Fahrney's, the magnificent pen store in DC (where I've obtained most of my fountain pens for over 20 years) is having a contest in honor of next Tuesday's National Handwriting Day. This is what I'm sending:
You ask about my attitude to New Year's resolutions. The last time I made one would have been 2001. I resolved that in the coming year I'd write one good essay. I'd recently been named editor of the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, for which I wrote four editorials a year. When the New Year came around again, I felt that at least one of those 2000 word essays had met my criteria, so I had no need for more annual resolutions.
This is not to say that I've achieved everything I want to. Far from it. But the struggle to be the best man I can be is a daily one. If I only took stock of my successes and failures once a year, I'm afraid I would be a rather sorry mess. So for the last four decades, since my early twenties, I've started my day with a bit of writing, sometimes at the keyboard, but more often with pen and paper. I comment on the day just past and outline what I hope to manage in the day to come.
The Lakota believe that every person has their own path to walk and one tries to walk it the very best they can, sometimes slow and deliberate, sometimes dancing. There is no destination, there is only the path. My daily writing is my attempt to make sure that my feet are where they need to be.
Thanks for asking,
Handwriting is difficult now. Slow, and usually a little painful, but rewarding all the same. My hands feel stiff, weak, and they are always tingling, as if being rained on by tiny pins. In the first months after transverse myelitis I kept writing in a journal, but my handwriting was slowly becoming more cramped and less legible. By September of 2013 (10 months after I was felled), I could no longer manage the journal. I didn't have enough strength in my wrist and arm to hold my hand steady when I got to the edge of the page. I started writing on single sheets of G. Lalo medium. With my hand resting solidly on the desk, I could keep the pen steady enough. For over a year I kept the journal that way. Lynn bought me a beautiful lidded box just the right size for stacking the finished sheets. After a time I graduated to large Moleskine journals; still pretty flat, but raised up a bit. Josie would give me notebooks for Christmas or my birthday, fairly skinny ones, but thicker than the Moleskines and over time I could manage those as well. This past September, I went back to the small Roma Lussa journal that I'd abandoned four years earlier and began writing there again. A couple of weeks ago, having filled that one up, I started in a fresh, full sized Roma Lussa, my favorite journals for many years. It's still slow, it's still painful, the last few lines of each page get shaky as I struggle to keep my hand steady, but I manage. It is extremely satisfying.
It's part of what it means for me to walk my path. Around 1990, as my marriage was breaking up, I came to realize that at some point in the preceding years I'd stepped off my path. I didn't go in the wrong direction, I didn't get lost. It was as if I was just standing to the side of it. Not moving. Maybe afraid, maybe uncertain, maybe confused about what the path meant and where it was leading. It took some time, and some work, to return to what I'd understood years before, that all that mattered was to walk my path as best I could. To invest each step with as much truth and humility as I could muster. To find the beauty there.
Is there an irony here? That the metaphor that I've used to guide my life is one of walking, and here I am now unable to walk at all unaided? No. The metaphor just gets richer. The universe is showing its sense of humor. Isn't it true that whenever we take our very best and truest and most significant steps, we do it only with assistance? We may take each step very much alone, but we are always bouyed up by the countless others who make our lives possible.
Each morning, with coffee clearing sleep away, a fountain pen in my quivering hand, I still dance along my path.