George Orwell kept a daily dairy
during the late 1930s. During this period, the world was coming out of the great
depression. The Orwell Trust has made them available on its website. Most of the
entries from a casual browsing indicate that Orwell was content on observing
life, people, animals and events happening around him without adding much
One advantage of such a diary is
that keeps the skills of observation polished, the writer anchored in the moment
(a good Buddhist quality), and creates an alternate history of memory.
Being connected with the ordinary
and with nature is something that many of us miss in modern, urban life. The
sight of sweet peas and sunflowers, goats, and doves, the feel and look of soil
occur in other spaces. These are spaces that we rarely occupy; spaces in which
we are effectively blind and deft.
With the darkness of a depression
descending everywhere, I wonder if we might turn away from the acquisition of
material things and look to the world in a different way.
One alternative way is found in the
diaries of George Orwell.
Heres an example from 70 years
27th October 1938:
numbers of black beetles, about 1
long, crawling everywhere, evidently brought out by the rain. Have sowed
sunflowers, sweet peas & marigolds. The other seeds not up yet, as it has
been much cooler (we are having fires every evening.) The ground here is lumpy
& unpleasant to work, but at present not many weeds
more when this rain has taken effect, perhaps. Some weeds as in England, eg.
bindweed & twitchgrass, but not growing very strongly.
Silver poplar or some very similar tree grows here. Tomatoes here are grown in
large patches without sticks. Very poor floppy plants & smallish tomatoes,
but plenty of them.
Yesterday on milking the
brown goat found her milk had gone sour & came out quite thick. This is
because she is only being milked once a day & had not been fully milked for
two days owing to her restiveness. Squeezed the bad milk onto the ground &
tonight her milk was all right again. Another hen bad in the legs this evening.
Examined & found enormous black lice. Hope treatment will be effective as
before. The stripey goats
milk increases, but very slightly, still not much over 1/2 pint a day. She is
very thin, though she eats well. The present ration of hard food is 2 handfuls
of barley & 2 of bran morning & evening, with a mash of boiled maize
& bran about once a week.
The doves readily eat
maize if it is broken.