Tattered Jeans

For the love of pencils: Why simple still matters in today's overspecialized world

For the love of pencils: Why simple still matters in today's world

Katie Oxford The Pencil Pleasure January 2015 “They are little things but they work like a horse.”
Pencils are little things but they work like a horse. Photo by Katie Oxford
5 - Katie Oxford The Pencil Pleasure January 2015 Pencil sharpeners I like to use.
Pencil sharpeners I like to use. Photo by Katie Oxford
7 - Katie Oxford The Pencil Pleasure January 2015 Beautiful pencils.
Beautiful pencils. Photo by Katie Oxford
Katie Oxford The Pencil Pleasure January 2015 “They are little things but they work like a horse.”
5 - Katie Oxford The Pencil Pleasure January 2015 Pencil sharpeners I like to use.
7 - Katie Oxford The Pencil Pleasure January 2015 Beautiful pencils.

Simple is hard to find. I was reminded of this when I went looking for a pair of Patagonia pants I’ve been wearing, now shredded at the bottom of each leg. When my husband commented that I was beginning to look like a “hobo,” I went shopping. Something I hate to do more than packing.  

When I say simple pants, I’m talkin’ 100 percent cotton with pockets on the side, two in back and khaki colored. You know, simple. I found plenty that looked plain but they felt weird. Curious, I read the label on one. Microvelour. I’m still not sure what that is but my skin felt like it was covered in crepe paper.

Others were “water-resistant” and “UPF 50 + protection.” Pants with a purpose for sure, but after my shopping spree, I realized two things. I treasure my two pairs of tattered Patagonia’s — and simple is disappearing. Fast. Like so many brooms being replaced by those damnable blowers.

 I guess the most pleasurable thing about pencils is if you make a mistake, it lets you do something that life never does or, could. Erase.     

If you think I sound like an old hag, you’re right. But, try finding a car or even a mattress for God’s sake without all the bells and whistles and buttons to push. We’ve gone from simple to ooohhhh so specialized.

All this got me to thinking about simple stuff that is still around. As simple in appearance as they are in function.

To me, even if I wasn’t a writer, pencils are paramount. Downright perfect. Pure pleasure.

I wear one all the time, usually, in my hair like a knitting needle poking out from a ball of yarn. It’s easy to reach and fast on the draw. Sometimes, usually at the grocery store, a stranger will come up to me and say politely, “Do you know you have a pencil stuck in your hair?” Used to, I’d reach up and touch the pencil acting surprised, always grateful, but now, I just laugh.

“Yea,' I say, 'Never leave home without it.' ” They seem to understand.

When I go to interview someone, my pencil is a prized possession. Right along with the BIG CHIEF. It feels warm and right in my hand and even when it’s worn to the nub, it still works. Nice.  

Some pencils I prize. Period. Like this one, handed to me at a party once in Beaumont with pink words printed across it.

                      IDA GILMORE
                96th Birthday Celebration
                    September 15, 2001

If you use pencils then you probably have a pencil sharpener. I have an electric one but I like using the others more. A mini so to speak, the size of a thimble, you can put in your pocket. Easy.

The other is bolted onto my desk and has a hand crank like the ones we used in elementary school. When I’m using it, something feels pleasing. My grandmother might have felt this way too. She whittled hers with a pocketknife. Carefully. Swept the shavings into the palm of her hand and dropped em’ in a garbage can that reminded me of cymbals every time it closed.

I guess the most pleasurable thing about pencils is if you make a mistake, it lets you do something that life never does or, could. Erase. With pencils, nothing’s etched in stone. You can sketch or write — then sketch and write — again. They don’t break when you drop em’ and even if you drop one in water, it’ll still work. Amazing.

They are little things but they work like a horse. They have no bells. Require no electricity. Only you.