I have always loved stories. This year on my birthday, Uncle Jesse sent me a bunch of pictures from my childhood, some of which I don’t remember ever seeing before, and there was a common theme. In a bunch of them, there was a book on my lap. I remember learning to read before I started Kindergarten. The first book I read was one Mamaw got me from a yard sale. It was Jack and the Beanstalk. I think I was also equally fascinated by The Cat in the Hat, and The Beginner’s Story Bible. My favorite story in that one was “The Good Samaritan”, and because I so often dragged my books out and requested that Mamaw locate that one in the massive number of pages, she took blue magic marker and outlined the edges of the paper for me so I’d be able to find it for myself. Uncle Jesse says that even before Jack and the Beanstalk I would just memorize the stories other people read to me, then hold whoever was nearest hostage and “re-read” it to them from memory with the book turned upside down.
As I’ve gotten older, the stories I love have turned more complicated but just as special to me, and now as most of you guys have figured out, I’ve become fascinated with telling my own stories. Stories of my life and my grief, my kids and my husband, things that make me laugh, my dad’s transplant, rantings about every day life. I used to keep little journals for short periods of time and then lose interest, but for at least the past two years I’ve become more intentional about writing down the things I want to remember. Bits of dialogue I overhear, important events, prayers. I have one whole section of notebook that is Psalms I’ve written at the suggestion of My Crazy Lady. Surprisingly enough, I don’t think they suck, although I’m no King David.
About a year ago on my birthday (you can read about here), I found what has become one of my favorite places to go. In Biltmore Village in Asheville, there’s a store called Origami Ink. I bought my first fountain pen there for my birthday, and I’ve been about once a month ever since. It’s full of pens and journals, stationary, art, and everything else I didn’t know I needed. When I got my first fountain pen, it was kind of on a whim and mostly because I definitely wanted this monkey pen holder, but since that first purchase I’ve discovered the magic that comes from using the best possible tools to tell my stories.
Every time I go in, I meander the cases until I find a pen that speaks to me, and then Jonathan and Cathie let me try it out, see if it “feels” right. Then the real fun starts: finding the perfect ink. For every pen, I have a different color-coordinated ink, usually with sparkles in it. I don’t know why, but I can’t just put black or blue ink in a pen. It needs to coordinate with the color of the resin or reflect the silvers and golds of the nibs. Cathie has noticed that I tend to buy pens and inks near the same colors as my finger nail polish, and I’m not sorry. I guess my moods are in charge here.
This year on my birthday, I got an Aquamarine Waldemann, and Cathie had already found the perfect ink: Diamine Spearmint Diva with flecks of silver. I’ve filled it up three times since I picked it up a couple of weeks ago, obviously a new favorite. For a long time now, I’ve had my eye on a journal there with cotton paper and soft wrapped leather, so I got that as a happy birthday to myself, and now I’m saving it for the perfect idea to strike. I’ve found that words that are left in someone’e own handwriting are priceless. I’ve found this to be true with going through my mom’s journals, appreciating how her words are still guiding me now that she’s gone.
I’ve also found one of a kind boxes to store my pens in and soft leather pouches that I now use to carry at least 5 pens with me all the time so I can write based on my moods. There’s something about respecting the materials that make stories feel sacred somehow, like they matter.
Origami Ink is the kind of place that invites you to just spend an hour finding the perfect tools. I’ve found that, although I love my MacBook, when I have something truly important to say, or the words won’t come to me typed out in black and white, sometimes they flow better onto Rhodia paper with a fine-tipped nib and Diamine sparkly inks that are color coordinated to my fingernails. When life gets too stressful and my chest feels tight and I think I’m going to jump out of my skin if I don’t run away, Other Half takes me up to Origami Ink, and I find inspiration to tell the next story.
If you get a chance, you should check it out. These are special people. Thanks for helping me write all my best stories, Jonathan and Cathie. Hope to see you soon.