COTD: 1.26.21

Blank Books and Pencils

In which a lifelong crush is awakened by a present to Isaac.

One of Isaac’s Christmas presents was a blank book that had a little loop to hold a pencil. And it is a special pencil. My whole life I have had a reverent love for blank books. The hardcover ones especially. I had to save them for the absolute perfect words or pictures, and I never had the perfect words or pictures, so I never used the books. The soft-cover moleskines, also an object of great passion–well, I’ve filled so many of them with words it’s like an overgrown field of tall weeds and grasses, with the very occasional wild flower or butterfly, but plenty of ticks and thorns as well.

One small green book, which my brother brought back from a trip to visit his friend in Paris when we were fairly young, I held onto it for ages because it was too perfect and full of possibilities (pictured above, left). Until I met David, and we decided to draw all the birds we’d seen in it, and the date we saw them (as we were falling in love). Which is possibly the most perfect use for a blank book.

And I love a perfect pencil or pen, too. I always have. The actual physical pleasure of writing with a good pen or pencil, the sound it makes, or the way it feels, is occasionally more important than the words it writes or the picture it draws. I was reminded of this story, which I swear is from an interview with Tom Waits, though I can’t find it anywhere on the web (maybe I dreamed it?)

This kid made a drawing, which he worked on for about two hours. And when he got to the very end, you could see him flagging and he sort of trailed off and he said, “And thanks to the pencil.” Oh, gratitude. Isn’t that beautiful? At that age, you’re not thinking about making art. You’re just responding. Where there are no sidewalks and no cops.

Well, I am glad to say that though I have beautiful blank books still sitting and waiting from decades ago, Isaac opened his, brandished his new special pencil, and started drawing.

And here’s another long-time crush, in which Tom Waits turns the beautiful words of a lost stranger into a beautiful song.



3 thoughts on “COTD: 1.26.21

    • Love them! This is from an old Ordinary post, about a pencil box David made:

      “Since it’s boxing day, I’ll tell you about two of my favorite presents this year, which were, in fact, boxes. One is a pencil box, and it’s the prettiest pencil box you’ve ever seen. It’s strangely like a pencil box I was obsessed with as a third grader. All of the other girls had pencil boxes with sliding tops from WH Smith, and I wanted one so badly. And I got one! And I still remember how it smelled, and what a satisfying feeling it was to pack it with pencils and pens and erasers and how it felt like a box full of possibility for all the things I could write or draw. This box is a similar shape and size, with a sliding top, but instead of being made out of some weird plastic-wood, it’s made out of beautiful walnut, with a grain like flame or waves. and it’s hand-dovetailed by my favorite hands in the world. I put my special pen inside, and I’m fairly sure the box’s magical powers will imbue the pen with motivation or inspiration, and I’ll be able to write again.”

  1. Claire –
    Your new posts are a welcome reprieve from the news that tends to be angst-filled. It’s time we all stepped back and quit obsessing about recent events, and focus on hygge:
    “A quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).” That’s what my wife and I have decided is a great way to live in the “now.” Thanks for reminding us to stop and recall what truly matters. I’d share what brings me joy, but I doubt that it would inspire anyone else (a retired engineer writing apps for his phone??? Yeah, that’ll never take the world of retirement by storm.)

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