the deliciousness of notebooks

photo by Bright Meadow

I just spent a half hour wandering through the Moleskin website.  This is a very clever company, which has found a way to reframe a a tried and true product and turn it into a modern brand, and is now doing quite well with all sorts of minor updates, none of which veer far from the original.  I’m not a business blogger, but if I were, I’d spend some time with this product.

My pleasure in Moleskins is purely as a consumer.  I’m a lifelong journaler and a compulsive notebook collector.  Despite iPads and laptops and phones and all the other wonders of modern technology, I still have an actual paper notebook with me at all times.  I still keep my journals in notebooks (even if that means I print out pages I’ve written on the computer and glue them in), and I travel with notebooks.  I like to keep one for each book I work on, a place to write out the tidbits I need to remember to look up, a place to write lists of things I know about a character or plot thread or backstory.

As notebooks go, it’s very hard to beat Moleskins.   I have been a big fan of Clairefontaine papers since a trip to France some years ago with my friend Sonia.  The joy in Clairefontaine is the smoothness of the paper, which is hard to describe unless you’ve felt your pen sailing over the surface, unimpeded, like a swimmer slicing through water.   I see that they are offering a notebook similar to Moleskin now, but there are some details that are not quite right.

Moleskins are a writer’s notebook. They bend right.  You can turn them inside out and they don’t fall apart.  I can glue dozens of things to dozens and dozens of pages and the elastic band will still hold it all together.  The paper is good quality, and I can buy them in blank or graphs or lines (graph paper is surprisingly satisfying), a plus when I’m using them for different purposes.  Blank pages are best for travel, since I like to sketch sometimes in a travel journal.  Lined is best for journals.  I love graphs for the freedom of adaptation, but almost never choose them.

I love the stitched pages.  The sturdiness of the covers. The pocket in the back. Even those last few pages that can be torn out easily if you so desire.  It’s as if someone knew how a person journals and designed a notebook just for her.

Do you have a preference or love for a particular journal or brand of notebook?  Do you have different notebooks for different purposes?

Last night, as I unloaded the dishwasher, I realized I've had my blue glass dishes
My old dog is pacing this morning as he often does these days. He's a
The first Monday of the new year, and once again, I am not home. This
One of the hardest things about starting a new book is the awfulness of it.
As part of rehab for my brand-new bionic knee, a physical therapist comes to my

SOUL MATES

A letter to the young (and old) in my life who are suffering heartbreak

6.08.05

 Dear Children,

I’ve been watching all of you, the young adults in my life, puzzle out your relationships, remembering how hard it is sometimes, especially when you are young, to make sense of how we fit with somebody else, what to look for, what to avoid. In such a cynical age, it’s some times hard to believe in soul mates, in partnerships that go the distance, in a love that lasts through the decades.

I still believe.

Near the Sand Dunes National Park there flows a stream. During the spring, it’s wild and profuse, washing through the dry sand on either side in a torrent that seems miraculous. The rest of the year, it still flows, but you can’t see it unless you step on the stream bed. A footprint brings little pools of water in the dry sand–five tiny ponds of toeprints, a larger pool of a heel; if one stands there long enough, a rippling eddy of water comes out of the ground, cold and pure, to circle an ankle.

It’s always there, that river. It’s fed by snowmelt poured down through the winter months, and then by aquifers through the summer. Most people who visit during the off-times don’t even know it exists.

The coyotes come to path of the underground water and know to put their feet in it, to bring the water to the surface so they can drink. It’s the secret of their survival in this landscape. It’s the only water they can find for miles and miles and miles.

The spirit of love is like that hidden river. It exists always, sometimes flowing wildly, visibly, but sometimes going underground where it sometimes needs the simple work of putting a foot or a toe into it to bring it to the surface, or the soft, quiet work of a steady standing to reappear so it can ripple around an ankle.

Like that river, there are seasons to love. The rushing spring of infatuation, of sweet brilliance and an ease of connection, that stretch of time when you discover there is someone in the world who sees you, as you are, and accepts it. Then comes summer, steady and warm, when you build and learn, and the river runs freely, though not always so close to the surface.

Then autumn, when there is often a harvest, but often a slowing, too, a period of less rush and bustle. Then winter, when the rush is all but frozen, when the quiet stillness urges us to hibernate, take time to look within, rest with each other. And then the spring, the rush, the silvery flow of love over the sand, visible for all.

Have faith that there is a partner for you, and have faith that love can last. Sometimes, a love seems promising, and it falls apart, and that’s very difficult, but don’t let briars grow up around your heart. Stay open, continue to give, and your faith will be rewarded.

