writing by hand

i received a thank you note in the mail today. it was handwritten. from the slant of the script on the envelope i instantly knew the identity of the sender, and the contents did not disappoint. inside were details, descriptions, and anecdotes that covered nearly all available blank space with the familiar script. the smile on my face remained for the duration of my reading and then rereading to be sure that i hadn't missed anything.

earlier today, while continuing a month-long conversation with a group students about the school-to-prison pipeline, i watched more writing happen. it's been some time since i took the time to watch people write - i indulged in the luxury of having someone else present who was taking fieldnotes - and in this indulgent space of close observation i became taken, once again, with the posture, breath, and sensuous of hand writing.

hands gracing sheets of paper, fingers caressing pencils and pens, eyes looking upward, then close to the table, and at once looking nowhere in particular. deep inhales and measured exhales. outward performance of an intimate conversation with oneself - the nods, rubbing the foreheads, hands on the side/back/top of the head. doing and undoing ponytails.

and laughter. as one person reads the note another has passed him. furtive glances full of guilt, immediately replaced with grins upon realizing that laughter is not out of place in this space, today, of scripting texts by hand.

i'm not usually one to feel nostalgic about the practice of putting pen/cil to paper - not as i try to live as paperless an existence as i can, edited books notwithstanding... - however, as i collected the latest revisions which built upon, extended, and reworked the previous hand-writing the students had done, i found myself handling the sheets of lined paper full of their words with the greatest care, letting my fingers linger over certain clusters of letters, most of which were written in pencil. almost at once i worried about the short lifespan of words penned in pencil and made a mental to scan the sheets when i got back to my office.

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