Architecture Field Trip

On Sunday, June 25, my husband and I visited Allentown, PA, for a house tour sponsored by the West Park Civic Association. If you follow my art blog, you will know that I participate in an art show in the park each June. We were there last weekend (though it was held in the Masonic Temple, next door to the park, because of the weather; look here if you want to see more). Usually the house tour is set for the following day, and I never have had the energy to go back to try it out (we live about an hour away).

This year, though, the tour was held the following weekend. We decided to make a day of it.

We got to Allentown about 10 AM so that we could have something to eat before we walked around. We chose a restaurant recommended by a friend a short distance from the park (thank you, Adrian!) called Union and Finch. I can recommend it now myself, too – our meals were delicious, and everyone there very friendly.

Here is the apartment building across the street that you saw reflected in the window of the restaurant. I love the name of it, Julian Court. Very elegant sounding. The building is also beautiful – look at the brickwork and other details.

I’m warming you up for the tour by showing you this building. This section of the city dates from around 1900-1920. It’s densely settled, with apartment buildings, businesses, and rowhomes or twins lining the streets. Space is at a premium, so West Park itself makes an oasis of green and openness in the city layout.

After lunch we parked at the Masonic Temple and walked through the park to the ticket location outside the Church of the Mediator, located on the edge of the park.

Lots of people there. (You can see my husband in the chili-orange shirt.) Once we paid, we got a booklet with a map and some info on each house, and we set off.

I won’t go into much detail about the houses we visited, as photos were not allowed. Generally, the houses were tall and narrow and featured layouts with lots of bedrooms and less living space than you might find in today’s homes. Previous ages needed this layout because of larger families and yet fewer possessions. Kitchens in particular are small in this age of house, although we saw some innovative ways they had been enlarged or adjusted.

We also saw a lot of beautiful woodwork and flooring. We went in one house, now the headquarters of a local business, with the softest glowing wood on the stairs – I read later that it was Brazilian mahogany. Think about that!

So, I’ll give you a view of the outsides of the kinds of houses we saw.

Besides the street access, many houses had alleys running behind them. I’ve walked along these alleys in the past and I think it is more interesting what you can find in these spaces than along the front, many times.

One building really stood out to me – a church located at 15th and Turner, right off the park. I’ve noticed this building for years but never been inside – it has been closed for as long as I can remember except for a short period a couple of years ago.

A former Episcopal church, built in two parts – 1907, I think, and 1930. It is not enormous, but it takes up the entire lot, coming right on to the sidewalk. An individual now owns it and hopes to develop it in some way. We took a look inside – here is the 1930 section (pews removed some time ago) and a nice window – there were quite a few throughout the building.

It’s difficult to say what will happen to this building – for one thing, it has no parking. The neighborhood presses right up against it on all sides. And for another, it is very expensive to maintain, I am sure. Still, I hope a use can be found for it.

After that, we retrieved our car and went home – to our 1950’s split-level. And though I enjoyed visiting these older homes – they reminded me of our previous house, a Victorian from about 1890 – once again I reflected on the good fortune that brought us to our current home, airy and spacious-feeling as it is.

There is no place like home, that was the theme for this day.

Orienteering and Doing It Somewhere You Might Not Expect

Last week on June 14 my husband and I participated in an orienteering event. I’m going to tell you all about it. But first, I’ll talk a little about the sport of orienteering.

Basically, orienteering is following a course from point to point using a map and a compass. You progress through the points in order and check in with an electronic device at the marker at each location. It’s a competition, with the fastest person winning, but winning is also relative.

For one thing, at events, there are different courses set up over the same ground with varying difficulty levels. So there’s a “fastest person” in several categories. And then there is the idea of the personal challenge – getting around the course at all (my goal), figuring out how to manage obstacles, completing the course in the most efficient manner…all these things are achievements. Last, the pleasure of being outside, in the woods or meadows, and the fun of climbing or scrambling around or running on trails…that’s maybe the best part of all.

We belong to the Delaware Valley Orienteering Association and we are rank amateurs, having started last year and done maybe ten events. But we really enjoy it and I can’t say enough about how friendly, helpful, and encouraging the group has been to us.