Believe.

This is the view from my window just now, with dawn coming from the east
Last night, as I unloaded the dishwasher, I realized I've had my blue glass dishes
My old dog is pacing this morning as he often does these days. He's a
The first Monday of the new year, and once again, I am not home. This
One of the hardest things about starting a new book is the awfulness of it.

Worth Reading

A handful of books I want to recommend

 05.11.05 

        

  #1 GREEN DARKNESS by Anya Seton

My most beloved romantic historical novel of all time.

Technically, I haven’t read the entire novel it since last summer, but it has been rereleased in a brand new edition by Chicago Review Press. For those of us who’ve been scouring used books stores for copies, this is very good news.

If I tell you I keep two (now battered) copies on my shelf, one to read, one to loan; that I read it six times the year I was fifteen; that I even made writerly pilgrimage to visit Igtham Mote, the English house that inspired Seton to write the book, you will understand that being asked to write the forward for this edition rates as one of the top five delights of my career.

But I’d really just like to urge a new group of readers to find this book and fall into the magic.

If you have not read GREEN DARKNESS, do. It’s rich and luscious and wildly entertaining. Order it now, and when you’ve fallen in love with it (or haven’t, though I’ll be surprised if at least a few of you don’t swoon!), come back and let me know.

And for those of you who’ve been waiting for a clean, shiny new edition: IT’S OUT, IT’S OUT, IT’S OUT!

Two other books I want to recommend today:

#2 KNITTING by Anne Bartlett.

A first novel by an Australian. A quiet, moving novel about two women coming to terms with their lives. Fans of English domestic novels will particularly enjoy it, as will any knitters out there.

#3 A SINGULAR PILGRIM, Travels on Sacred Ground, by Rosemary Mahoney.

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and one of the top travel books ever. Mahoney is an acute and tender observer, with compassion for the beings in her path and a sense of honor about life itself. I’ve been recommending it everywhere.

What have you read lately? Please share your recent favorites on the message board.

This is the view from my window just now, with dawn coming from the east
Last night, as I unloaded the dishwasher, I realized I've had my blue glass dishes
My old dog is pacing this morning as he often does these days. He's a
The first Monday of the new year, and once again, I am not home. This
One of the hardest things about starting a new book is the awfulness of it.

Doing Yoga With The Dog

Or, making peace with life as it is

01.25.05

 Your dinner is on the stove, the children are fighting over who gets the yellow glass, the dog is scratching at the back door, the phone is ringing, you have 27 emails to answer, a business trip to plan, a dentist appointment to cancel, another to schedule, and it would be nice to sit down *sometime* today, but there are still clothes to be washed, phone calls to return (maybe only the one to your mother) and your husband is not the kind of guy who leaves you to do it all…he really does help, and there he is, looking pitiful with neglect…..

Ack!!

Modern women have such busy lives, I honestly don’t know how most of us do it. My own life lately has turned one of those high pressure corners we all run into–boys were home thought the holidays, elderly grandmother has been in and out of the hospital, book deadlines are piling up and I’ve been on the road a bit. Being a somewhat…er…high strung artistic type (you, too??) my tendency is to run on nerves until I fall over. As this is not a particularly healthy way to live, I’ve been striving to find ways to stay sane and balanced, even when life is crazy.

My main method of coping with stress is to exercise. I walk, go to the gym and lift weights, run, hike whenever possible. Being outside, breathing fresh air, moving my body enough to make myself sweat–that does a lot for my mental health.

But for purely destressing, nothing beats yoga. There is a short practice I like to do a few times a week in the evenings. Very simple, only about 25 minutes or so. It stretches out all the kinks in my neck and shoulders, eases the lower back stiffness that comes from sitting so much, and if I’ve been lifting weights, it stretches out all the tight spots. Yoga is one of those things that gets a bad rap–it sometimes seems as if all the practitioners are lean graceful creatures who can twist into pretzels. Not true–in fact, it can be a very gentle starting point for people who haven’t moved much can begin to center awareness on their bodies. (Most studios have now begun to offer classes for beginners and for those who might not be in peak condition, if you’re feeling shy. Check it out.)

Trust me, it feels so good.

But here’s how life is for me, and maybe you, too: the only spot I have to do yoga is in my bedroom. My dog must come with me. So there I am, on the floor, with legs twisting one way, torso the other, and here comes Jack, sniffing at my hand. Or I’m lying on the floor, foot stretched overhead, and he falls against my side, thinking we’re going to take a little nap. The funniest one is when I’ve finished, made it to relaxation pose, and he comes over, snuffles over my face, and licks my forehead.

