A classic. She might be missing a part but she has style, she has grace, she has a place in the heart of Penciled In. We won't be able to do a whole lot without her in the future, now that we have her. She's been with JC for more than a few years. And now she belongs to me. JC had to give me a primer of sorts on how to get her up and running; I'd inserted her at a slant; I had no idea how to attach her to my desk top. The sharpeners from classrooms were bolted down. To the wall. There was always a waste paper basket beneath to catch the wood shavings and fine graphite powder.
You can buy graphite powder in cake form, inside a lovely little tin. Or, you can save your ground bits and use them with your fingers for soft, moody sketches. No water or brushes necessary. Use paper with tooth for best effects.
Here's a glimpse. See? I've tried it just the once. I prefer pencil, and grit. Graphite grit. A funny thing about all the pencils I use? I can taste the graphite on my tongue. It seems to leach through my fingers to my taste buds, as if by magic. It puts my teeth on edge, and a drink of water tastes of crystal; my mouth fills with saliva just telling you about it. It's all so odd but not too unpleasant.
Back in the day pulp wood was the bread earner in our hometown. Killing trees was the number one industry. Our town motto was "Jasper: the jewel of the forest." Once upon a time, turpentine was king too. Most lives revolved around loggers, chain saws, pulp wood trucks, and death by tree. We almost always knew which parts of the forests were under siege from the sounds that echoed through the hollow. I can still hear the angry buzzing, a shouted warning, and the loud crack that meant at least one more tree had been felled. Since we lived along one of the main highways, we waved like maniacs at each pulp wood truck that slowly "sped" past our home through long summers, and the eighteen wheeler drivers always blasted their horns in response to our blow-your-horn signals: arms pumping like we were master/mistress of the horn cord.
The saddest days were when someone came calling on his way home during the week--a clear sign that someone had been injured or had died. Someone always stopped by my grandmother's after work to let her know. When party lines made it to our neck of the woods, word spread like wild fire, and the community came together before water could boil, to help those left in the wake to grieve and bury their dead. Those brave men never visited during the week when they were begrimed with resin, the forest's detritus, and soil, unless a fellow logger lost his life in the battle of man vs tree. They were that conscious of being respectful as a welcome visitor.
There were rare days when a less than secure load let loose a single log, or a full load, but it happened. Chains broke. Armless trees rolled, dragging Death with them in vengeance. Death was a constant threat to truck drivers as well as civilians. Every student driver knew to leave a more than respectable distance between their vehicle and a pulp wood truck. Somehow, those accidents were just as painful as stories of how trees kicked back--killing even the most seasoned logger mere feet away from co-workers, who wondered in the telling "How did that tree miss me?" Those men found comfort in Grandma's "It wasn't your time to go." Or, "It might not be your way to go like that." She and they both prayed their going would come from "old age, being just plain worn out," or finally "getting the long rest they needed after a lifetime of toil and serving the Lord." They worked hard through the week, went to town on Saturdays, and you know they were in church come Sunday. Grandma got a lot of company after church as those good men made their way home to a nice dinner and an evening of rest before Monday rolled around again.
So, yes, I inherited her. She came in a lovely Mama's Got a Brand New Bag kind of way. JC kept the mug, and he kept the blue Jacobs bag since blue is his favorite color, but he gave me the blue highlighters too. A blue ball point pen. And a lovely blue pencil. It has blue "lead." I cannot explain the roll of single ply toilet paper. That stapler is about as heavy as a brick. It's a Swingline, so you know it will outlast me in a time showdown.
I "unearthed," as in "dusted off" a half-full box of pencils, with a sneaking suspicion that they belong to Erin. I remember those Batman, piano, and Coke pencils. She was crazy for those funky erasers. And she had a serious Batman addiction. The doll pencil is a souvenir gift from her hair stylist after a Jamaican vacation. That woman sold me on bean pies and rum as being the cure for summer doldrums! The stylist, not Erin. I got a pencil too. It's here somewhere.
A pencil from Sydney, a gift from an Aussie friend who visited one summer. A cute little stuffed kiwi has place of pride on the top shelf in my studio. I still wear the sweatshirt. I am so tempted to sharpen this baby, but I'm not the official heiress to all this graphite. Yet.
Now. Most pencils have erasers. When did it stop being the norm? And, why? I know! I know! A rubber baron or baroness fell out with the pencil makers and decided to withhold their erasers, thinking they'd be better off selling erasers separately, because what's a pencil without an eraser, right? So, since they weren't exactly making a killing selling little bitty pieces of pink rubber, they made big pieces of pink rubber instead. And called them pink pearls. Right?
. . . to be continued