Anyway, I participated in the orienteering event in the recent Senior Games. And I’ll take this moment for an aside: my photo appeared on the cover of the 2017 brochure from my 2016 performance – I am in the upper left corner wearing the pink sweatshirt.

Anyway, while there, I learned about a Wednesday night series the DVOA was doing this summer. The idea was to go to a different location each week, offer two courses at beginner levels, and shoot for an event lasting about 2 hours at most. It sounded like a great way for me to improve my skills. My husband’s participation is dependent on the course; he is still recovering from his fall and rough terrain is not good for him.

A couple of weeks ago, we did the event at the Schuylkill Nature Center – two courses in a traditional wooded trail setting. I did both courses and my husband cheered me on. But then – we realized there was one coming up we both could do. And it was something unusual for the club as well – the location was the grounds of the Norristown State Hospital.

One of the buildings still in use. The grounds are open and green with trees and lawns and plenty of space.

This facility is a mental hospital, founded about 140 years ago, a large campus located about 30 minutes from our house. The Norristown Farm Park, immediately adjacent to it, and where I did orienteering in the Senior Games, is now a county park. It was originally the farm attached to the hospital, where patients worked in fields, a fish hatchery, and with livestock, as was common practice in the past.

The hospital now is almost entirely closed down. There are still some patients who live there; some of it is used for day programs; and there is a heavily guarded forensic section (we did not go near this part of the facility). The remaining residential patients are transitioning out. Most buildings on the campus are closed and some are being torn down.

 

 

All this means for our orienteering experience is that acres of landscaped grounds with an array of buildings are there, waiting for the challenge. And, since it is a “tame” landscape, nicely mowed, my husband could participate.

OK. We arrived at about 6 PM and got ourselves set up. I planned to do course #2 first and he took course #1. We clicked the start and got our maps.

 

 

The control points are numbered and straight lines connect them (not that you should follow those lines, indeed. It’s harder than that). There is also a key to the locations’ exact positions once you arrive in the general area – I use the one written out rather than the one done in symbols.

 

You are looking for these markers. When you find the one you want, you insert your clicker into it to register your arrival.

 

 

I won’t go into the details of my two sessions – just a an overview of things. And while I talk, I’ll show you pictures of the grounds as I go along. (I took them after the event, not while I was running.)

Keep in mind that unless I say differently, every one of these buildings is closed and mothballed, no longer in use.

First of all, you need to understand that I am a good runner, pretty fast and with endurance. Number two, I am terrible at relating the map to the actual landscape. Just terrible. My technique is sort of like water circling the drain – I get close, I go around and around, I run back and forth, and I finally come in to the control point with a big flourish and an internal sigh of relief.

 

I ran over these stairs several times on my way to control points. They traverse a semi-sunken passageway between buildings in the older section.

I also have a tendency to miss the plain and simple things the map is shouting at me and so I often end up very perplexed; when I review the situation suddenly it is clear, and I would have sworn the map had changed, in my hand. This tendency leads me to explore a lot of places I didn’t have to on my way to the control points.

 

I did have a nice talk with two workers on a break who wondered what we were doing. I stopped for a couple of minutes to show them the map and they helped me by pointing out the control point I was looking for behind a hedge. Remember, they knew nothing of orienteering before I came along, but they could read a map…

 

This building is in a newer section – it has an interesting circular auditorium inside the rectangle form of the building, or so it looked, through the windows.

 

But I digress. My husband, on the other hand, though a slower runner than me even at his best, can go directly from point to point. Hits the target every time. It all just flows for him. He was held back by his walking speed on this occasion.

 

Anyway, I finished the course I was on and he was already in. I decided to go out again and do the course he had done, while he rested. I beat his time (I’m running, remember) by about 15 seconds. Well, if you run in circles, this is what is going to happen.

