Seeking Connection Through Stationery

Seeking Connection Through Stationery

In my mind, I ride down Elmo Weedon Road past empty farm fields and endless barbed wire. The chipseal rattles my hands to sleep on the handlebar. The sound of the chain whirring through my drive train and the whisper of my tires on the road are a sweet melody punctuated by my ragged breath. The January air is cool on my skin and burns in my lungs; in Texas, there is no more pleasant weather for cycling.

Dappled sunlight drifts through live oak leaves, and long brown grasses twitch in the breeze. Cattle watch placidly as I cycle by, a creature neither human nor bicycle, but both. I am one with my steed and we are a part of the road.

When anxiety grips me, I retreat to these memories. I ride endless country miles in my mind, savoring every perfect, peaceful moment — I feel that cold air in my lungs again, the burn of lactic acid warming my thighs, and that beautiful, constant song of pedals turning over and over without pause.

A black, white, and red road bike leaning against a shed built from corrugated metal.
My trusty steed resting during a break on a much hotter Texas ride.

Living in the present is a struggle for me. Between my anxiety and the mental load of motherhood, my mind is never quiet. My childhood taught me to disconnect from my body and my feelings. Even now, I dissociate regularly to cope with pain and discomfort. Moments of connection between my mind, body, and surroundings are precious and few, but they are moments when I feel intensely alive.

Like cycling, skiing offers me such moments. In one, I’m bombing down Windsong, carving turns with ease while enjoying the exhilarating speed. I feel the texture of the snow on my edges. My thighs ache pleasantly with effort. The mountains stretch before me, and I am so happy in the sensation that I laugh with the wind, my teeth brittle in the cold. Adrenaline flares as I pick up speed, creeping from pleasure to fear. A good turn brings me back to comfort, and I sink again into joy. I carry speed all the way to the lift line, then stop like a hockey player, still grinning behind my moist balaclava. I will keep chasing this feeling until the lifts close or my legs give out.

Snow-covered mountains stretch skyward above evergreen-lined ski runs.
These are the views I admire when I’m giving my legs a brief break.

And what does any of this have to do with a fountain pen? A pen cannot take me out of my thoughts in the same way a bike or skis do. There is no rush of speed or pounding heart rate. But there is a sense of connection, a becoming-oneness not unlike those I find in sports. In those moments, the pen becomes an extension of myself and my thoughts, and I am exquisitely aware of the texture of the paper beneath my nib, the glide of laying ink on the page, and the subtleties of the ink’s changing color as it dries. The right pen rests comfortably in my hand and requires no great pressure to use. Its nib comfortably keeps up with the speed of my words, giving me subtle feedback and control. The ink flows without effort, filling in each letter, leaving no stroke dry and every ‘i’ with its dot. Instead of disappearing into the background of my thoughts, I am intensely aware of my tools, brought to life and joy by our intimate connection.

This is the sensation I chase with my collection. Across the dozens of pens, rivers of ink, and mountains of notebooks, I’m seeking those combinations that bring my mind, my hand, and my eye together into a blissful, unified whole. I want to fill the page while savoring every stroke, and read back over my words while appreciating the beauty of each inky letter.

It’s taken me more years of expensive experimentation than I care to admit to reach this conclusion. I’ve certainly reached a stage where greater curation of my collection is warranted. I hope that, with some patient experimentation and reflection, I can prune and curate in such a way that there’s joy every time I pick up a pen. With so many possible tool combinations, I do not expect perfection in this project. But I do hope I can rely on this principle of connection to guide my journey in the best direction for me.

(Photo credit: N. Sharp)

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