my Life in a Week project that there were many smells that I wanted to document. It doesn't really dawn on me when I am just scrapping - but when I do a project where I'm focusing on the here and now, the smells are always a part of remembering.

  15. Carole Hepburn

    2010-06-09 06:00:29 -0400

    I went outside last night and planted three flats of geraniums - fushia , red and coral. I was reflecting on the planters my Mom and Grandmother used to do and LOVED it !! I too was covered in dirt - had a blast !

  16. Ali Edwards

    2010-06-09 06:23:58 -0400

    Right now I am reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."
    I'm definitely finding it interesting (non-fiction).

  17. Sandi M

    2010-06-09 07:25:27 -0400

    My childhood outdoor memories are some of the best! Love those beautiful peonies in the photo. I just added more varieties to my meager peony collection :)

  18. Chatty Scrapper

    2010-06-09 09:02:06 -0400

    I too love peonies, my grandmother always had them in her yard & cut in a vase - plants from her childhood home,I just hate that the blooms are so short lived. Especially where my plant is located in our yard. I'm lucky if they last through a few days, especially if it rains, then they pretty much done for. The one I have is white but my favorite ones are the deep pink ones like my grandma had (she had 2 shades of pink) with bushes lining her sidewalk.
    Thanks for the great post. I also especially like the update. Lets us see that in some ways we all have similar "struggles". I think I'll have to look up the book @ Sarah mentioned. And maybe get it as a late Mother's Day present for myself.

  19. Ali Edwards

    2010-06-09 09:55:41 -0400

    That book is highly recommended ;).

  20. dawn

    2010-06-09 12:57:45 -0400

    Thank you for posting this Ali, I've been remembering some things and telling my kids. Now I will actually write them down and maybe a layout. can't wait to see what you do with the yard.

  21. Liz

    2010-06-09 13:53:32 -0400

    Wise words from a wise Ali. I love you so much and appreciate you for all you do, say and are to us Ali. Hugs from one lucky sister-in-law.

  22. jakki

    2010-06-10 02:02:10 -0400

    Oh Ali...this is huge! so many memories in my mind have been 'jogged'! Big memories but mainly the small ones that made my childhood a wonderful place to have been a part of. I so hope I gave that to my children as they are growing up...

  23. Kathy C

    2010-06-11 15:21:03 -0400

    Gardening always makes me feel somehow connected to the women in my life that came before me who also dug in the dirt and created beauty. I always tried to encourage my children to garden and never thought they paid too much attention or interest. Now, to my surprise and delight, my 21 year old daughter wants to plant vegetables and one of her favorite things to do is weed.
    I hope you create that space to gather and eat, as ours has been the spot where we linger a little longer over dinner. Now it is my children that go to the trouble of hauling everything outdoors when I would just as soon be inside. I'm always so thankful they do.

  24. Steph

    2010-06-21 15:21:56 -0400

    Beautiful, timely post, something I need to read. Thanks Ali, for reminding me why we scrapbook - on paper and in our hearts :)

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