 

I’ve got a better idea now of what I need to do to improve. First of all, I know I can’t go from point to point. I do better when I pick out intermediate points in between and work my way along. Second, before I start running off, I need to slow my thinking down enough to focus HARD on the map so as to try to anticipate the places I will get confused and what will signal me that I have gone badly wrong. Third, standing and thinking is ok. I don’t have to let the clock ticking in the back of my head urge me on before I am ready.

 

I got very mixed up in this area. I thought the control point should be in front of me, in the grass to the left. It was behind me, hidden by a hedge (which was of course on the map…)

 

Nonetheless, I really love the focus and the exhilaration of orienteering. I love running along with a goal in mind and meeting the challenges of each segment of the event.

I also found that the experience of playing a game in this particular location led to quite a bit of reflection. Not that long ago these buildings would have been full of people – a whole society existed here. As I ran along I imagined what memories these buildings, all silent now, hold in their bricks and concrete. I wondered if it were disrespectful to the patients and their suffering that I was running heedless through their walks and courtyards or jumping over stair railings.

 

 

I noticed, though, that the outside world is seeping in. There is free access to the site now, with an open gate. Near our start point a large crowd of brightly-dressed children were playing in a soccer game while their parents cheered, sat on lawn chairs, and ate dinner from coolers. There is a community garden with greenhouses, worked by members of the surrounding neighborhood (they have signs advertising their plant sale at the gate). I noticed quite a few people obviously out for an evening stroll or walking a dog – people from nearby making use of the lovely grounds.

As my husband said, it is a good thing that we can add happy memories to the history of this location. I think he is right. I am very grateful for being able to have the simple pleasure of doing an outdoor activity with other people, all of us enjoying ourselves.

the insubstantial

It is what holds the pieces of your life together.

a little more tired, a little more

To this I say, sit down, and take a load off your feet.

Walking in Circles

Today is the last day of the Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) Senior Games, and that means it is time to walk.

This year, my plan was to accompany my husband on the course and go at his speed. We are celebrating his continuing recovery from his accident and knee surgery.

We arrived at Montgomery County Community College nice and early, about 8:15 AM. The day was cool but sunny, with clouds coming in for the rain tomorrow, but no precipitation today at all.

Montco, as it is nicknamed, is maybe 20 minutes from home and set on a spacious campus. I remember when the school was way out in the middle of nowhere, but 35+ years since I first saw it, it is now surrounded by houses and apartments. The event was taking place at the health sciences building, AKA the gym/fitness center. It’s recently been updated and it is beautiful.

We went inside for a few minutes, where the vendors for the expo were setting up.

Then we went back outside and got our names in for the event. The way things work, a group of contestants assembles at the start.

You take off down the walk, go out a bit (past the guy in the blue jacket to that lady in the green shirt, you’ll see her, just keep going), turn at the orange cone, come back, pass the start, go some more, follow that loop in the back of the building, and come back. Do that three times and the race is done. You went 1.5 miles. Oh, and to get your time, listen as you pass the finish line – the timer will call out the time. Remember that number and tell the scorer.

It’s all pretty casual, but it works. Here is my husband (left) waiting to start as a volunteer explains the deal to a latecomer.

Well, we got started on our way. I took this picture pretty near the beginning.

I am so happy and proud of my husband. All the hard work he has been putting in in therapy and in exercising on his own really shows. He was able to walk at a 17 or 18-minute mile pace, which I think is great. It is hard for me to believe that less than five months ago he was getting around with crutches and a brace, if he was able to move at all. Determination pays off.

Well, we finished. And then…you knew this story did not end here, didn’t you?

I had no intention of doing this, but I got to Montco and my competitive instincts kicked in. I can’t pass up a race. So before we went out on our joint tour of the course, I asked the officials if I could go around with my husband and then do one on my own. Sure, they said.

All right. My husband took these pictures. Here’s a quick commentary.

I went out with Group #2. Right from the start I identified my competition. And I don’t mean, for medals – there is no telling if these ladies are even in my age group. I just mean, right here, on this course. Let’s go. Here at the start it’s Pink Shirt, Blue Shorts, and me, in the black, behind them.

We zipped around the course. In Lap 2 Pink Shirt and I lost Blue Shorts. Here we are in Lap 3.