Technically, I suppose it spoils the mood. But….well, maybe it’s because of the yoga, what I keep thinking whenever this happens is that doing yoga with a dog is a lot like getting through busy modern days. My practice is compromised a little bit by his presence, but his love is so precious, his company so enriching, that it’s okay to share the time with him in some small way.

And maybe I’m doing some kind of weird justification for multitasking even while doing yoga, but that’s life, too. At least, it’s part of mine these days, and I’d rather laugh with it than get tangled up in doing it all just perfect.

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I've been hearing a lot of funny grumbling about NaNoWriMo.  I'm not sure why.  There

RUNNING A LITTLE RACE

11-26-04

  I ran a 5K race last Saturday morning!

I know, I know. Not such a huge thing….not such a long race, but let’s get real here: I’m a 40-something ex-smoker. I’ve been a serious walker for years, and I’ve been hiking seriously at altitude for a couple of years, but I only started running six months ago. A run in public was a big deal to me.

Not much of a race, sports fans, just a little more than three miles, and it wasn’t high pressure because there were walkers. I’m not competitive in this way, so I could go with my friend Holli (whom you’ve read about in these columns before (the artist’s date to Chimayo) who called to encourage me to run with her.

To my amazement, I absolutely adored it. The day was dark and spitting snow, very cold, but that’s not such a bad thing if you have to run. I borrowed a hoodie from my son Miles and wore my yoga pants and good running shoes.

And standing there at the line, I thought, this is weird. Me, in a race. But I liked it. Not the idea of winning, but the idea of just doing it. I hoped to be able run the whole way, no matter how slowly.

In the end, I had to walk several times, and although I was disappointed, I noticed I was in a group of other women just about the same speed. One kept running at a steady, steady, steady pace the whole time. One walked and ran alternately and we kept pace for a long time. Two others ran for long stretches, and walked for long stretches. We all finished within a short stretch of time, toward the end of most the runners and before the walkers.

That was okay with me. I learned that asphalt is much harder on my ankles than turf; that it’s much harder to pace myself at a steady running pace outside than it is on a treadmill; that I like feeling sweaty and pushing myself; that I love, love, love being outside, doing something that makes my muscles feel alive.

Most of all, what I lately love is this: all those gym teachers who made me feel like a pathetic failure of an athlete were wrong. While it’s true that I have terrible hand to eye coordination, and I can’t hit a tennis ball or a baseball or a golf ball to save my life, I am an athlete. I love the pleasure of engaging in physical activities, in sweating and meeting physical tests and setting new ones. It makes me feel very alive.

It’s wonderful to discover that–and I’m happy to see how my niece and her friends are encouraged to be physical in ways girls my age never were.

If you were a girl who didn’t think you were athletic and have discovered it later, have a similar story of discovery, I’d love to hear it. Or even if you always did like and know you were….

This is the view from my window just now, with dawn coming from the east
Last night, as I unloaded the dishwasher, I realized I've had my blue glass dishes
My old dog is pacing this morning as he often does these days. He's a
The first Monday of the new year, and once again, I am not home. This
One of the hardest things about starting a new book is the awfulness of it.

PRINCESS MADDIE

Or, there really is magic in the world if you just let yourself see it…

 07-06-04

 J. is my niece. She’s three and a half, with yards of spun sugar hair and big blue eyes. She loves princesses. Her room is decorated with them: Snow White and Cinderella and Belle–wallpaper and bedspread, books and pictures and games. She has a Snow White dress to play in.

She is really a girl, if you know what I mean. If I want to delight her, I bring her something like shoes covered with red glitter, or long tangles of beaded necklaces, or lipstick. She’s also wary and self-contained, not at all given to rash alliances or fierce crushes. She loves her mother, thank you, and grandmothers, and her father. The rest of the world, well….whatever. We call her Queen J. because she is so imperious.

Which is what made the matter of Maddie so initially bewildering.

Maddie is my younger son’s girlfriend. She’s a beautiful, sweet looking girl with big blue eyes and blonde hair. J. had never met her until a birthday celebration in my house a couple of months ago, but there was no question that J was smitten from the very instant Maddie walked through the door.

J’s eyes grew wide, and she blinked. One could almost hear that musical chime in the background. As if she were in a cartoon, she drifted over to the big girl and said, “You’re a princess, aren’t you?”

