Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Time, notebook, and pen.

At last, I found my people and the mothership is calling me home! And it revolves around something as simple as a pen and a notebook.

My whole life I have had this secret vice. I am addicted to fine paper and fountain pens. I cannot pass a stationary store. When I moved to Germany, fifteen odd years ago, the first place I went to was a small stationary store in Fischbach FRG. The first thing I bought in Germany was a wonderful Pelikan fountain pen. It is not the kind of vice that was acceptable in a generation that ingested vast quantities of drugs in the increasing need to escape our inner-demons and conflicts. I have always felt alone in this little secret vice, but no more.

There is something to the heft of real paper that calls out to me. The same is true of the scratching of a fountain pen over thick paper. I have just about every fountain pen currently made -- except a Sailor -- and all those little boxes and tins of ink cartridges. I even enjoy the feel of my hand as it moves across the texture of the paper. I love calligraphy and have always wanted to try my hand at illuminating a manuscript or even a single page. (I saw the Book of Kells as a teenager, when it first was exhibited in the United States.) The thing about writing in a Moleskine with a fountain pen is that it slows you down. It forces you to be mindful, to be aware as you write. We live in a world of constant distraction, rhetoric, and noise that tries to suck us into the maelstorm. The act of sitting down with a pen and notebook is one of defiance to modernity. (Ironic that I compose this on a computer. Trust me, the irony isn't lost to me.)

Maybe a part of this is the rebel in me, the one who must be dissatisfied. I want the fastest computer and DSL, but I also want a Moleskine notebook and a fine-nibbed fountain pen with black ink. And I don't want the world bugging me when I use them. It's all about the dichotomy between life at the speed of sound and the quiet and deliberate passion of putting pen to paper. It is one of the conflicts of my generation, how do we live between the contradiction of convenience and ever increasing speed versus any deliberate and purposeful action. I don't know that any of us can answer that.

Lastly, I think I am in the phase of my life when I begin to value slow and meaningful over more and faster. By anyone's most generous estimation I moved into middle-age this year. Time is different now, or I experience it differently. Before there was never enough time, I always needed more, life was so hurried and crammed full. I now feel more focused, less frantic in the face of deadlines, I am in this percise moment now, and I know in five years I won't even remember this project. Now I don't feel neurotic guilt for taking time to fly fish or draw in silverpoint. Sometimes I lay in the grass and study the random shapes of clouds. These things might, in one's twenties, seem an odd or even self-centered, but now they are ingrained habit. I find I understand my parents and grandparents better as I grow into their baffling years. Time will teach us when nothing else can.

PS. The image has nothing to do with this posting, I am sure you figured that out by now. I just like the picture. I took this on the drive back from Aspen last year. Every photo in this blog is mine, or I swiped from my sister. Any that are not mine are duly noted.


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October 14, 2005 at 1:42 PM  

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