Well, I felt I could take this race and I planned my strategy. Soon as we came out of the loop, I put on some speed.

The drama builds. I’m ahead, but can I hold on? So much is at stake! The crowd is on its feet (there are only a few benches and they are filled up) and paying rapt attention (to the football throw going on in the next field, to the registration table, to the free shopping bags they picked up at the expo…you get the atmosphere). All right, my husband was paying rapt attention, and really, that’s all I needed.

At the finish, I prevailed. I have to tell you, I felt happy about it out of all proportion to the importance of the event.

Now, last year I practiced for this race. I had done none of that this year. Well, so what? It’s just walking. Now think about that and what a different context “just walking” is for me and for my husband. I have a lot of gratitude for what each of us can do in our individual ways.

Well, that’s the end of this year’s games. I have a lot of enthusiasm for next year, already!

(Take a look here for my other event in 2017, orienteering.)

 

Re-Orienting Myself

It’s early May, and that means that the Montgomery County Senior Games have rolled around again.

You may remember that last year I competed in several days of this week-long event. I did orienteering, running, and speed-walking. I wrote a whole series of posts about my experiences:

Let the Games Begin

Orienteering Myself

I Run as Fast as I Can on a Track

Walk This Way

In my introductory post for last year, I wrote about how I had set the goal of competing to help me start back into regaining my former fitness levels – I was a good runner and swimmer and loved doing those things, but my various illness, surgeries, bad antibiotic reactions, stress fracture in my foot – all of these had slowly stripped away my strength and almost all of my ability to pick myself up and try.

I wrote about how I hoped the event would be the beginning of returning to my old ways. Well, it wasn’t. I experienced more eye issues later in the year and then, when my husband had his accident in December, 2016, for the next four months I pretty much gave up – exercise came near the end of the list.

All right. Here we are today and I am saying the same thing – I hope that the Senior Games mark the beginning of returning to normality as far as my athletic activities.

This year, I decided to do just the orienteering and walking events. My motto was to be: Complete, not compete, meaning – finish the event, not try to bust a gut winning it.

With that in mind, I arrived at the Norristown Farm Park this morning, site of the orienteering event. My husband accompanied me – his new office is very close, and so this year he was able to attend. That was nice, to have his support. We had an absolutely gorgeous sunny day, a bit chilly, but just perfect for this event. Compare it to last year’s day and you’ll see why all of us at the event were thrilled. Here is 2016:

And now, 2017:

Last year I was a green newbie at orienteering, but I liked what I had experienced of it. If you don’t know much about it, you run around the countryside from point to point (called “controls”) following a detailed map, and you are timed. I am not really able to do trail running anymore because of my eyesight, so this sport really appealed to me as a substitute.

This year I am a slightly less green newbie, and I am game. Let’s go, I said. We got signed up at the pavilion and received the all-important T-shirt.

After some explanatory remarks, we headed over to the start. Now, how this works is simple. You get the map when you start, you take off looking for your controls, and you just keep going to the end. You have to go in order, but you can get from place to place any way you want to. You have a small device that you insert into a reader at each control – it keeps your time. The race starts for you when you click in at the start control.

In larger events, there are courses laid out for different difficulty levels over the same plot of ground. Competitors choose the level desired and get the map for that course. So, the people you see as you traverse your course may be doing a different course altogether – you don’t assume their control is one you want for your course.

This event, though, has only one course. So it’s possible to follow another competitor and get to the controls without orienting yourself on your own. Remember this point – it matters in my story!

Here I am at the start point:

And looking over my map, having just clicked the start. You can’t review it beforehand.

And, running off down the path.

The trick to this sport is to stay focused and continue to adjust and re-orient yourself as you go along. Watch your map closely. I try to plan out what next landmark or location I need to hit in a series of moves to get to a control point. A straight line is not always the best route!

Well, I was zipping along. And very quickly I realized that another woman near me was, well, she was watching my moves. Plain and simple. And given how the course was set up, I could do nothing about it. Several times it was clear to me that she would not have found the control if I had not led her there.

