Don’t think it strange —
I’ve been on the hunt for a fountain pen. I had one around here somewhere, I swear, but of course it’s gone, like the rest of my mind when I want to find something. I am the proud owner of not just one, but two feather quills with filigree silver points, but I don’t exactly want that kind of ink experience.
Somewhere, back in the beyond, I once owned a Montblanc pen, not top of the line, but a fine instrument. And it has gone the way of all things I used to have: into the nevernever of my attic, lost in my old desk at work, left behind at the exhusband’s before we parted. Gone. I can be Zen; I have no attachment. Except — I want a fountain pen I can actually use.
I want to be like Jo March in Little Women, ink-stained fingers and passionate ideas flowing, the pen scritching across the parchment rapidly but not fast enough. Sometimes — despite my speed with a Biro or a laptop — only ink and paper will do.
I get a hankering for old things. For the old ways, with no electricity or internet. I have a manual coffee grinder and a washboard. A kerosene lamp and a cast iron pan. I have a manual typewriter, too, for such a time when — well, why would I need a typewriter after the apocalypse, anyway? Will Daryl and his zombie-hunters need to see something typed up in triplicate? I doubt it. But I have these fancies and so I indulge them.
Life would be split asunder without letters.
— Virginia Woolf
Lately I have been exploring the family crypts, as it were, old letters, lists and certificates, as I search for clues about how things were back when we owned slaves or pioneered in a new land, when we crouched in steerage for three weeks, sick and damp, arriving in Nova Scotia or New York with a cough and a dream. Copperplate handwriting was the norm, and it shows itself on every document, in every packet of letters.
I get a hankering for the old ways, want to put nib to paper and spiral out a lovely line of news to a distant relation: The weather has been fine, the corn is tall, and I had the best blackberry pie I’ve ever had last night. I want to fold my paper into thirds and crease it, seal the envelope with a kiss, stamp and send it on its way.
I am sending a piece of myself to you. My heart on paper, in your hand.
A letter for your thoughts.
As soon as my new pen arrives.
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of "Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop" and "Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News" (rep'd by Booktrope). She is the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. Her articles have appeared in Thrillist, Quill, Paste, San Francisco Chronicle, and in many magazines; her latest poetry appears in The East Bay Literary review.