Pondering with my Pens

How colors, clove oil and poems unite in friendly thought and fearsome reverie

I had a friend: she was purple, wrinkled, warped, scarred, and aged. She had seen much and endured much. She was a champ, and I relied on her for many years. My husband grew to love her as much as I did, and she was a frequent companion who shared in our deepest thoughts. So when she passed, my husband and I grieved… This purple friend was a battered old pen.

Though it sounds silly, there was an odd connection I shared with this pen: it rescued me on many occasions by cheerfully taking up residence in my purse and becoming the savior of those moments when I crashed my car and needed to exchange insurance information, or when I scribbled a phone number on a scrap of paper, or took last minute notes at a lecture when I forgot a proper notebook and pen. This pen was always there when I needed it.

One day, my turn to pay loyalty with loyalty occurred when a tiny capsule of clove oil stuffed carelessly in my purse spilled over her hide and literally ate her purple plastic skin. (Poor, pretty thing.) Purple is my favorite color, and she was my favorite pen. But now she needed to be cleaned, scrubbed, (clove oil is sticky!), and aired out. She was ugly now, and smelled awful. (If you think you like the smell of cloves, spill a concentrated beaker of essential oil of clove all over something and then decide!) But she was a hero, and after the accident she wrote as effortlessly as before, so she continued as my little companion for years to come.

“The Clove Pen,” as my husband and I called her, eventually migrated between the house, car, and my various purses for so long, that when she ran out of ink, my husband and I both mourned for a few long minutes in reminiscent fashion before taking pictures of her for posterity’s sake. (See below.) We lost a friend.

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Several months later, I was sitting at my desk doing some Christmas card writing with some (other) delightful colored pens and realized just how much fondness I have developed for pens:

Firstly, I’ve discovered that holding a pen in my hand gives me a sense of power, like a master over his craft; a pen is easier to swaddle in my palm than a keyboard. Secondly, I feel a surge of creativity fill me when I guide its ink into swoops and lines – both pleasing my eye and gratifying my need for movement. Thirdly, when I am content I can doodle with the soft precision and care that counterbalances the need to scribble madly in vicious frustration over phrases, words or paragraphs that don’t suit my liking.

Moreover, I have a great respect for the pen that a keyboard has yet to earn: the pen, as a concept, has been around for thousands of years in some form or other, and without it, society would probably fall apart. Oral tradition is strong, but the written word? It cannot be supplanted. Memories fail, generations end, and cultures are obliterated, but the silent voice of the pen has succeeded in preserving facts and fiction on the forgotten parchment of cultures past. (The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of my favorite examples.)

The power the pen holds over us is frighteningly haunting: it has subtly carried secrets that united lovers and raised up kingdoms – but has also torn down dynasties and initiated anarchies. A written word understood OR misunderstood has often dictated our fate throughout generations. Words arbitrarily or carelessly translated from one language to another has shifted people's view on all of reality - birthing cults and creating sects in once unified religions.

I wrote a poem about all this, once, several long years ago, (and since it’s fitting, I reprinted it for perusal, below), but as I sat at my brightly lit desk bent laboriously over those Christmas cards, these same thoughts occurred to me once more. I love the pen. I revere the pen, and I fear the pen. I won’t look at that long, slender instrument of ink the same way again. The Clove Pen, pens of ages past, and the colorful pens I held in my hands at that moment, all fused together in an entity of purpose; to prolong our lives, enlighten our souls, and delight our hearts. What more could we possibly ask of any friend?


The Pen

Beauty on the parchment, knowledge on a page,

The pen is the instrument, of each and every sage.

Tradition of the mouth, can only go so far,

 and with the centuries it goes on, twisted and bizarre.


The mind can often edit what another seeks to say,

But The Pen has made each concept live, every passing day.

The Pen protects our heritage with words immortal placed,

And with its curves and angles shapes each letter neatly spaced.


The languages throughout the ages echo through its parts,

And with the ink it transfers wisdom to each yearning heart.

The Pen, it has a character, and it never changes,

It’s stalwart loyalty to the hand with movement and thought exchanges.


But yes, The Pen has been betrayed by wily hands of malice,

(Who seek to make humanity drink from a malformed chalice.)

And yet, The Pen has made its stand, though helpless it can be,

For with a faithful hand it can help us all to see.


History, Fiction, Instruction, Art, have formed inquiring minds,

And with the wisdom transferred Pen has illuminated the blind.

Malevolence and Innocence have seduced or asked The Pen,

To be a prime communicant and partake in informing men.


The Pen consents by force or will to do a writer’s bidding,

And with its mouth will form a thought the author’s hand permitting.

So Pen, you are a glorious and necessary tool,

To build a tapestry of life like threads upon a spool.


Relay our thoughts, and speak our minds with your wondrous talent,

And brave the winds of change and force with your temper valiant.

Without you, mankind perhaps would not survive,

And with our specious minds would weave a tale of evil we contrive.


Onward, Forward, Pen! – receive and review and record,

So that mankind can read your makings and learn all that they afford.


                                                                                    Christina Brown