About Leather Patina, Or, Thoughts on My 30th Birthday // A.C.

About Leather Patina, Or, Thoughts on My 30th Birthday // A.C.

Of course the moment I start to think about switching to a new journal system, my Traveler’s Notebook decides to look especially handsome. The MD Diary I’m going to try out starts in December, and I’ve begun preparations for the move. I unloaded the Camel of its wallet and calendar inserts recently, meaning to put the cover away to let it “rest”. But then I had to take a moment to appreciate its rich color in the light. Spread out flat, it looks almost like a map. The darkened areas are like expanses of water, the crisscrossed scratches like trails or migratory routes. Embossings and stitches stand out as a few clear landmarks and labels, but overall, the destination depicted is a hazy one. You can hardly make out the edges or borders of any land in the material as if drowned in coffee stains. A much-used map, then. Or a secret one. 

It’s hard to believe it’s the same notebook I received in 2017—who is that velvety, orange, young thing? I knew the leather would patina—that was one of the biggest draws of the notebook for me in the first place. But I never expected, could never have predicted it would change quite like this. Aging, right. It’s happening as we speak, and we’re still surprised.

It’s probably known by now that I’m partial to the Camel TN. It basically can do no wrong in my eyes, however, battered or stained it gets. I’m not really sure why, but this hard-earned unconditional goodwill does not necessarily hold true for other covers. My Passport TN, for example, was also put through the wringer. One snowboarding trip, I left it in the pocket of a jacket which I foolishly believed was waterproof enough to protect it. Which it might very well have been…if I hadn’t gotten totally owned by the mountain and plowed into the snow so many times. Soaked, the Passport spent a night propped open in the cabin’s weirdly bone-dry and warm kitchen cupboard and emerged dusty blue-green, with a wrinkled spine. Later, I tried conditioning it to restore the original blue color but was unsuccessful: while it did become darker, it also lost its saturation. It’s charming in its own way. I still regularly use this cover. But the regret (what was I thinking? of course it wasn’t waterproof. I didn’t even really need my wallet there. I should have just taken out my credit cards, et cetera et cetera) still stings. 

Hardest to admit, and maybe the real reason I’m writing this, is the mistake I’ve made with the A5 Blue Organizer. Yes, the brand new one from just the other month. I’ve mentioned before that my desk is by a bright window, and that I leave my notebooks out on it a lot. No surprise that in just under two months, before I even realized it, the vibrant blue has been burnished, by friction from my hands, jostling around against other notebooks, and most of all daily, direct light exposure into a completely different color, muted and dark—maddeningly, only on one side, the front cover.

But now something strange is happening. As I am typing this, in the moment, my feelings are changing. At the end of the last paragraph, I paused to set the organizer nearby, to glance over at as a reference. I had every intention of talking, here, about how I’ve considered replacing it, conditioning it, or leaving the other side face-up for a couple of months so at least the discoloration is evenly distributed. How I know I should try instead to be more appreciative, or more chill, or both. Otherwise, the things I forget to love might run away. Harsh thoughts returned. Don’t be such a picky kid…haven’t you learned anything? Haven’t you aged at all?

That’s how I thought this would end. Instead, looking at the well-made, carefully cut piece of leather quietly resting on the table, I read the map. To the west: a summer sea, a blue so rich and bright you almost forget how deep the water is. To the east: a winter ocean on a coal-black night, stately, enigmatic, and unbothered.

I zip up the case. I leave it in the light.

Text and photos by: A.C. Esguerra

Where to find A.C. : instagram @blueludebar

Read other stories by A.C. : Here

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  • Judi: January 05, 2022
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    Beautiful analogies! Love, distress, age, care….
    Wonderfully written, A.C.!

  • Jenine Smith: December 02, 2021
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    I deeply love this article and thoughtfully articulated insights!

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