You’d think I would have learned by now. To write it down. Not to trust this memory of mine. But sleep was beckoning; and the thought was so bright, the image so indelible. How could it vanish? Surely I’d remember it in the morn………

Surely not.

I keep a pad of paper and a pencil by the bedside. Because I’ve learned (again and again, it seems) if I don’t write down the phrase, or snatch of conversation or analogy so perfect even Joyce Carol Oates would nod in admiration, if I don’t write it down the minute it floats up from that inky place in my brain it will be lost forever. As last night’s was.

But I have learned. I do not go anywhere without a little Dover notebook in my purse or yoga bag or computer stachel. They are just the right size — 4″x6″ — and have charming covers. They come lined and blank. Learned the hard way to put my name, address and phone number on the inside cover of each one, too.

Because you never know when a thought is going to strike you. Or when you’ll see somthing in a completely new light. How else would I have remembered, “Her smile was as wide as her hips” or this from Ellen Meloy’s beautiful book of essays — The Anthropology of Turquoise: “…the fundamental poetry of human experience is the naming of places.”

Sometimes I jot down things that are too funny — “a glory hole is the reheating furnace glass blowers use to keep glass warm as they work.” A glory hole! It’s just too rich. And then there are the people. The Indian woman leaving the library, a stack of books nestled in the crook of her left arm, the black braid of her hair hanging down her back like a second spine. I write down the names of must read books my friends mention and scribble (at red lights, I promise) the name of an author I hear interviewed on NPR.

So what do I do with all these little snatches, the kindling I’ll use to ignite a larger piece of writing one day? After deciphering my handwriting I type them up, print them out and keep the pages in a folder to revisit. Makes me seem so erudite when I dig up a really terrific quote by an obscure painter or theologian.

Over the years these books have become more than just a place to jot random thoughts or the momentary gifts of beauty, humor and pathos that cross my path. I’d feel lost without my little Dover notebooks. They are my silent companions, first witness to the way I see the world.