The River: The words that matter by Susannah Conway

This post is part of the River of Stones guest post series, our mindful writing challenge. Properly notice one thing each day, and write it down. Click here to find out more.

Today we are very honoured to welcome Susannah Conway.

I write things down to remember them, which sounds ludicrously obvious, I know, but wait for a moment. On my kitchen table there is a Post It note that holds the words: kale, lemons, broccoli. Beside my computer there is a piece of paper that holds the words: book gas appointment, pay tax, email Rose. Neither of these will be kept, the words simply memory-joggers, used and then discarded just as quickly.

But then there are the other lists I keep, like the running list in my journal of my nephew’s first words: apple, tractor, mama, moo cow. At some point Noah’s new words will outrun my list-keeping abilities, but for now I scribble down each new word as if receiving dictation from above.

On the 16th of November 2011, I wrote: “New words he said to me on Skype today: orange, melon, horsie. Horsie is the best.” In the years to come, when I’m helping him with his homework or watching him get married, I want to be able to remember how pleased he looked when he held up a little plastic horse and said horsie!

We never know which days will be full of meaning until we look back at them and understand. In 2005 I lost my partner, and as I went through bereavement I found it wasn’t the photographs or his clothes that I clung to for comfort: it was my journals. I had a pile of black Moleskines filled with the trivia of our life together — the celebrations and milestones as well as the arguments and frustrations. The first time he told me he loved me was chronicled with as much detail as the last row we ever had. All of it mattered, and all of it was relived as I re-read my own words in the months after his death.

And now I am here, recording new memories in my notebooks. This afternoon my sister told me Noah said please for the first time; last week he said “look daddy!” I scribble the words down with lots of exclamation marks and underlinings. I take my auntie role very seriously, as I watch Noah climb on the sofa, help to tuck him in at night, and collect the small stones of our shared story in paper, ink and so much love.

Susannah Conway is a photographer, writer and e-course creator. A Polaroid addict and very proud aunt, her first book, This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart (Globe Pequot Press), launches in June 2012. 

You can read more about her shenanigans on her blog at and connect with her on Twitter.

Photo by Susannah. 

Comments & replies

8 thoughts on “The River: The words that matter by Susannah Conway

  1. Jill

    I love this, love Susannah (how can you not?). And I understand the preciousness of the notes after loss. Two years later, it’s still difficult for me to read, but such a gift to remember. And I did the same with my three nephews, wrote down all the funny stories about them. Later on, they love that you save those for them. My journals keep a record, hold it for some future moment when I’m ready to return and remember. I love them for that, the magic and the heartbreak.

  2. Kelly

    Beautiful post Susannah. You are lucky to have such amazing chronicles from your life. What a lovely time you will have showing your nephew all that you wrote about his first words. What an amazing illustration of love you will give him. Can’t imagine what that would feel like, that someone wrote down my words with love and excitement such as you have.

  3. basho42

    This is truly lovely Susannah. I too write things down as I go through my day. Deep into menopausal memory loss and dyslexia…I’m finding it a gift, writing things down to remember them, every moment is such an opportunity for insight and revelation. I’ve even taken some of these lists of words and created poems. Thank you!

  4. Mary

    This is a beautiful reminder of why I need to increase the amount I journal. I imagine some years from now this time will seem more special and interesting then it feels right now.

    Susannah, thank you for this. As always, your writing inspires. Much love to you.

  5. Lindsay Drya Vanhove

    Absolutely inspiring. For now I only use a journal for morning pages but when I read this, I want to start journaling for keeping memories too… sigh. Thank you.

  6. Gypsy-K

    I do the same as Lindsay, I journal for morning pages which sometimes captures moments and memories but mainly a lot of junk, complaining and wondering if I’m honest.

    My mum died 15 years ago when I was 20. I wish I had journals to look back on to remember all of the good stuff not just the hazy memories I have now of times shares or the memories of her suffering in pain.

    You’ve reminded me of the importance of capturing moments, events, even if they seem small. Thank you.

  7. Anne

    Susannah – ‘the words that matter’; this really struck a chord with me. I lost my lovely father at Christmastime and when the Minister asked what we would like her to say at his service of thanksgiving, I e-mailed her some of my father’s personal journal notes. It was an amazing service, his own words were so powerful, it was as though he was speaking to us himself.

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