April 6, 2009

Because I Can Be Terribly Old-Fashioned Sometimes . . .

Last week, we moved my tall pine bookcase/desk out of Caleb's room and into the livingroom. We did this because Caleb had figured out how to climb up the desk/bookcase and fling any and all contents of the shelves off onto the floor. While he was supposed to be napping.

We also moved it out because Caleb had found the hidden drawer beneath the desk and had redecorated his room with its contents, too. Among other things, he'd found a special box. I gasped when I saw it on his bedroom floor, because I'd forgotten all about it.

Two 19th-century style quill pens and one feather pen lay haphazardly in a pile of toys. The box itself lay upside down on the floor and scattered all about it were the eight different nibs that went with the pens. Calligraphy nibs, writing nibs, drawing nibs. Small, metallic, and very sharp. I gathered them up and counted them carefully. Not one was missing. Not one was broken. Caleb didn't have any new scratches, so he must not have played with them much.

Remembering immediately that I kept a bottle of ink in the box, too, I searched until I found it and sighed in relief that Caleb had not managed to open it. What a mess that would have been!

Bottled ink is messy. Just in case you were wondering.

I learned this truth the hard way, one afternoon during my senior year of college. I walked to school often that year, because Jason and I were sharing one car and we only lived two miles away from campus. Wednesdays were my long days. Classes started at noon and lasted until 8:30 pm or so. I had one long break in the late afternoon, which I usually spent in Finch Hall with Melody. Being an RA, she had to work the Box on Wednesday afternoons; so I joined her and kept her company while she sold candy, made change for laundry, and sorted mail. I used this time to rest, catch up on homework, and of course, chat with Mel.
This particular day, I had Theater homework to finish. I decided on a whim to take my ink set along in my backpack and complete the homework using a quill pen and real ink. You know, just to switch things up a bit. Mechanical pencils get so boring after a while. And besides, I can be terribly old-fashioned sometimes . . .

The ink, pen, and nib spent the better part of an hour bouncing around in my backpack while I walked to school; they bobbed and waited patiently while I attended three classes; they bounced around some more as I walked to Finch Hall.

Where I upzipped the side pocket on my backpack and found, to my dismay, a miniature Ink Lake. It took several paper towels to clean up the mess and my fingers were stained for a couple days afterward. Mel, thankfully, was on the phone the whole time. I don't think she knows, to this day, what happened. And since it was a side pocket, nothing was ruined.

So what did I do when I'd finished the damage control? Continued with my homework as planned, of course! I turned it in later that night, half written in pencil, half in quill pen.

Why do I even have quill pens, you ask? Because in my opinion, they're just plain fun. They are pretty, delicate, a throw back to the 1800s and a time far gone. A period of time I have loved since I was a child. A quill makes you write really slowly, because you run out of ink quickly and must dip your pen often. Thus, writing is punctuated with many pauses, during which you are free to think of what you really want to say. There's something elemental about quills; the ink is raw and dangerous. The nibs are sharp and defined. You must know what you are doing; you must be ever alert. A spill could ruin the paper you are writing on and stain your clothes; a nib, used to harshly, with too much force, will tear the paper and wrek its own ruin.

A quill pen must be coaxed. You must work with it, or it will work against you.

When I saw my ink box lying helter-skelter in Caleb's room, I had another whim. Why not take it to class with me and give my Korean students a chance to have fun with ink and pens and words?

Jason laughed at me and told me I would spill the ink again (he knows about my little mishap senior year). If I did not spill it, someone else would. He was sure.

Here's my students writing with the quills last week:

I am pleased to report no ink was spilled. =) My students had a great time; so did I. I think I'll take the set back this week and have the students write their names in Korean. Wouldn't that be pretty?
Not all my whims are bad. :) Just old-fashioned sometimes. . .

1 comment:

LeAnna said...

How fun! That is the quill pens, not the thought of spilling ink everywhere. :) I could see myself doing something like that. Spilling ink. Poking myself. Tearing the paper, etc. ;) And being old fashioned is nothing to be ashamed of. With each day it's becoming a dying way of life...