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Twenty-Seven Years of Pen and Ink

In May of 1989, I repurposed an old school notebook –a spiral bound, lined one – and put pen to paper to express my thoughts. The subject at hand was a girl who had transfixed me, bewitched me, intoxicated my hormones. The crush lasted about a page, I guess, but I've been writing ever since.

My journals carried me through the end of senior year in high school, four years at university, witnessed my first profound love, the loss of virginity, early travels, and the struggle to become an adult. I wrote on bus rides cross-country, in train stations watching people, at cafés across the nation, and then across other nations. Asia, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and home again we went. Marriage, children, and still more adventures.

Along the way, I picked up a penchant for fountain pens. No, not really: I seized on fountain pens almost immediately the winter of 1989, still in the early pages of my second notebook. I've been relying on them ever since. Cross, then Parker, Waterman, Pelikan, Esterbrook, Chilton, Namiki, Aurora, Pilot, Retro, and others: I've tried them all, enjoying thick and thin strokes, wet streaks of dark ink on crisp paper. Oftentimes I've found, if I don't have a fountain pen with good ink handy, I don't care to write anything at all: not worth it.

My tastes in books expanded, then narrowed along with my taste in pens. I graduated to unlined pages while at University, tried sketching, experimented with perfect bindings, spirals, small-signature series; tried wide pages and narrow, tried a book I could keep in my pocket, and books that would lay flat on the table, books I could write with on my knee in a forest glade, books that shone on café tables.

And suddenly, it's been twenty-seven years. Twenty Seven. And counting. The newest book – a gorgeous Rhodia – doesn't even appear in this photo. I considered switching to a digital file I could update anywhere I had a computer, but rejected the idea: something about pen on paper relaxes me; something about the slow speed of producing the letters syncs with the speed of my thoughts. Something about the subconscious sensations of a gold nib sliding across creamy, velouté paper: it's irreplaceable for me.

And me alone. I used to think some day after my death, my children would read through the pages and be astonished by my wisdom and insight. But rereading them back-to-back while stationed in East Africa changed my opinion: they're for me only, and perhaps I have no wisdom to share.

Why keep writing, then? Because those quiet moments of introspection make me who I am. And so this stack of pens and paper, representing 26 years at the time I took it, will be just the start. And my words will follow me to my last days. How exciting.


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