Well, complete, not compete, went out the window. I guess I wasn’t surprised. I’m pretty competitive. Yes. So I got a little aggravated and that put some speed into my feet. Down paved roads, dirt trails, crawling up a trackless hill – we did it all. She was ahead of me at the last control but just a little; that cranked up the aggravation level and I took off for the finish. Hard. And I got there first.

I’m the tiny black speck. I don’t know who that man is who was caught up in our drama.

Well, I’ll tell you, it’s a small thing, but I felt as if I had done something big. I didn’t give up and I didn’t back down. Makes me feel that I am really on my way in this new start.

Thanks for reading. And Happy Orienteering, if you try it.

Secret Ambition Handwriting Update – April 29, 2017

I’m working toward realizing a secret ambition: to have better handwriting. Read about the plan here to get some background…

Well, I’ve been working on my penmanship for several weeks now and I think I am making progress. My handwriting is legible and it is becoming more natural to me to write in this way. I can see my old handwriting in the new – I like this idea, that I am combining my lifetime habits with new ones and coming up with something that is neither one.

I’ve invested in another color of ink – blue, such a blue! Sapphire is its color and sapphire is its name. It even has a little picture of the gem on the label.

I am childishly excited about the exotic international nature of my penmanship project. The pens and inks come from everywhere. This ink is from Paris. The bottle tells me itself, on its bottom.

I don’t usually want to talk about a site where I have shopped, but I will tell you that I have bought my supplies at Jet Pens. I mention them because I have learned everything I know about pens and ink from their thorough and extensive entries on every product they sell. Thank you, I say to them.

All right. I continue my practice. Sometimes I sit at the table and work in the correct handwriting posture as my book has taught me. I have written a letter to a friend in my new handwriting; sitting and writing in this manner really focused me on what I was doing and what I was saying as well.

I also continue my exercise of taking down dialogue (and if there is no dialogue to keep me writing steadily, I describe the action. I favor Star Trek, all series, and I can mention Leverage, White Collar, and Travelers for right now). I have pages and pages of words now. Here are some examples.

I’ve used these pages of writing for something else – if you follow me as a poetry writer, I have used printed matter to create poems – snippets. Now I’ve tried the same thing, with some variation, with these phrases and words I’ve written out. If you are interested, take a look here.

I am learning to use the fountain pens with more ease. They handle so differently from the ballpoints and rollerballs I have always used. I like having some versatility not only in how I write but what I write with. Somehow that seems exciting to me!

Sometimes I stop writing and I draw. Both on the same page. Here is a picture of my husband sitting in his chair watching TV. You may notice he no longer has the brace on his leg – the hurt leg is gaining strength every day.

On that note, I’ll end. My goal is to achieve consistency now with my penmanship. Happy writing, everyone.

Egg and Extra

Lots happening along the Green Ribbon trail in Flourtown/Fort Washington, PA, today.

I left home early today and parked the car at the day use area along Mill Road. Headed down the trail and for a change, at the fork I went left instead of right, toward Stenton Avenue. I’m not sure why but I almost always go to the right fork first. Why I mention this fact will become clear, I assure you.

It had rained hard all day yesterday and things were still very wet today. I was skipping from puddle to puddle when I hit this dry stretch.

What is that in the middle of it? I got closer. Look! A robin’s egg, and guess what – no robin in it now, which means a new little bird somewhere in a nest nearby.

I felt sure it had been there since at least yesterday, since it had a little puddle inside it. And look, I match.

Well, I continued along my way, coming up to the last little bit before the trail ends at the gate at Stenton Avenue – the trail parallels the road here.

At this spot I heard a discreet beep of a car horn – not enough to startle me but enough to make me look. Guess who – my husband, driving by on his way to work. He pulled into the little area to say hello. He told me he had seen my car at the lot on the other side of the park – I’d left before him this morning –  and he knew I was in here somewhere, never thinking I’d up and appear. And I thought, what a good thing I went to the left rather than the right at the fork this time. What a nice surprise for us both.

So he turned around and went off on his way.

I did the same.

