I recently visited my local art supply store to look for something to write with. As I rummaged amidst all the multicolored, multi-inked implements they have there, I came to the Pencil aisle and found the answer I was looking for. I haven’t purchased a pencil in more years than I can remember but needless to say they haven’t changed much. Unlike the standard one-size fits all, unsharpened (why don’t they sharpen pencils in the US?) pencils found in a generic store, here there was the wide selection of soft or hard lead that artists need when drawing or shading. I was looking for something to take notes with, something soft but not too soft. I eschewed the middle of the road HB and went a little softer to a 2B. I picked it up and for some reason, smelled it… It had that same smell I remember from when I was a child, it also recalled the taste of the wood when you are chewing the end in class. At that point I had a flash back, images of pencils my Dad used for his ‘back of the envelope’ sketches and building plans – the yellow ones we had, the red and black ones that were standard issue at one of the companies he worked at, some of the more exotic blue ones from art stores, summer evenings at the kitchen table, yellow waterproof building contractor note books and more.
Its amazing what an innocuous object can do to trigger such an avalanche of memories, though I think the smell was the key that fired some long dormant pattern of neurons in my brain that started it all. I was traveling back from a meeting in Princeton, NJ last week and reflecting on the impact of the pencil and this inspired me to come up with this attempt at a haiku. Im not sure it has the correct number of syllables, etc. but with apologies to my hometown playwright, here it is:
2B or not 2B
new pencil, old smell
time travel in my hand.
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