Tag Archives: Himalayas

Ode to a Pen

By Kimberly Mayer

New Years can be daunting, but this year I was fortunate to have David Whyte’s poem, Start Close In, in my head.

Start close in, 

don’t take

the second step

or the third,

start with the first

thing

close in….

Looking at my hand, I knew, that would have to be my pen. And so in my head I started to compose a homage to pens.

A writer’s needs are really very simple: a pen and paper, chair and table. My loyalty in pens goes back a number of years when in every trip to Costco, I’d pick up a packet of Uni-ball Signo 207 gel ink rollerball pens and toss it in the cart. It’s hard to believe anyone would use so much ink, but I do. Black ink. 

The Uni-ball Signo was bold and smooth, with a textured grip. If I had any complaint, its rolling ball tip had difficulty going from a left- handed person to a right-handed person, and back again, or vice versa. Being a lefty, I had to stash my pens from my right-handed husband.

Then, when asked for my signature on something in California, I fell in love with the pen provided. It looked innocuous, bland, but it felt like second nature—almost like it wasn’t even there. Soft and comfortable all over, if your hand happens to turn and walk up and down the pen, while “thinking,” as mine does. The name on the pen was obscure, TRU RED 0.7, and because I imagined it might be hard to find, I snitched it.

Turned out to be one, two, three, easy on Google. A Staples pen, and the next thing you know, a dozen of them in a box at my door. Amazon. Uni-ball or TRU, I’m fine either way, but all this is to say I am working my way to my father’s Mont Blanc pen, which I left at home. I had convinced him to purchase it on an overseas flight years ago, assuring him it would be worth it.

We both aspired to be writers at the time. Dad wrote a memoir during his retirement on Cape Cod, and inspired me to write mine. With a book he never intended to sell, only gift, dad went the self-publishing route. Numerous boxes of One Man’s Journey slowly dwindled in his garage. Not too many years earlier, the same garage contained stockpiles of children’s books, collected on The Cape. These he shipped in a container to schools in Nepal, following his trek in the Himalayas at age 62 years of age.

Yet another life-changing example of someone climbing the Himalayas. My husband too came down his first mountain in the Himalayas, and has been committed to public service ever since, from meals for children on island at home to computers for schools in Honduras.

Dad is gone now, but I have his pen. Heavier, larger, and more rotund, the last words the pen wrote were his. When I get home I am going to fill his Mont Blanc with black ink and make it my every day pen. Using his pen will be like holding his hand. 

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Between Acts

Everest Range

So I was reading from Thomas Merton’s journals this week and came upon this: “It is really illogical that I should get temptations to run off to another monastery and to another Order of monks.” Oh my God, was he this way too? Restless and wondering whether life would be better in that monastery over there instead? I nearly fell out of my chair. For here I go again, looking to reinvent my life.

For years, change was almost scripted for us. Due to job transfers and job changes our family hopped around, West Coast, East Coast, Southwest, and Pacific Northwest. That which moved us also settled us in some pretty spectacular places. And I indulged in a nearly promiscuous love affair with houses and starting over.

Today we are more settled having been in this home, and in this city, longer than any other. But all our cards are in the air as my husband has left his position of fifteen years. And where did he go, the hardest working man I had ever known? He went trekking in the Himalayas….

Always believe it when you hear that climbing the Himalayas is life-changing.

Whatever Paul does next has to be entirely new and challenging. He needs mountains. So we’re giving our imaginations free reign and looking at everything, from other offers, to consulting, to living abroad—it’s now or never, he says—to living in a high-rise downtown, to moving to the San Juan Islands and living near the boat. In Panama this might be called “living off the grid.” I’m not suggesting anything like that, but definitely taking stress down a few notches. I hate to say it, but we could grow old there.

I am learning to shop in my own closet. Whatever path we chose, we have too much stuff. How simple it would have been for Thomas Merton!

I’m happy for Paul to have this time off, and treasure the time together. Long walks pondering what to do with the rest of our lives…. Don’t know what we’ll do, but change is in the wind. My folks are alive and well and would like us to come east. Our daughters live in San Francisco.

We are betwixt and between and maybe, just maybe, entirely free.

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Ghosts, the Sequel

Apparently I am not done with my blog post of last week (https://alittleelbowroom.com/2013/10/30/the-ghost-in-my-computer/) in which I lamented personal loss of writing time due to addiction to the internet. For no sooner had I posted it, when I turned around and realized yet another victim: my reading time. And by that I mean books, not comments and articles online.

Anyone who knows me, or knows who I was until recently, knows my home to be my personal library. Literature has long been considered sacred in this house. In graduate school we were required to read a book each week, and following graduation I continued the ritual in earnest for a couple of years. Until just recently, in fact.

The only danger, I had thought, would be the house imploding under the weight of books. Being a bibliophile at a time when so many others are unloading has been a delight second to none.

I read because I felt I must. I’m talking close reading. Carnivorously, with a yellow highlighter in hand like a fork. Because, as all readers know, literature can be so much better than life. And literature makes us better people. Also, as a writer I knew that the very best thing I could be doing, if not writing, was reading.

And that was my life. I missed films to maintain it, became an introvert to maintain it. And whether under the sun, on the sofa before the fireplace, seated a city bus or in a waiting room, I loved my solitary time spent with books. For that matter, I found my tribe by our mutual investment in time spent reading, as well as writing. And the fact that online addiction is infringing on this too….

Well, this is war!

For the past three weeks my husband has been in Napal on a trek in the Himalayas. Living alone and a little lonelier, I turned to the internet like never before. This is when, I think, I got into serious trouble. Or could it be that as he climbed the Himalayas, I realized how much trouble I was in?

Prayer flags there, falling leaves here….

I have kept a thick anthology of poetry at Copper Canyon Press in the back of my car for as long as I’ve owned the car (many years). “Poetry for emergencies,” I called it, should I ever break down and get stranded. Well maybe that moment is now.

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” Mary Oliver

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Filed under Mary Oliver, reading, reading