Later on, I came on this area where water is trapped when the creek overruns the banks. I was very taken by the reflections in the still water. Then I had the idea of throwing a stick in the water to stir things up. The trees became wiggly strands waving away at me. Now this amused me and I can’t say why.

I took a picture of this tree on April 19 and here it is on April 26. There is a lighter green hue to the groundcover now and it is taller.

Green Ribbon Tree 8 4-19-17 small

April 19

April 24

Here’s a warning – this nice-looking light green ground-covering plant is not nice. It has a Velcro-like stickiness to it and where it touches your skin, it will itch and burn, leaving no mark, just that maddening pain.

It grows all over this flood plain. My husband calls it “seven-minute itch weed” but I am here to tell you it can be with you more like seven hours, if you are dumb enough to run along a trail, bare-legged, brushing your legs past it at every step. Don’t do this. Wear long pants.

Finally, I ran up the hill to the bird stand and then back down the access road. Here are two birds that have got baby birds under their care – I heard the chirping. These two let me get quite near. I thought they were chickadees but I am not sure – they had a blue cast to their feathers? I am hoping my bird-expert friend Diane can tell me.

Well, I went on my way from here – the remainder of this very nice walk was uneventful but refreshing, in a light misty rain, and with lots to think about.

Walk Around the Park

The other day I was telling my friend John N. about a great walk in the Fort Washington State Park. He’s done the roads there, but not ventured out into the wilds. I told him I’d take him around the loop to show him the route. Later I started to think – how long will it be before we can get together to do this? In the meantime, John is missing a really nice walk.

I was at the park on April 17 and I decided to photo the route. I think it will be enough guidance for John to try on his own if he wants.

Background – this circuit is about 2 miles. It’s part of the cross-country course run by several local high schools in their meets. I became familiar with it running charity cross-country 5K events in the park. Now I go there and do it on my own – sometimes running and sometimes, like today, walking it. The route is composed of a big loop (the one I am showing today) plus a smaller half loop covering much of the same ground and including the dreaded Power Line Hill. We’re not going up that hill today but I will point it out.

The weather was off-and-on rain showers and quite mild the day I took these pictures. OK, John, here goes!

1. Park in the lot next to the bird watching stand and the bathrooms.

2. Go over to the bird stand and start down the hill, aiming for the two benches down there at the bottom.

3. Head down the trail.

4. You’ll come to this fork. Go to the right. And as a note, if you went left, you’d end up on the Green Ribbon trail by the creek. Nice to know this as it’s a good way into that part of the park. And notice the rail line – here’s a good view of it.

5. Now just go along the path. It’s easy to see. It parallels the freight rail line on the left.

6. Keep your eyes open and look to the right when you see the power poles. This is the Power Line Hill. In an actual 5K race this hill comes along about 70% of the way through (the race start is in a different location than where I started). Believe me, this is a killer hill. Looks pretty easy? Remember, it ends way off up there in that open area.

7. Keep on going along the path, until you come up to this bird house on a pole.

8. You veer off to the right – the path is still clearly visible.

9. Look, beach volleyball on the right.

10. Keep going along the line of brush until you see this signpost.

11. Don’t be startled if a train comes along while you’re in this section. I’d say about half the time one passes while I am here.

12. Follow the arrow on the sign and veer right, keeping pretty close to the brush. You’ll see birdhouses all over the park, by the way. And the baby trees have plastic sleeves around their trunks so that the deer can’t eat them.

13. At this point your aim is to get over to the park road that is in front of you (past the pink trees – hard to see in this picture). You can angle over or you can go straight to the pavement.

14. Once on the pavement, you head to the left.

15. When you reach the intersection, you’ll turn right. I always like to do a loop around the little island first…

16. Walk down this road a short distance, until you see the signpost on the left.

17. Now we are at my favorite part of the loop. Pick up this little trail going into the woods.

18. Follow the trail up the hill. If I am running, it takes me about two minutes or so to get to the more level section.

19. At the fork, go right. If you go left, you will end up on the upper park road and you’ll eventually end up at the same finishing point, but – the dirt trail is just more fun.

