My enduring love affair with paper

I love paper. Paper bound in small leather journals or paper coiled up with colourful covers.
Yellow covers are best—those with sunflowers or daisies or small children wearing their innocence.
I love thick pads of parchment-like paper, where my finger can trace its texture, find the crevices of the weave. And I love stacks of yellow newsprint pads that are as satisfying as a fully-stocked pantry or a pile of freshly-folded towels, an inventory of readiness.
Paper is wonderful all year long, but September is the best month for paper. I remember sitting in my desk at school waiting for the teacher to hand out “scribblers.”
“Yellow, yellow, yellow,” I chanted under my breath. I never wanted red; I would settle for green, but yellow was just so . . . yellow.
I remember the smell of the pages and Elmer The Safety Elephant on the back telling me to “Stop, Look, and Listen.” I remember promising myself that everything I wrote in these fresh new scribblers would be neat and tidy and perfect, and none of the pages would be bent.
That was a big promise that usually was broken not too many days in.
Then when I was older, I was able to buy my own paper—packages of loose-leaf that I snapped up when they went on sale and stored them like firewood for winter; reams and reams of glorious paper.
I am a writer. I suppose the relationship with paper is a natural one, an obvious one. It’s a bit like saying Michelangelo liked paint, although I’m not implying I write as well as he painted.
The writer in me loves an empty page—a clean fresh start as if, with the perfect pen in hand, this piece of paper allows for endless possibilities.
When I begin to write, I settle into a place of creative understanding where the questions find their way to that perfect paper and circle around on the page and in the paragraphs, colliding and shifting while the words try to find the solution.
If I get bogged down or adrift in the prose, I can turn the page and start again, not even needing to acknowledge my earlier fruitless effort. A fresh page of paper is all about hope and new beginnings and positive outcomes.
The paper is how it begins, the sound and smell of it, the lines that keep me safe, let the tale rise and fall and twist and turn.
I am grateful that some inquisitive mind more than 2,000 years ago decided that if he ground up some bark and soaked it in water, and then spread it out like a science project, he might create some commodity that would change the face of civilization.
“What do we have here?” he must have said, his hand rubbing along his chin. “Ahh, paper.”
And paper became a treasure, the creators realizing its value and guarding its secret as though it might be the key to the universe. Paper is, indeed, the key to any universe I might want to explore.
There are those I know who worship other substances, like jewellery. They ogle them and sigh and want to gather them up to take home to make them feel better about the state of their lives. Rings and necklaces and earrings and things with lots of sparkle.
Others buy shoes. Flat shoes, heels, sandals with just the right strap. Or hats, frightening creations of bizarre wizardry.
I don’t buy any of those things; I buy paper. When life gets me down, there is no better pick-me-up than a fresh writing journal or a writing tablet of some design that I can’t resist.
When I tuck it into my bag, suddenly life is most definitely better and my bank account is still reasonably intact.
William Wordsworth recorded his thoughts in something I was obligated to read in early high school. He said, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”
So I gratefully credit Wordsworth with the beginning of my enduring love affair.
wendistewart@live.ca

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