J did not leave Maddie’s side the whole day. And it was that rare, focused smittenness that’s unearnable: J sat beside Maddie and gazed up at her. She said, matter of factly, “My mother, that’s her over there, used to be beautiful, but she isn’t any more. Not like you.” (Mother, blessed with a good sense of humor, chuckled.) Combing her fingers through her own hair, J added, “We have yellow hair, don’t we?”

When anyone walked by, J informed them that “the Princess and I are watching TV.” When Maddie and the other teens had to leave, J cried, and Maddie and Miles promised to come see her very soon.

Which they have done. On the 4th of July, I wandered over to my brother’s house to watch the hundreds of thousands of illegal fireworks shooting across the city–he has a lovely view. J was lighting sparklers when Miles and Maddie surprised us. I’d heard that J still adored Maddie, but it was almost painful to watch.

J. leapt up and said, “Hey! You’ve never been to my house before! Come sit with me. Right here.” She sandwiched Maddie’s hand between her own and gazed up at her face with the steady, clear light of absolute adoration. “Everything is okay, Princess. I have you.”

My brother said to Maddie, “How does it feel to be royalty?”

And Maddie, with her quiet voice said, “I like it.”

J. reached up and brushed a palm over Maddie’s hair. “It’s okay if I touch your hair. It’s so pretty.” And, “Let me get your pop for you. Here it is.”

It struck me, watching them, with purple and red and yellow sparklers of light exploding in the air behind them, that magic exists. A little girl met a princess, and the princess came to her house, and kissed her, and hugged her. All in the world was very beautiful, because the Princess loved her.

There are times I really wouldn’t mind being three again. Since that part is impossible, I think I’ll spend the day looking around for magic I might have missed.

It was something very simple, after all that alerted J to the fact of Maddie’s royalty: she wore a headband of white rhinestones to the birthday party.

A girl just needs to know how to look at things.

This is the view from my window just now, with dawn coming from the east
Last night, as I unloaded the dishwasher, I realized I've had my blue glass dishes
My old dog is pacing this morning as he often does these days. He's a
The first Monday of the new year, and once again, I am not home. This
One of the hardest things about starting a new book is the awfulness of it.

IN THE MOMENT

 

 –It’s a cool, cloudy, restful sort of morning in Colorado. I puttered into the kitchen and looked out my kitchen window to see that the old pink roses are in bloom, tumbling over their restraints like some wild creature, bright splashes of color dotting the air and lawn. The sight makes me feel drunk with pleasure.

—My old snowpoint Siamese cat, Esmerelda, is sitting on my desk, wheezing. Her asthma seems to be getting worse. I make a note to call the vet later this morning.

–There are peaches on my tree! Big, furry peaches that will likely get stolen by birds/squirrels/children walking by. I’m going to cover the tree with tulle, as per my mother’s instruction, but will also let whatever happens happen. The tree is a miracle, a volunteer from a pit that was tossed into the daylilies, one actually producing fruit, so how can I mind if the fruit goes somewhere else?

–My sons are asleep in their bedrooms. The eldest came home for a visit yesterday. (Some one commented recently that they thought I’d be much older after hearing me speak of the children. So let me say I’m not that old. Not that young, either.)

–there are many pages to write this morning, and then I can have fun with my kid. It’s all the other stuff, pouring into our lives, a moment at at time, that makes the writing juicy.

–and I just took a phone call from a person doing a survey because she had a New Zealand accent. It made me want to go back. Now.

Get some juicy moments into your day today. Tell me about it on the message board.

This is the view from my window just now, with dawn coming from the east
Last night, as I unloaded the dishwasher, I realized I've had my blue glass dishes
My old dog is pacing this morning as he often does these days. He's a
The first Monday of the new year, and once again, I am not home. This
One of the hardest things about starting a new book is the awfulness of it.

READING PLEASURES

 04-29-04

A few things I’ve found worth reading lately

 RIDING WITH THE QUEEN, Jennie Shortridge. A first novel that reads like a 20th, about a down-and-out blues singer with some mother issues who goes home to Denver to work out her life.

EXPAT, Women’s True Tales of Life Abroad, Edited by Christina Henry de Tessan. A delicious group of essays.

THE BEST AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITING, 2003. Edited by Ian Frazier. The annual roundup of best essays. Good cross-section of writing and subjects.

WHY WE LOVE, the Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, by Helen Fisher. I can never resist chemistry-of-the-brain studies, and this is quite interesting.

THE ART OF MENDING, Elizabeth Berg. She is a master of the layers of family love.

