Soon after I chose abundance as my word for the year, I knew I wanted April (my birthday month) to be filled with flowers. As April approached, I toyed with ways of bringing flowers into my bullet journal. Memories of traveling in Italy and reading a fun middle grade book came together to help me fill my pages.
Many years ago, when I visited Rome for a few days, I stayed in a small inn nestled into ancient streets next to a cobblestone piazza called Campo de’ Fiori—literally, field of flowers. One morning we set out to visit the sights, but had trouble getting past our piazza. It had turned into a lively outdoor market, and we couldn’t resist wandering among stalls overflowing with fruits, vegetables, fish, meats. One whole side bloomed with cut flowers and potted plants. This month, as I looked for a way to fill my April pages, I remembered this Roman flower market and reimagined it for my cover. The tracker acquires cobblestones as I fill it in.
In March, I re-read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. It is a funny, madcap middle grade novel in which Sophie, who works in her family’s hat shop, is cursed by the Witch of the Waste and turned into an old woman. Yes, there’s a wizard named Howl and a moving castle whose door opens on various locations, depending on where you set the dial. It’s such a fun read! And yet, the novel hides a question—What does it mean to be young or old?
She was very angry indeed with the Witch of the Waste for doing this to her, hugely, enormously angry. “Sailing into shops and turning people old!” she exclaimed. “Oh, what I won’t do to her!”
—Sophie, Howl’s Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones
This question resonates with me, especially as I near my April birthday. Sophie’s angry at suddenly finding that she’s old. I too am shocked to find myself older—not 90 yet, as Sophie is, but far from my teens. Am I angry at the Witch of the Waste? Perhaps a bit, but we old people can’t waste time on useless anger. We’ve got to get on with things.
Which helps explain why my calendar did not turn out as I’d hoped. I imagined flowers bursting between the boxes of the calendar, but I didn’t want to take the time to draw so many flowers, so I made them abstract and easy to doodle. It ended up looking more like cross stitch than flowers. It’s not quite what I wanted, but so it goes. Sometimes getting it done is more important than making it just right. I indulge my itch to draw in my bullet journal, but not too much. I need to use it.
Once she is cursed by the Witch of the Waste, Sophie is a crotchety old woman. She appreciates that being old means she’s not afraid of anything. She’s also convinced that being old protects her from Howl, who is rumored to steal young girls’ hearts—her heart is safe. (Or so she thinks.) She grumbles at her aches and pains. At one point, she admits that being old fits her better than her youth did.
Jones shows us a young woman who looks and acts like an old one, but whose heart is still young, with the hopes and dreams of youth. Sophie’s predicament embodies a fluidity between youth and age that feels true. Aging involves real physical changes and emotional challenges, but it doesn’t erase our underlying spirit. There are times I feel like a kid, and completely forget my actual age (hence shock and and anger when I work out the math), and other times when I feel a hundred years old. I would argue that this was also true in my youth. Sometimes I felt too old to be a kid.
I realize that, like Sophie, I once expected my heart to be safe as an old(er) woman, beyond the uncertainties and extremes of youth. But it turns out that uncertainties and extremes come in many forms. They don’t leave us. They bloom again and again, according to their own season, a little like cherry blossoms on an old tree.
Which brings me back to flowers. At one point, Sophie and her new friends open a flower shop. In the midst of her beautiful flowers, Sophie keeps making messes and fixing things. I like that. My April bullet journal is my little flower shop of messes and fixes, my Roman flower market, my birthday corner for all the oldness and youth within.