Journey showed up in the front row of the first class I ever taught in Arizona. She was tiny and frail and before class she told me she has stopped journaling. As the class was a journaling class, I asked if she knew the reason. She didn’t know, she said, she had journaled for about 40 years and suddenly had stopped. Should she be worried? Maybe she was distilling, I suggested. Journey hadn’t heard about distilling–waiting to see what becomes important when you stop writing.
After class I told her about distilling a journal–reading through older journals, looking for phrases that defined a moment, writing that explained an event economically, a string of emotions that tied the past to the future. Journey loved the idea and we corresponded about the process.
When she came to my next class, all smiles, and she brought the distilling journal, filled with sketches and ideas. She had started to journal again.
Journey got her name because she ran away from home constantly as a child. She never got far, but she didn’t quit, either. She had a lot of traveling to do, a lot of world to see.
Journey wasn’t an illustrator, but she had an amazing intuition and insight. She began to send me clever gifts as she traveled on business– and they always made me grin in amazement at how well she knew my mind. A journal made from a cookbook from Powell’s Bookstore in Portland. Index card holders for my index card obsession. A giant, three-foot pencil that looked like my logo. She gave for the pleasure of giving.
Her eyesight began to fail, and one day, she took a class I was trying out in my apartment. I asked her how she had driven the two hours to get to class. Rick, her husband, had driven her. He never came in, he waited for her as she took classes. He never complained, he brought work to make the most of the time.
Last fall, Journey told me she was ill. I asked if I could come see her, and she said No, she was failing and she didn’t want me to see her looking ill. It was hard. But respecting her wish gave her the privacy she wanted. More important than my need to see her.
We exchanged emails; every time I had vivid dreams about her. She made a decision so hard and filled with tough courage, it made my heart ache. She was not going to fight her disease, she was going to die in full dignity, at home.
Last week, when I was in Sedona, I took a copy of my book with me to show a class member. I woke up from a dream of Journey so vivid it took me a few seconds to realize it was a dream. A few hours later, when I got up, Raw Art Journaling was open on the desk; open to Journey’s contribution to the book.
So I was not surprised when I heard from Rick that Journey had died while I was in Sedona. He had cared for her himself, watching her slip from his life, making her comfortable as they saw the end and the beginning come closer.
I wish for all of you a Journey in your life– a spark of determination and creativity, a blast of insight and love. For me, I will keep a spiritual light on in the window for her. She read my blog first thing every morning, before breakfast. This one is for you Journey, and for you Rick. You are my heroes.
—Quinn McDonald has met and loved amazing souls in her life. And she thinks many of them are still with us.