Things I have waiting on my desk:

A SUITABLE BOY, Vikram Seth, because my uncle said it’s an excellent book and I believe him. I checked it out of the library once, and didn’t get it read. Three days after turning it back in, I discovered a copy in pristine condition at a used bookstore I only happened by. I can’t resist synchronicity as presented like that.

LA CUCINA, Lily Prior, which has had a lot of word of mouth. And my mother thought I would love it, so I have it waiting.

THE EIGHT, by Katherine Neville, because a friend adored it and thought I would like it and sent me her copy.

BET ME, Jennifer Cruisie. But I save her books for Dire Times, because she’s not the most prolific writer in the world and she saves me from reading disaster, so I have to be careful not to spend it too fast.

BETWEEN SISTERS, Kristin Hannah, because I love all of her books and usually do read them, but this time I especially need to read it because it’s one of the books in the RITA category with A PIECE OF HEAVEN.

There are others. Lots of others. I’m particularly reading a lot of travel essays lately–imagining, maybe, that I’m brave enough to plan a trip around the world. Although it’s more like, “if I were brave, what would I do to go around the world?” 🙂

Your task, if you choose to accept it, is to go to the message board and post a great book you’ve read lately.

This is the view from my window just now, with dawn coming from the east
Last night, as I unloaded the dishwasher, I realized I've had my blue glass dishes
My old dog is pacing this morning as he often does these days. He's a
The first Monday of the new year, and once again, I am not home. This
One of the hardest things about starting a new book is the awfulness of it.

BRAGGING RIGHTS

04-27-04

 

 Ordinarily, I don’t brag here, but if my son had been drafted by the NFL, you’d want me to say so…

My son Ian is madly in love with debate. Happily, he fell in love with a girl who is also in love with it, and they are a parlimentary debate team for their college, Truman State University.

This year: they are THE NATIONAL PARLIMENTARY DEBATE CHAMPIONS, with an astonishing record.

I just have to say: I AM SO PROUD OF YOU GUYS!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

From the wires:

Truman State University’s debate team recaptured the national debate championship April 11, at the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Championship Tournament at California State University-Northridge. The team of Marie Tenny, junior psychology major from Villa Ridge, Mo., and Ian Samuel, junior computer science major from Pueblo, Colo., established a new record losing only one ballot in the entire tournament and capturing the first national championship for the Truman team since it first took the national title in March 2000. Their win placed them at the head of an unprecedented field of 302 debate teams from 102 colleges and universities and several international teams (including representatives from China, Belarus, Moldova, Latvia and Lithuania). The Truman team passed prestigious institutions such as the University of California-Berkeley, the Air Force and Naval Academies, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Missouri-Columbia. The tournament was the largest collegiate debate tournament ever held.

In addition to their defeat of the Colorado College in the final round of the tournament, Samuel was the national champion speaker and Tenny was the runner-up. Truman is now the only University to win the national championship twice on unanimous decisions.

Tenny is only the fourth woman to ever place so high, and she is the first since 1998.

This is the view from my window just now, with dawn coming from the east
Last night, as I unloaded the dishwasher, I realized I've had my blue glass dishes
My old dog is pacing this morning as he often does these days. He's a
The first Monday of the new year, and once again, I am not home. This
One of the hardest things about starting a new book is the awfulness of it.

BOMBAY CALLING

 04-13-04

 

 The band It’s A Beautiful Day wrote a song filled with lilting, exotic sounds named “Bombay Calling.”

Now, I’m up to my neck in deadlines and the annual tax marathon, and it would simply be lovely to run away, but the truth is also that India has been on my mind. An uncle of mine visited years ago with his wife, and I wrote to him and asked, what should I see if I go? What did you think? He wrote back and said (among other things, most of them feeding my yearning like drops of spice, “It will change you.”

That’s the whole point, isn’t it? But that’s also what makes it challenging to consider.

In the meantime, I suppose I’m chained to the piles of receipts and the books that need writing. But I can listen to “Bombay Calling” on CD, and maybe later, I’ll go to the library and pick up A SUITABLE BOY.

Oh, and before I forget: the best book I’ve read about India lately is ONE LAST LOOK, by Susannah More.

This is the view from my window just now, with dawn coming from the east
Last night, as I unloaded the dishwasher, I realized I've had my blue glass dishes
My old dog is pacing this morning as he often does these days. He's a
The first Monday of the new year, and once again, I am not home. This
One of the hardest things about starting a new book is the awfulness of it.