Part 1 of Several
Perhaps everyone has hidden somewhere in his head a deep-buried, well-cherished dream of what he shall do or be. One of my mine is that my friend the Mead and I shall found Siamese-twin pubs, one named The Old Sponge and Toady (a phrase which time never stales) and the other The Jolly Piper; there shall be a shared space for musicians, plenty of Irish whiskey, cocktails, and an elder tree out back.
But a more venerable dream took root when I received Calligraphy Workstation for my eighth or ninth Christmas from my godfather. The outside was beautiful, and the inside promised to teach me the skills needed to make artwork like this:
I read the instructions for each alphabet carefully, fitted the ink cartridge and nib into the pen, and set to work on the practice pages…until I came to realize that somehow, despite how carefully I’d formed my letters, they all looked wrong. What had happened? I’d been so careful to hold the pen at a 45º angle.
At that point, I had no idea, but set the pen down because I clearly could not wield it effectively. Only years later did I realize that in my childish exuberance (and ignorance), I’d overlooked the way ink flowed from the nib and the fact that I was holding it carefully in my left hand – exactly perpendicular to the direction it need to point to write properly.
Then for the first time I mourned my left-handedness, which otherwise caused no great angst except for that time I had to track down a left-handed softball glove which never saw much use anyway because subjecting myself to softball ranks among my poorer decisions. How could I become a great calligrapher when the practice was weighted in the righties’ favor?
(Perhaps you will answer “Use an oblique nib!” or even “Write in Arabic!” – although I’ve since learned that writers of Arabic tend to shun the left hand as well, and thus write from right to left right-handedly. Curious. As for oblique nibs…well…I have no good answer to that)
At any rate, that dream slumbered for a while in the dark recesses of my mind, until I read a story with a girl copying out manuscripts in a traditional hand. Then the dream stirred and stumbled about, right around the time when my mother found the old pens and nibs from her cartography days and handed them off to me; my brother brought me another calligraphy book; Michael’s had gold and silver ink on clearance; and somehow I ended up with a pot of black ink too…
So somewhere along the line, amidst my accumulation of the various accoutrement needed, I took another stab with the nib (C-3 sized) at this beautiful writing business. It calls for a good deal of paper manipulation and sideways pen strokes, but one day the practice shall pay off, and that dream shall be in my grasp!