It was a splurge. Not an impulsive purchase, mind you, but a splurge nevertheless.
For the past two months, every visit to a nearby Barnes and Noble either started or ended with a trip to that section of the store where beautifully ornate but overpriced journals are kept, displayed in such a way that even the blind could appreciate their beauty. Some of them are bright, others subtle; some come in hard or soft covers while others seem to be somewhere in between; they’re bound in leather, and plastic, and cardboard; some look as if they were designed to become fixtures upon desks while still others look as if they were meant to be tossed in a small bag and taken on a hike in the forrest, where a writer would note nature-inspired tales and observations.
On a trip to Puerto Rico in 2001, one of these–a small, black journal with a soft-leather cover containing two spots for writing implements and a string to tie the thing shut–became the preferred recording device of thought, conversations, and observations made during the visit. It was a place in which ideas and descriptions and pictures and memories could dance. That journal’s still around, siting in a box in a storage closet, stuffed with post cards, pictures, and other memorabilia.
That trip was eight years ago. Was it time to get another?
[hmtad name=”120×600 Skyscraper Within Articles” align=”floatleft”]During a honeymoon trip to Orlando, just over five years ago, another one of those journals, received as a wedding gift, sat open in a hotel, its blank pages stared upon by eyes lusting for words but without the will to commit them. It was spiral-bound and had a hard cover of red and autumn, with the words “I hope you dance” inscribed in gold lettering. Eventually, the events and thoughts of that day were indeed committed to the pages, but that was the last time that journal would be written on for another four years, when those eyes, now filled with reverence for the notebook, would again gaze upon its still blank pages, thinking of what could be.
That journal now sits inside a desk, less than fifteen of its pages written on. Ironic.
This time there was no trip to precipitate the purchase, and it wasn’t a gift. Instead it was simply a matter of desire, which is why it took two months and multiple trips to that particular store to finally decide that it was worth it. Two months and numerous trips for a $40 purchase. Why?
Someone in a writing group once quipped that it had taken her years of writing before she was finally convinced she was good enough to write on one of those fancy journals. Another person jumped in saying that she had felt the same way, until she realized that the thing wasn’t some magical tome, it was just a notebook–an expensive notebook!–one in which she could write, make mistakes, and doodle if she wanted.
Between two living room chairs, on the floor, sits the “Medici Lions Kraft Recycled Italian Leather Journal.” That, by the way, is a rococoesque, marketing-inspired name for “pricey notebook”. Pressed on to the leather of both the front and back covers, the edges protected by a thin wrapping of leather string, are fanciful patterns featuring plants and decorative lines. These are bordered a by a string of petite, golden leaves. On the center of the front cover is a shield with the Medici lion, a beast on its hind legs, facing right.
When it was first removed from plastic packaging–protecting this notebook from passing hands until ready for use–the relaxing smell of soft leather filled the air as the notebook slipped out. That was followed by some time spent enjoying the thing for what it was, smelling it, touching it, and imagining the words that could be. Pages turned one by one, blank, waiting until the moment when they would be forever scarred and at the same time blessed with the fulfillment of their implicit raison d’être.
The only books written which can often be considered near-perfect the first time around are journals. Thinking about that, it became a possibility that this would be its use. But maybe there was something more. The soft feel of its cover and sturdiness of its pages demanded that more than the trivial thoughts and goings on of an average day be conferred upon it. A novel? A collection of short stories? An outlining of philosophical inquiries and thought experiments?
Ideas for what to write in the journal abound, but fleshing out these before beginning to write is at least somewhat important. Unlike the many tens of legal pads onto which hundreds of pens’ worth of ink have been spilled, this type of notebook isn’t one to be readily discarded. Is it okay to fill it with something trite?
Not surprisingly, a week after its purchase its pages are, of course, still empty.
It is not a holy relic, nor is it some decorative piece meant only to enhance a place by simply existing. It’s a notebook, one in which words will eventually be written, one which will eventually be filled, and one which may eventually be read by eyes other than that of the words’ author. In any case, one thing’s for sure: after a months-long line and a $40 entrance fee, it would surely be a waste to not dance.