Writing by the Hand

September 28, 2007 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Writing by the Hand                 

            A fellow writer, with great intent of supporting me, told me to abandon my writing by hand in my journal. I’m sort of known around here as the one in the coffee shop who hunkers deep into my writing, my silver pen or my 24 year old Lamy fountain pen sliding over surface, thoughts ambling along, and I rise my head up intermittently to look off blankly.  “It’s a waste of time,” he said. “Do all writing on the computer!” Tweak it, save it, manipulate it, cut, paste, modify, send, delete…treat the words like electronic putty. It’s wonderful advice, and I do write by computer, but I will never give up writing by the hand. For me, it’s not exactly about the words; it’s relationship of the hand, the heart, the pen. The pen serves as a quiet seismograph of the connection in the moment of the writing.

            When I was in middle school, a teacher made an assignment that we each write ourselves a letter, looking ahead to the year 2000, and that we seal it and not open it until January 1st. Being the dutiful student that I was, I did just that. I tucked away that letter, and on January 1, 2000, I rode my bike high up into Toro Park, sat in the tall grass, and read my long awaited letter, and soon my tears rolled way off my eyes, off my cheeks, onto the paper. What stood out so much to me was not the naïve sweet advice and predictions I gave myself then as a teenager, but the rounded careful writing that froze that person, who was me looking in the future at me, and in that moment, I returned to that teenage girl who at once was so brilliant and so scared, and I wanted to hold her to mutually love ourselves.

            In college, I lived my first year in the dorms at Cowell at UCSC. I had one of those mailboxes that had enough glass to it that I could even see from outside the building if I had mail. My dad wrote me letters almost weekly, arriving so tidy in a long white envelope, his distinctive even writing in pencil addressed to me, and inside, on yellow legal paper, there it was:  row upon row of perfectly formed words giving me details of all the important parts of living I was missing: the weather, the fish, the books, the walks, and always, the writing served as a warm embrace of love from my dad that pulled me through yet another week of the unknowns of being suddenly single in college.

            My sister! Every note is filled with a variety of well rounded, doodly, colorful or cursive words, with flourish and joy, design and detail that makes me impulsively pick up a pencil and begin to create like her.

            My mother, a perfect form, a sign of the era that she grew up in, and even today, with limited eyesight, she can still write in small smooth writing full of her determination to be independent, feminine and sophisticated. That was the way she was trained, and her writing at times gives me the false hope that she will live forever as the strong willful person that she is.

            Ah, love letters…full of such great exclamation points and hearts and joy and words written really big, and carrying those letters absolutely everywhere, and feeling the heat of them even through being stored in the middle of thick novels, textbooks or in backpacks…pulled out and tasted over and over again, looking at those words like physical touches and kisses with the movement of black or blue line over blank sheets, words written in the desperation of lack of paper; words written on napkins, paper bags, ticket stubs; words written with passion and urgency and silliness and life, so much life.

            My friends, each one, I could name the person by the hand, as clear to me as hearing their voice or feeling their touch. So many letters I would get, and tuck away into my pocket to savor in just the right spot, and would read and reread and taste and enjoy over and over again, not even needing the words any more, but loving the form, the dance of shape that is so distinctive to that person, loving the crossing out of words, the missing words and letters, the postscripts, all of it.

             Writing always takes time, and on the computer, it just is so optimum, it’s true, I can’t deny that…it’s precisely what I am using in this moment! But never do I want to give up the writing by the hand, the gentle gift of recording a sort of heartbeat of soul and time. Always, always, I treasure even the smallest of handwritten notes of all my people, the preferred font being the one moved exactly the way their hand pushed that writing implement.

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Entry filed under: Ruminations.

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