Sunday, May 1, 2016


Totally at a loss for anything new to post, but I've been thinking a lot about writing lately, and all the old bits and bobs lying around the house in boxes and bins and journals.  I’ve been compiling some years of stories, and ran across a post from a while ago.

I have ink on my fingers today---I just filled my new fountain pen for the first time.   It was a Christmas gift from Sweetpea and her Mama, who choose the most wonderful presents, with a good eye (and ear, for they LISTEN) for what any of us might enjoy.

The ink---that's a FEELING. I'd been admiring and picking up my graceful new bottle of ink since Christmas, for it came with the pen. It's shaped like a squat, very smooth hourglass, with, like a lot of us, a lot more sand run through than remains. The lid is like a wide-top shako, sans plume, and the whole thing is made of the smoothest glass, with the inky depths converted into gleaming onyx by the shining curve of the hip. 

The pen came with a cartridge insert, which was blue, and since I have always had a preference for black ink, I've been scribbling grocery lists and phone numbers and jotting down and toting up with the new hand-heft of this pen.

The pen itself is a lovely purple, and Caro and I tried yesterday to name it---her "aubergine" came closest, I think, for it's just the shade of one of those smooth slender Japanese eggplants, hefty in the hand.   It was chosen by our Sweetpea, because it's her favorite color. The clip is exactly that, like a Gucci paper-clip, strong and sturdy and sleek. And I'll be writing today, a bit, REALLY writing, for almost all my words are set down in clicks of the keyboard. I CALL that writing, for it engenders a spark of satisfaction, but the real thing is done with hand and pen.

I could not trade my keyboard for a quill employed by the Founding Fathers, and I cannot fathom how the Classics ever came to be. How those persistent writers thought a thought and got it onto paper in the halting process of dip and drip and sharpen and dip again, I'll never know. Dear Jane and Anthony and all their kind, with the cupful of whittled feathers and the clotty, smeary ink, were geniuses of a level to astound, for they put down such graceful, such telling sentences and ideas and phrases as to entertain, delight, halt the breath and change how we think about things. 

If Xanadu came to Coleridge in a dream, whole passages lost to an untimely knock at the door, how DID he get down what he did? Scrabbling for paper and quill and ink and a quick whittle at the nib, with perhaps a halt for finding his spectacles---then all that stop-and-start to the scribbling. At that one poem alone, I am amazed.
Backspace to erase a line, highlight a whole paragraph and send it into nothingness with a quick flick of the delete, type like the wind before the thought whispers out (and it was such a GOOD one, too---and now an enticing, frustrating tickle melting through the floorboards of my brain)---those are the tools which we've come to depend on. Lining through a phrase, or using a pen-knife for both quill and erasure, blade-smoothing away a word with painstaking care, for paper was dear---who could think two thoughts in succession with such rude methods?

I also have excessive admiration for the writers who just pounded an old Underwood, getting the thoughts into play through the clatter of that anvil-with-keys---Gone With The Wind was written on one such, I believe, and word has it that she piled page after page into a dishpan and slid them beneath her dresser. Dedication and hope and a story to tell, that's what it took.

And now, a just-opened bottle of India Black, dark as campfire coffee, and this new medium-point fountain pen---fountain pen. With the four new journals, one-per-season this time, from Chris---I have a feeling I'll soon have the old familiar callus on my right middle finger, and the hand-tingles which literally DO spell Writer's Cramp.


Susie said...

I love writing letters and cards. To me, it's a bit more personal than an email, or text. My friend from work and I took a calligraphy class one year. It was so much fun. Now you can buy felt tip calligraphy pens....just hole them at the right angle and it is amazing. I love you pen and ink. I hope you write many wonderful things with them. Blessings, xoxo, Susie

Jacqueline said...

I agree - with everyday life, it is hard to put pen to paper for any period of time! I think in another life, I would have loved to have been a writer, but I think I would have had to have been a hermit, and that wouldn't be very fun!

steelersandstartrek said...

I thank the goddess every day that we now may type. While I do miss the elegance of the pen, as a left-hander who suffered the pains of nuns with rulers who considered left handedness a devilish affectation, and who looked down in dismay as the line of text, written back-hand as the pen was dragged across the page, now appeared smeared and blotchy. As did the side of my hand from the effort.

While my hand writing has suffered from disuse, the world at least is better served by the reduced eye strain associated with my scratch.

donna baker said...

Rachel, I didn't know they still made those kind of fountain pens - the little plastic cylinders I used in junior high and got everywhere. I think I still have that pen. Do you know I wrote my novel on yellow-lined tablets. Notes and scribbles covered the pages. No spell-check and had to haul out the dictionary and thesaurus. It was a whole different world back then and can't imagine how the old ones did it.

GSL said...

I think the evidence shows that inkwell and quill pen method yielded higher quality writing with such a labor intensive approach necessitating choosing every word with care and likely revealing the stream of consciousness approach "not worth the candle".
Whatever method Rachel chooses will always interest me.

handmade by amalia said...

There is something magical in a well written letter.

La Table De Nana said...

I love the ink:)! And you write beautifully..what a thoughtful gift!

Patsy said...

Happy Mothers Day!

bj said...

Have a very Happy Mothers Day....xoxo

harleygirl said...

So pretty! I've missed you, friend. I'm trying hard to get back into blogging again, so I can visit you regularly once again. :)

Jeanne said...

Gosh Rachel, I missed Mother's day wishes to you and so many people I care about. I hope it was a special day. With your darling family I am sure you were loved and hugged on Mother's Day. Your fountain pen and ink gift is awesome. No one could love a gift such as this as much as you would.

You mentioned the lack of paper in olden days and it reminded me of when I learned to read and write. Because of my birthday in Oct. I couldn't start school until another whole year. I begged my mom to teach me how to read and write. My paper was the edges of the newspaper. I learned well in spite of having no sheets of paper. I was way ahead of my class the next year and all the years of schooling benefited by my early training. I may have told you this before. Smile. I am of the age of repeating. Sigh!

Much love,

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel, Thanks so much for visiting. I hope you have enjoyed a lovely weekend. It's been so long since I've seen a pen like this. I remember as a kid making a big mess with my dad's!

Kim S. said...

Well, here I am in December reading May! Life is crazy, as you know! Like my husband, I am a lefty and suffer from the disease of crappy handwriting. I’ve always dreamt of fountain pens and beautiful journals illustrated with lovely little watercolor sketches. Alas, my painting is as crappy as my writing!