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“An Introduction: Diary Day 1”

An antique grandfather clock in a house in the Delaware County countryside strikes midnight as a married couple gets ready for bed, taking vitamins and brushing teeth.

At an apartment near The Ball State campus, a student is watching The Walking Dead. She doesn’t have class until after noon, so she can justify staying up late.

So begins the record of November 14, 2017, in Muncie, kept by 34 volunteer diarists for Everyday Life in Middletown.

That record ends in the early moments of November 15. A mother, anticipating a busy morning at the school where she works, finally heads to bed, having spent hours fussing over financial aid documents for her son’s college applications, fees for sports activities, a forgotten email to a school club. She mildly laments the latest in a series of busy days ending with late nights.

In between, the diaries record the thoughts, moods, and movements of these 34 people as they follow criss-crossing paths through our community on an ordinary Tuesday. Their diaries represent a wide variety of daily rhythms and routines: from the leisured pace of a retiree reading the Bible after breakfast to the kinetic drive of a professional woman readying her son for daycare before a packed workday. “I feel a sense of victory/accomplishment/relief each day when we finally make it to the car and pull away, and today is no different,” she writes.

The diaries are full of such small victories, along with vexations, worries (personal and political), hopes and anxieties for the future, unexpected visitations of memory.

“I am constantly on the fence about at what point I will make my move out of Muncie,” writes one young professional.

“I fear for our Republic,” writes a teacher, listening to NPR over breakfast.

A lifetime resident, on hearing that the Muncie Northside High School building has been bought by Ball State, observes, “immediately had a flashback to my first day at Ball State in the early eighties, and how on that day I reflected on how much different college was than my times as a student at Northside. A memory of a memory, hmmmm.”

Everyday life is routine, but it is also strange, and shot through with surreal images and moments of insight, beauty, and inspiration. The diaries testify to this presence of the strange and the luminous within the everyday.

A young man looks out the window in the early morning to see a hawk descend upon, and eat, a chipmunk; he notes how the prey’s eyes “dart around all frantic as its innards are torn away.”

A fish-tank malfunction requires a woman to make an emergency trip to the pet store after work. But despite the upset to the aquarium’s population, “if anything, the shark is being more social.”

One woman’s chill, pre-dawn walk with the dog is brightened by a sudden perception: “how lovely the moon is this morning.”

Looking out the window, a retiree is “drawn to the sun sparkling on the leaves.”

A leader of a non-profit agency expresses gratitude for the energy and commitment of his co-workers, then pauses to address readers in the distant future, wishing that his agency will still be “around by the time you’re reading this.”

We hope you will read these diaries with pleasure and surprise, and find in them both the shared experiences and anxieties that unites us as citizens and human beings and the differences and eccentricities that characterize the multitude of ways we live.

In future posts, we will explore moments of overlap, intersection, and common experience visible in a single day’s diaries.