20. This section of trail skirts the brush on the right, with the overnight campsites on the left. You will see several groups of picnic tables and so on. And at times, the trail gets a bit vague. Just stay along the edge of the vegetation.

21. When you see this bench and the power pole, it’s time to get on the paved road.

22. But wait – I will show you where the Power Line Hill exits – look to your right and down the line of poles.

You say, So what? OK. I’ll walk a little way down it.

And I turn around and look back up. I have seen people crawling at this stage of things, in a 5K race.

23. Back on the route. It’s all easy from here. Go down the hill on the paved road and pass around the gate.

24. Come out to the main road. Does this look familiar? You have finished the loop!

Well, I hope that this travelogue was useful and I especially hope that John will be able to follow it, because I think he’ll enjoy the walk. I know I’ve enjoyed reliving it!

Secret Ambition Handwriting Update – April 2, 2017

I’m working toward realizing a secret ambition: to have better handwriting. Read about the plan here to get some background…

I’ve been working on my penmanship for two weeks now. I’ve finished the exercises in the workbook – now I know all the print and cursive letters. It’s up to me to practice the new skills. I spend some time sitting at the table, writing, using good posture and so on. And I also have been putting in time while watching TV with exercises of my own devising. I have a pad of paper, a pen, and I watch (or mostly listen) to the TV show while jotting down bits of dialogue. I end up with pages that look like this:

You can actually read this text, even though it doesn’t make any sense.

I lose some in perfect letter formation but it fits my routine, and I’m ending up with a lot of interesting pages of surreal conversation. Could be some poetry inspiration there, I think…? Seriously, I figure I will be using my handwriting in all sorts of situations, not just ones where I can get set up in the proper writing mode. And, I just can’t sit and watch TV…

 

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I’ve gotten myself some fountain pens as a treat, and I’ve learned a few things.

1. I bought these two very nice pens, Pilot Metropolitans, they are, and well-recommended. They cost about $15 each and can use an ink cartridge or an ink  converter, which comes with each pen. The latter means I can use bottled inks.

I have one with a fine nib and the other one is a medium nib. I liked the way these pens wrote very much – the ink flow is reliable and not a blob or missed section of lettering. In the end, though, these pens don’t totally suit me. I find them top-heavy, even writing with the cap off, and the thicker shape is hard for me to grip. I also learned that Japanese-made pens feature smaller nibs (for instance, a medium in this pen is like a fine in other brands). The small nibs made for scratchy, less flowing writing, I thought.

But, I liked drawing with these pens a lot and I think they can be very good for when I might need small precise lettering.

2.
I then tried these other two pens. The first, the Platinum Preppy, costs $3, uses cartridges (you can also buy a converter), and comes in a lot of colors. I tried a medium nib. Loved it. The pen glides over the paper very easily. Plus, it’s light, and it is weighted more like the ballpoints I am used to, toward the tip. Easier for my hands to manage.

3.
I also bought a Lamy Safari, medium nib, plus its converter (separate) – the pen also uses cartridges. It cost about $35 altogether. Loved this pen, too. It zipped across the paper, no scratching, no skipping. A very soft feel, if I can describe it.

The Preppy is the clear one and the Lamy Safari is the black one.

 

4. Ink. Each pen came with a cartridge of ink, and I could use that, and replace it when I ran out with another cartridge. But…those inks in bottles! Now, I have learned that I could buy a lot of inks. So many colors!

But changing inks is not that easy – you need to clean your pen if you want to switch from black to blue, for instance. I contented myself for now with one bottle of black ink.

 

This is where the converter comes in. There are different types, and you have to make sure your converter matches your pen. And they do not always come with the pen – it’s a separate purchase. None of this is difficult, including using the converter instead of a cartridge. It is money-saving in the long run, and you get to have these beautiful bottles around, too. I have noticed that many inks come in lovely containers, which is not the point of improving penmanship, but is a nice little side benefit, right?

OK, I’m continuing to learn and practice. I have to say that I love doing this handwriting thing.  Who would have thought I would say that?

More later!

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