Pen & Pencil Junky

Confession: I am a pen-aholic and sometimes (often) a pen klepto. I haven’t found a local chapter of Pens Anonymous, but I’m not so sure I’d go anyway. I love pens. I don’t want to give them up.
They aren’t high tech, but using them is satisfying in a way a computer keyboard or touchpad isn’t. A few of my favorites have been with me for over 30 years and refilled repeatedly. And the dip pens – all I need is ink (purchased or homemade) and a suitable container, although the bamboo ones benefit from an occasional touch-up with fine abrasive.

But pens aren’t my only weakness. There’s something enthralling about the humble pencil, too.
The wood settles into the permanent concavity on the side of my middle finger as I poise the point above paper. The graphite encased in the wood varies in hardness and darkness, from the very faint 7H to the ultra-dark 9B. Or maybe I’ve got a carbon pencil in hand; it produces lines only slightly different from charcoal. Or if I have black paper, white charcoals and soapstone pencils are just plain fun.
Some stroke the paper with a gritty, scritchy sound and feel, but my favorites glide smoothly, effortlessly, as I write or draw. And if I want to change a spelling, a line, a shadow, the pencil strokes are not so permanent that an application of eraser can’t lighten or remove what I’ve done.
I won’t place writing I’ve done in pencil here. The keyboard does a more efficient job for blog purposes. But writing isn’t my only passion. So, below — something else I do with the lowly pencil.




Christening the Ships that Never Were

Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived inland. She loved the feel of the earth under her feet when she went hiking.  The muffled thud of horse hooves on soft soil, the gritty clatter on rocky trails were her secondary heartbeats. The smell of dusty country roads, of rain on hot pavement, of autumn leaves — perfume to her senses.

Then one day, she spent an afternoon on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico. The limitless horizon, the sense of unbound freedom, captivated her. Later, she took sailing classes and sailed on the Pacific. When she couldn’t rent a boat, she spent as much time as she could on the beach, watching the waves, inhaling briny winds, dreaming of one day living aboard a boat of her own. The sea wooed her and she fell in love.

She moved inland once more, and though she rediscovered her love of land, the sea never left her heart.

What does a writer do with a yearning that can’t be fulfilled? Use imagination.

I don’t have even a rowboat to take on a pond, but ships fill my imagination. Oh, and the vessels there are wonderful, ships I would live out my days on if only I could. I christen each one with the launch of a story. Aboard them, I travel seas and skies and space.

Fast and sleek, the Minstrel is a harp-ship piloted by music; her great deck-harp and transom drone sounds the ocean depths for the navigators playing the ship. The Sea Nymph tries to elude sirens who would destroy her on reefs. The galleon Mer l’Etoile ferries elven ambassadors from Africa while the tramp steamer MereleCroix carries her passengers on Atlantic lanes. In the skies, pale sails of the airships Mind the Trees and Sunbeam billow under stars as their crews, on a rescue mission, battle elements and enemies. Tuscan Red launched to pick up a baby dragon for delivery to a new home. And in space, ships steered by cybernetic navigators carry colonists as they flee a world under a dying sun: Inspiratum, Astra Ventus, Cantus Lumen, and others.

Why settle for a canoe when I have fleets? Today, Savage Star launches on a watery world where a sea secret is jealously guarded.

The only thing missing is the bottle of champagne to smash on her hull as I christen her.