Why we take good notes

Hi everyone,

I finally found what I’ve been looking for all over the house, my notes from the trip Sandy and I took up the Amazon River in Peru in 1999, all 77 typed pages of them. I sat down at once and began flipping through pages, pausing here and there to read passages. These notes have already produced poems, a book of poetry (SOUNDS OF RAIN) and an unpublished middle grade novel (DOWNRIVER). I’m getting ready to write a text about the Amazon for a new book, which is why I’ve been looking for the notes. One night a few of us went in a flat bottom boat with our guide Edgard to look for caimans. Here’s an excerpt.

The motor is silenced.
We drift in among floating plants, all faces forward as Edgard leans out over the water with his Cyclops eye of light.
Two feet from the boat something unseen slaps the water and submerges. Caiman? Edgard’s back shows his disappointment. The thing we came to watch escapes with its mystery intact.
It’s drizzling as we reverse from the tangle of plants and continue.
“I want you to listen,” Edgard tell us.
The driver kills the motor and Edgard snaps off the light.
We drift on the current beneath a starless heaven, suddenly aware of the throbbing night sounds from the banks and the jungle beyond. The night belongs to frogs.
For once we do not pester Edgard for identifications. It would be like whispering in church.

I worked hard at taking notes throughout each day of the trip, and it was another job to transcribe them all from field notebooks to typed notes. Of course they’re on the computer somewhere, but I haven’t been able to locate them. That’s why god made paper so we can print them and save them somewhere in the house, easily available after days of looking. Anyway, my point is that I love good notes. They are worth every second we put into making (and keeping) them!

10 comments on “Why we take good notes

  1. I agree about paper, David. Computers are nice, but not trustworthy! Lol. I’m still hoping for Downriver to get into the hands of kids.

    • So am I, Su. I have faith in the story and haven’t given up. Somewhere out there is an editor who likes the voice and doesn’t mind that I’m not a Peruvian writer.

  2. Notes on paper have saved me more than once. Yes! Also, I like the picture you painted with your words, the starless night, the sound of the frogs, the drizzle. I feel like I shared that adventure…

    • Thank you, Matt. I’m enjoying reading them again twenty years after I wrote them. I’m glad now I took the trouble then. And I confess I sometimes dream of writing poetry.

  3. Hurray for finding them! As wonderful as paper is, it can sure take a long time to find what you’re looking for! My trouble is that on the way to finding, I find so much else that somehow MUST be read before searching on…and so the hours slip by…

    • Hey Stef,
      Isn’t that so? Some days seems all I do is look for stuff, find other stuff, read other stuff, and give up on finding what I set out to do. Ain’t life grand?

  4. Glad you found them. For me it is easier to find notes on a computer… my house does not have a search box… but i think it is best to keep notes in more than one place.

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