I once attended a workshop for writers led by Betsy Warland and Ross Laird on web-based networking, uses of social media and how to build a dynamic, engaging, online presence. I’m sure I learned a lot that day; Betsy and Ross are both fearless leaders in this time of rapidly changing presentation and consumption of text, and fingertip access to literary content online. Yet, the moment I remember most vividly from that day occurred after lunch, while the sun slanted in through the west facing windows and Betsy paused in the midst of her presentation and held up a blank sheet of paper, saying “This is my homeland.”
I write this entry on a pad of creamy paper with a black, micro point Uni-ball vision pen. My desk is littered with notebooks (pages tagged with yellow Post-Its) lying open to where shreds of poetry have been recorded. These last few weeks I have revisited these notebooks, especially the ones I filled over the past several months of travel, mining the pages for material that might be of use as I put the finishing touches on the new manuscript. My notebooks of choice for this past season were three slender, grey, 40pg Moleskine Volants and a sturdier, hardbound, blank Cahier with a wrap-around elastic closure. Why so many? As a means of creating distinction between the stops on my journey as well as offer my imagination a chance to refresh itself in the blank depths of an unmarked notebook, I decided to give each place its own set of pages, titling them accordingly: Parish of Rathven, Salzburg (et Amsterdam), Abbotsford/Clear Lake. Like a flag planted on new found land, these designations root the writing within to a physical place. Place that may be inhabited and affected by habitation.
“Belhaven Best and scampi at The Victorian Hotel in Portknockie. Wednesday, 8-May”
“Severed doll arm grappling hook”
“bay clouds spot red, spilling colour like a bag of peaches”
For a long time now, I have recognized the value of a good notebook. One that is well-made, aesthetically pleasing, functional. Moleskine seems to have mastered this, with lie-flat stitching and buttery smooth paper, adding a slim pocket and signature of perforated sheets at the back of the Volant style. The inscription on the opening page of “Salzburg (et Amsterdam)” reads “ornamentation in white”—my impression of Austrian architecture, but also a way of seeing the unmarked beauty and potential of a new notebook. A place to write, a place to enter when alone, a place to belong, to test perceptions and work out ideas, to grow, to explore, to be heard. The notebook, much like the page Betsy held aloft, is a homeland. One I take with me wherever I go.
“my fidgeting hands destroy the map of Austria we made from two green napkins: one whole, the other folded to ¼”