I continue to journal one thousand or more words every morning (nearly always first thing) for the
same reason I pray every day.  In fact to a large degree my journaling is a prayer.  It takes me the
first hour of the day, usually, and is the most satisfying hour of the day.  That’s probably why I
continue: it’s very satisfying.  Some people get up and work out, some people turn to a rerun of
The Price Is Right, some eat breakfast, some call their grandchildren…I and many others like me

Obviously, I’m a maniac.  At least about writing.  I do it for a hodgepodge of reasons, most of all,
probably, to maintain such sanity as I continue to possess.  (Not much, some days, I admit.)  But
one of my big reasons is to be an historian of my life, my family, and in some microcosmic way, my
times.  Where would history be, after all, without people like us to write our own histories and
thereby contribute to the general history of the world?  I’d say we’d be without a history.  We’d be
without a culture.  We’d be lost.  

History is just about the past, of course, but the present has an interesting habit of turning into
the past one day at a time.  So the history of the phone interaction I had today with my grandchild
is as important to be written as the history of when I was a grandchild and interacted (as we did
not say then) with my grandfather so many years ago.  History continues to be necessary.  

This would just be a truism, a cliché, but for the fact that we microhistorians insist on being
microscopic.  We look at history up close and personal.  We shine our searchlights on the darkest
and most neglected nooks and crannies of our existence.  We write about the interstices  of life as
well as the big moments.  This doesn’t mean, necessarily, that we are investigative journalists or
that we write about stuff most of us want to keep quiet.  That too, perhaps, but by interstices we
mean mostly that we write about overlooked or forgotten moments, what we did on the way to the
banquet where we were presented with a gold watch (well, now I guess we’d be presented with a
gold cell phone or something) rather than merely the moment when we received the award.  We
write about our heads, what’s going on in there, we write about our feelings, ideas, and of course
the physical life too.  Everything is the stuff of history: everything.  

    Today--it's great to be here!But apparently it wasn't so great thirty years ago, and this is
    what I wrote in my Journal then, in 1980 -

    The Autobiography of Charles Kempthorne                  

            I am going to begin with the sentence, “I was born in Minot, North Dakota on January
    24, 1938.”  And then I’ll ask, “So what?  What does it matter?”  And then, the proper
    question of an autobiography, “What does it matter?” for every autobiography is an implicit
    statement of what the author thinks does matter.

            Life is complicated in these times because we have so many options.  I have had too
    many options.  I have had too many ideas and not enough experiences, too many fantasies
    and not enough realities.

            It may come as a surprise to those who knew me then--and who remember--that I was
    a lonely, alienated child.  I was lonely in a crowd, alienated from myself.

            I do not matter, what I have perceived and felt matters immensely.  I am more than 42
    years old, I have lived 15,373 days and nights, I have outlived my mind a dozen times.  If I
    could live to be 250 years old, I might get it all together.  I find myself more disgusting than
    admirable, though I do admire myself.  

            Life is really very simple, I have concluded, and not at all strange.  

            It’s very hard to know what to say.  Is anything worth saying?  Is anything worth
    doing?  I’m convinced that the answer to both these questions is yes, but the yes is not
    resounding, or glorious, or noble.  Life is okay.  So is death.  It’s an experience.

            The problem is that I began conscious life by thinking it was al very significant, which
    it is not.  My life is significant to me and those close to me.  Otherwise it is utterly without

            What can I say?  It seems I will have to be concrete.
The LifeStory Institute
I had an hour to kill.  I’d hit some junk stores.  The Episcopal ladies were closed for the day;
the Catholic ladies weren’t open yet.  Damn.  I drove on downtown and parked in front of the
Salvation Army.  It wasn’t as good a place, but it was good: they had books, maybe they’d
have T-shirts.  Suddenly I wanted T-shirts that said things on them.  Wearing shirts like that
would make me seem younger…maybe.  

But in the SA I balked at paying $2.59 for a used T-shirt, gray with Universitat da Roma on it.  
At first that seemed cool; then it seemed unbearably pretentious.  I’d rather have one that
said FEED YOUR PIGS PURINA.  Really.  

So I went back and went through the books pretty thoroughly.  I’d get 10.  I ended up with 11,
actually, several novels, a book by Doris Kearns Goodwin on politics, a children’s book about
Indians, even a big thick book on calculus just for the hell of it.  If I didn’t understand math,
and I didn’t, and never would, maybe I could pick up enough of it to use it as a metaphor.  Or
to put a speech in the mouth of one of my characters in The Communist Party or somewhere

I bought the books and I ended up buying a T-shirt too, but not the Roma thing.  I bought one
for June, her color, a tan, and blue lettering about some environmental stuff.  She’d like it.  I’d
tell her it was part of her birthday gift, belated.  

So I lugged everything in two trips to my car, and that was the end of my  hour loose on the

Life in Letter Rock Park

The ducks are a lot of trouble and may have to be kept separately.  We haven’t had ducks
since the 70s, when we had some Muscovys that we got from Fritz and Irene Moore.  (These
ducks are a buff and white color except for the drake, who is gray, and they are called
Saxonys.)  If I remember the ducks, if allowed free range, will look for water and if and when
they find it, will not come back at night.  

I am sure somewhere in here is the story of what happened to the ducks we had back in the
70s.  They found their way to Bad Pond, full then, and were happy never to come back, not
even to eat.  They were doing what came naturally and eating minnows and little fishes and
whatever else pond ducks do.  When the coyotes, who of course were quite interested, came,
they simply swam out to the center of the pond and huddled.  There were five or six or eight
of them, black and white ducks with some red wattle-like thing beside their bills.  

This was fine until the weather turned cold and the pond began to freeze over.  Eventually the
coyotes had an ice sidewalk out to the ducks, and the ducks could only paddle around and
keep a small circle for themselves and, so far as the coyotes were concerned, dinner was
then served.  
We knew what was happening and we went up nearly every night and I crawled out on the ice
(I think June held a rope around me from shore) and tried to bag them up.  But to no avail,
and that, until now, was the end of our duck involvement.  

I think we will have to have a separate pen for these ducks if we’re going to let the chickens
out to free range, as we have been doing.  And even a separate house, probably.  
Fresh baked today: spiritual journaling
Charley lives to write at The LifeStory Institute
in rural Olympia, Washington.  To tell him what
you think, or to comment in any way, phone
him at 785.564.1118 or email