The Internet makes this vast and expansive world seem so much smaller, allowing us to make connections across the miles that we may not have been able to make quite so easily 20 years ago. Such is the case with my discovery of and bond with Baum-kuchen and its co-founders Wakako and Frido, whom I discovered in 2014, four years after they’d already been in existence, four years before I’d have any idea just how much two people I’d never met could impact me.
I cannot easily trace my path to them. My life was in turmoil back in 2014, and I would have stumbled upon them, staggering up their figurative walkway like some wounded stranger. They opened their figurative door and let me in. Let me rest my weary body at their table. I imagine them giving me a warm cup of tea and hearty soup to nourish my body. I imagine them talking to me in soft, hushed tones, comforting me. I imagine being invited to stay with them in an uncluttered room, and I imagine myself making it over to a tidy desk to write in my notebook — a lamp casting a warm light across my page and the flicker of a candle dancing across a teardrop on my cheek.
None of this happened, except in my mind. But I have the same sort of gratitude towards them I’d have had it happened just this way.
Rather… I discovered traveler’s notebooks from a Facebook group and for whatever reason thought it was important that I scrape together the money that I could hardly spare, to buy one. I didn’t buy what was then a Midori Traveler’s Notebook, at the time, but one made by an Etsy artisan. It was bigger to hold the Moleskine Cahier notebooks I used back then. It was fine. I still have it on my desk. But the community on Facebook tempted me with their talk of the Midori branded notebook, and in October of 2014, while in NY for another event, I took a taxi to a shop in Soho and bought just the notebook, which came with one blank refill, and nothing else.
I bought it home and unboxed it, which, if you’ve ever unboxed one, you’d know is a wonderfully, pleasant experience. In fact, it was so pleasant to me and so appreciated by me in the midst of my tumult, that I re-boxed it and unboxed it again, just to experience it a second time. I’d owned many analog products, especially notebooks, in the past, having always been an avid journaler/diarist, but nothing could compare to the almost immediate attachment that I had to this notebook, this tangible object. It became my security item, in a way that no other notebook had ever become.
It wouldn’t have been practical to go into NYC every time I needed a refill for it, and I suspect that’s how I made my way to Baum-kuchen… for refills for my notebook, but eventually, it was for another kind of refill... to nourish my soul. Their aesthetic, their mission, their energy became this invisible life preserver. I don’t think they know that, even though we have this creative relationship. I don’t think they realize how deep my love is for them.
My inbox is overflowing with email after email from retailers who are having sales or pushing products, doing anything they possibly can to stay afloat. But, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably afraid to spend money needlessly, not knowing what the future holds. There’s just too much uncertainty for me to go on a shopping spree. But I haven’t received an email from Baum-kuchen, asking me to buy anything because that’s not their way. Inspired by the German Bauhaus movement and Japanese wabi-sabi, they believe in simplicity, in practicality, in a minimalist aesthetic, and in intention.
As I opened my Classiky Toolbox this morning to get a syringe to fill my fountain pen with ink, I admired the beautiful and utilitarian design of it with its box joint corners, the latch closure, its sturdy handle on outside of its top and the clip on the inside of its top, and sliding drawer on top. I can’t imagine it ever breaking. It’s an heirloom. A smaller version of the box is on my desk too, filled with rubber stamps, of which I only have a few, but each one means something special to me.
This morning, I wrote what I was grateful for on a dusty blue sheet of paper made by a Korean company called Some Mood Design and attached it with a tiny circular sticker by the same company, on the page of my Traveler’s Company Traveler’s Notebook, which I’ve carried for so long the leather has softened and bent on the edges. My name is embossed in one corner. I got brave enough to paint racing stripes on it with leather paint. I don’t think I could have done this had I not embraced the wabi-sabi philosophy and dared to make a mistake or some imperfect line. A brass charm is sewn onto the cover. It says, “We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.” I hope to travel again soon, but for now, I travel across the pages and in my imagination.
These analog tools are keeping me grounded during this scary time, as they’ve kept me grounded through the many challenges that I’ve encountered and endured over the years. They are figuratively and literally sturdy, and they support me. I won’t need to replace them anytime soon because they are durable, meaningful, and intentional purchases that will last and grow more beautiful with time and use, and never am I encouraged to buy more BK. And yet …
I don’t know what I would do without Wakako and Frido and Baum-kuchen, who invited me in to sit at their figurative table to drink tea and rest and write. Thank you.