Close to a decade ago I was beginning to feel more than a little anonymous in the digital world. My cameras had all gone digital and everything I composed was done on a computer. The feeling that bothered me most was the one that told me my work was disposable and of fleeting value — just so much digital fish wrapping. All those carefully crafted phrases and delicious plays on words would be lost forever in the cybersphere. So I exercised my only option and bought a fountain pen with which to return some sense of permanence to my life.
I don’t know why a fountain pen occurred to me. I was the bane of our grade five class in terms of penmanship. After successfully passing through Pencil Technology 101 in grades one through four, I moved on to a stick pen and inkwell.
This is where I began a long slide into slovenliness on the page. To say my copybook was blotted is an understatement. It was chock-a-block with puddled ink, streaks, scratches — but very little resembling the written word.
Shortly after they reluctantly passed me out of that grade, they discontinued the use of the stick pen in all the schools in our system and I suspect it may have something to do with my limited abilities.
As a dismal failure using a stick pen, why a fountain pen made sense to me is beyond my ken.
Regardless, it is my shout of protest. I am not a Luddite by any stretch of the imagination. Give me a technology that will change my tax bracket and I am into that puppy in the blink of an eye.
If I were to spend a lot of time thinking about why I did this, I guess I would have to say I was looking for two things and was surprised to find a third.
Initially, I needed a technology to slow me down and make me think as I committed my thoughts to paper once again. I learned to write stories with a typewriter and as my fingers grew more dexterous, my thought became less sophisticated.
The second hole in my soul would only be filled through a search for the elegance that seems to be slipping out of our world.
Elegance is something easily definable that we no longer care to define. Can you tell the difference between a new Ford Taurus and a new Jaguar? Nope. Neither can I. Nor does one aluminum-bodied MacBook look any sleeker or sexier than another.
Marketing guys use the term elegant, but then I suspect they really don’t know what it means, nor how to achieve it. Elegance is just another word in their sales armory.
But it still exists!
Since I started scribbling with a pen that could do substantial damage to any shirt I wear, I’ve noticed I take more time with the things I do. (Right here and now, I apologize to Susan Herbert for the incident with the pen in Mr. Bradley’s grade six class). And the patience has had an unexpectedly pleasurable result.
The writing I now take my time with is tangible and a pure joy. My penmanship has become something to brag about.
My e’s contain actual loops and my a’s look as good as any third grader’s. If I write on lined paper, my sentences and paragraphs are neat and orderly. I’ve even discovered that I can make a sheet of unlined writing paper look good.
Speaking of paper, I no longer use napkins for notes. This improvement in penmanship gave me renewed confidence in the things I do, so I now have stationary (with matching envelopes) as well as garden variety paper.
A third reason occurred to me while making notes for this essay.
I am more than ever environmentally friendly. True, I discard empty ink cartridges — if the ink companies would only make them biodegradable I’d force them upon my friends by the fistful — still, I am not throwing complete pens away every time I run out of ink.
All of this gives me the great sense that I have set my little corner of the world right. I now have pride in the way I represent myself to the people I wish to communicate with and I am using something sustainable in its modest way. Yep, it takes more effort than an email, but I have never welcomed an email the way I do a handwritten letter and expect that the people I send letters to feel the same way — just a little more elegant and a little less anonymous for the day.
All Photos @ Luigi Crespo
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