Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Paper makes me happy

New Yorker cover (a favorite envelope material) by Maira Kalman.

More about these handmade envelopes
Japanese washi paper-inspired fabric

In the Lawrence Kasdan movie, BODY HEAT, William Hurt's character, the less-than-scrupulous lawyer Ned Racine, says something to the effect that sometimes hell comes down so heavy he feels like he should wear a hat. Yeah, a hard hat.  Didn't you see the warning signs?

Having decided that the bumps on my head help tell my story, I blithely go about bare-headed.  Where I am likely to turn when not much feels solid enough to hang onto is color and pattern and form, which I find so accessible in paper.  When I hit the level of function where all of what may possibly be grown-up about me has ceded its diminished power to the pre-schooler, my default, my hope of getting out of this, period, is to sift through a collection of art and scrap papers, allowing what is bright and detailed and familiar to remind me about love.

We do love things.  One hopes we love them differently than we love people and creatures and what isn't inert, but love them we do.  My romance with color pencils and rubber stamps has been documented here - and elsewhere - but paper was solace most recently and it sounds unhinged to say so.  I have always made things with paper, saved things made of paper, spent my allowance on gift wrap and tissue and paper flowers.  Paper, including books and magazines, is a comfort to have close at hand, hypo-allergenic and safe for those of us who wheeze and swell around cats and dogs.

Paper madness is benign, as vices go.  Storage is the primary consideration, cost less so for there is much to be had for free - the patterned linings of security envelopes, magazine covers and images, pages of discarded books, foreign newspapers, colorful store bags and packaging, self-created patterns reproduced on a color copier, junk mail.

What is true is that we can become lost.  Circumstances and the emotions they raise leave us shell-shocked.  We may be soothed, helped in finding the quiet in a frightened and jabbering mind, by music or humor or nature, all of which bring not only their own magic but act as reminders that the world is bigger than what is shocking us in the moment.  We are bigger than our displacement, though it may seem just an intellectual concept in the midst of crisis.

The simpler our joys, the easier they are to access when we feel trapped in a corner.  The ocean makes me happy, too.  I can watch it endlessly and grow still.  Paper, though, is always within reach, good paper, bright paper, am-I-too-odd-for-words-and-I-don't-care bits of tactile and visual stimulation that reawaken a despondent heart.  Good old paper.


Erin in Morro Bay said...

The colours, the patterns, the designs - but most of all the feel. The 100 year old book page, soft with the years and pregnant with history, the delightful bumps and humps in a sheet of handmade, the crisp snap of fresh cardstock, the sleekness of velum ... well, I know I'm preaching to the choir here. We all love, lust after and must have paper!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - The scent, too, of the 100-year-old book page. It is a lust, no polite way to say it. And aren't we glad not to be alone? xo

beth coyote said...

Paper is delicious. My early memories of the library and smelling books, taking out books that smelled good like The Black Stallion and The Secret Garden.

Then riding home on my two-wheeler with books in the basket, books I could enjoy for 2 weeks.


Marylinn Kelly said...

Beth - Growing up we would sometimes go during summer vations to used book/magazine stores that once abounded in Hollywood. Old Photoplay and other movie magazines from the 1940s, Nancy Drew for 25 cents. I knew we were a bit odd even then. Paper people. And oh, how I loved the library visits in the summer, the stack of books. I still believe what has been said about libraries being the measure of a civilization, or some such. xo

RachelVB said...

I LOVE paper! I think we need multiple creative outlets, us creatives. It's so debilitating when one avenue seems to drop off abruptly and we need those easy, pleasing outlets to help us back on track.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - We do need all the creative outlets we can conquer. Happily, any paper arts are not that far from writing. You know, the perfect notepad and such. Paper may not be nature's most perfect food, but it her perfect something. xo