21 May 2014

an ode to a new pen: or, the joy of everyday objects

In terms of joy office supplies can bring, a new pen is second only to a new notebook. And oh, the thrill in a day that brings both a new pen and a new notebook: I would burst with the writing possibilities, if that were possible.

The new pen that I got today has that smooth, roller-ball ink flow that makes everything you write look important. The first time I put it to paper, my hand practically twitched with a desire to create something that would last generations.

And yet what I was writing was my to-do list for the day, and it was full of words and phrases that wouldn't make sense to anyone outside my company, let alone someone ages and ages hence. What I was writing with this new pen would just end up crossed off and thrown in the recycling bin at the end of the day, but I'm telling you, it was the boldness of the ink that made me want to switch to writing poetry or a letter to a long-lost friend. In the scratching of the pen on paper, I could almost hear a story beginning.

Why is it that things—and having the right thing to do a task—makes us feel like we are better able to do that task? I've thought of this before: What is it about having the right pen that puts me in the mood for writing?

Why do I feel like it has to be a certain kind of notebook, with a certain kind of line, before I can settle in to a writing mood?

This is all bordering dangerously on a self-judgmental tirade about how I use excuses for not writing. That's not where I intend to head.

I'm more aimed at this idea: I am what Laurie Colwin calls a "domestic sensualist," someone who drinks in the beauty of everyday objects and realizes that a pen, just an ordinary pen, can hold so much more than ink. These objects that we surround ourselves with can tell stories about the most normal, uneventful days of our lives, and that is why getting a new pen, one that writes so smoothly, can feel so momentous. It is a thing of beauty and possibility that we can touch every day.

That is also why I set the table for even weeknight meals with my grandparents' wedding china {a Noritake pattern with a pink rose and gold leaf} and why I use a demitasse spoon and a white cup and saucer for my morning coffee, even though it's just me and even though I'm in a hurry. Living with and using pretty, meaningful objects brings delight to even the dullest of days, and it helps me remember to look for beauty on those days when nothing seems to shine.

The new pen I got is just an object; it is just a utilitarian thing that I can use to craft my to-do list and write notes to myself. But it also creates a daring, bold line that seems to want to declare something, write something, live something.

Even though it's just a pen, it can remind me of this: Sometimes, we do the most mundane, routine things with the most mundane, routine objects—and we are flooded with joy at the mere ordinary beauty of it all.

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