The other day, a girlfriend of mine came over to keep me company after my surgery. We had a relaxing afternoon hanging out on my back porch, which I just rediscovered since being in recovery mode. It’s funny how we can restrict ourselves to sections of places as familiar as our own homes. But being stuck at home has inspired my sense of adventure, I suppose. Once I was able to move around a bit more, I escaped the boredom of sitting on the sofa in the living room all day by making my way to the three-season patio in the back of the house, which boasts the light and warmth of the sun. When she visited, we drank iced coffee and cooled ourselves in the breeze of the oscillating fan. We had easy, slow conversation, the kind that fits right into a late summer afternoon, as though those kinds of days were made for those kinds of conversations. We talked about health and love, and getting older. Everyone’s going through something. If you are going through something now, believe me when I tell you, I can hardly find a person who isn’t going through it, and by “it,” I mean something pretty significant. So, you are not alone. You are in good company, or at least human company. This is life. And we sat there knocking that around for a bit between sips of iced Starbucks coffee.
My laptop and Roterfaden notebook were on the table because I’d been working on my syllabus before she stopped by. I always find myself reaching for my notebook whenever I’m feeling thoughtful, whether I am uncomfortable or inspired, and my actions were just as habitual that afternoon as they are any other day. My fingers rubbed across the soft smoke blue nubuck leather cover of my A5 notebook. When I brush one way, the nap lifts, and the notebook’s color lights, making it more smoke than blue, and then when I brush it back down, the nap lays back down, and the color darkens. My hand goes back and forth, and I find this soothing. My notebook anchors me. I think it was then that I thought she might like one too. Maybe it would do the same for her.
“Have you ever thought about journaling, writing down your thoughts,” I asked her. Reflecting now, I find it funny that I asked about journaling. I never think of what I do as journaling and never, ever call my notebook a journal. But, for some reason, I think other people do, and so when broaching the subject with others, I always refer to “journaling.” I knew she had thought about it. We’d talked about that before. We talked about it a bit that afternoon, confirming what I already knew, and then the next thing I knew, we were on the Baum-kuchen website, looking for a notebook that would meet her needs. Fortunately, I have plenty of samples on my desk. I brought a pile of notebooks and covers - Traveler’s Company traveler’s notebooks, TSL Zip A5 Organizers, my A5 Roterfaden Tashenbegleiters, bare notebooks without covers, fountain pens, rollerball pens to the patio, so she could familiarize herself with which each had to offer. It was then that I realized that there are people who keep notebooks and people who don’t because her expression was somewhere between “Wow, this is really cool.” and “What the hell is all of the sh**?”
As we went through the various items, which were spread across the table, her mood seemed to change. Maybe this is my wishful thinking, but I think she began to envision herself using the notebook, crossing over, and becoming a person who keeps a notebook, because, as I mentioned on my Instagram account this week, there are two kinds of people - people who keep notebooks and people who don’t. She ultimately decided that she could see herself with a grey Roterfaden. I warned her that it might feel heavy, as there is some weight to it. We looked at the way my notebook was set up to give her ideas. We added sheet protectors to her order. She thought maybe she’d use them like I do, to create miniature collages and bulletin boards of memories, ephemera, and inspiration, but maybe she won’t. But my hope is that once she gets her notebook, it will become hers, I hope, and be set up nothing like mine. It will become an extension of her imagination and a vehicle for her self-expression, and become all her, with maybe just a whisper of inspiration from me. We also ordered a three-pack of lined MD Light notebooks. She couldn’t see herself using grid-ruled paper, which is my favorite. Already her style is different from mine.
I cannot wait to see how she organized her notebook and how it differs from mine and changes over time. More importantly, I’m hoping it becomes a place for her thoughts and self-expression and that it brings her joy.
I love the way an empty notebook holds infinite possibilities. I love the way a simple notebook cover can house universes of thought and expression, each so unique that they bear little to no resemblance to other notebooks, that may, on the outside, look just like it.
I would love the opportunity to tour some of your notebooks, and your personal universes of thoughts and expression, and feature a few in some of my upcoming essays. If you’d like to play a bit of show and tell with me and our readers, please let me know. You can reach my email at email@example.com or through Instagram: @trinaogorman.