A few thoughts on omission

I have recently read and re-read the journals of my great-great-great grandmother, Lucy Hannah. She writes the whole of volume one from the perspective of a 52-year-old woman who has been one-half (one-third?) of a polygamous (plural) marriage for 20 plus years. And yet, there is absolutely no mention of the domestic arrangement. There is no description of how the marriage worked on a day-to-day or weekly basis. There is no analysis of her feelings about the second wife. In fact, there is no mention of the other wife at all. Lucy has completely omitted her. This in and of itself is the most puzzling and mysterious thing about the journals. In short – what they don’t say. There is an absolute denial of this other person in the journals, which of course, is a narrative (the only narrative?) that Lucy has absolute control over.

I find it mystifying, and then I start to think about all the omissions of my own life. What do we tell about ourselves and what do we leave out? What is the name for the act of leaving out what is obvious? How to frame this silence? What meaning do we give it? What are the things we leave out on a regular basis? What am I leaving out right now?

Was she silenced from within? Or, by a sense of restriction, religious or otherwise?

5 thoughts on “A few thoughts on omission

  1. That is interesting, Sativa. No mention of her “sister wife?” I guess the question is whether she was in denial, whether she refused to have a relationship with the other woman even as a companion, or whether she considered her journal to be a place for records just about “her” life and “her” marriage.

    I think we all leave tons of stuff out, in blogging and in real life. I’ve been sad and written funny blog entries that didn’t actually reflect my life at all that day; I’ve been mad at my husband and written glorious entries about my marriage. Much of this is because I know both of those things will pass, but I am concerned about it too. Mainly about having writing that doesn’t go deep enough, that’s funny enough to read but not enough to engage with.

  2. funny — i was just deciding whether or not to admit that i’ve been afraid to get my kids the swine flu shot, chickened out and decided to read other blogs instead. no kidding. and linda, i completely relate. writing in the day is so different than writing past it — and i suppose that’s what journals and blogs have in common. but when you can go back over years’ worth, as you’re able to do, sativa, and see the pattern emerge — hmmm. fascinating.

  3. I just wanted to say that I found your blog from Amy Silverman’s and I absolutely love your writing, omissions or no. Maybe it’s not so much denial as it is white space in a painting or silence in a conversation. Or maybe your grandmother’s dual marriage is there, in subtle ways? Have you read Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s history of another woman’s cryptic journal, A Midwife’s Tale? It’s astounding what Ulrich can resurrect from sparse language. Long long ago when I tried to learn Chinese painting, my teacher told me that the white space between the lily leaves should always look like a dragon’s eye, and that it was up to me to decide what a dragon’s eye looks like.

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