Quotation Nation: Lost Notebooks and Bus Travel

“To lose a passport was the least of one’s worries. To lose a notebook was a catastrophe”
–Bruce Chatwin

Tonight I crack the seal of the freshly acquired moleskin. The pages gleaming with the newness of baby’s breath to my nose. I prefer the lined pages to keep mindful of straight lines as my focus and thoughts often go astray. I always read the history pamphlet before I put ink to page. As I make a crease for the first time, I revisit years gone away and our life as a quotation torn from the page. Earnest Hemingway, Vincent van Gogh, and Charles Bruce Chatwin inspire me. I can smell them on my pages and hear them challenging me from the grave. What will become of these pages? Possibly tales of unrequited love, peril, disaster, short stories, novels, poetry, prose that sings of “to be or not to be”, or maybe just the songs of boredom while staring into the eyes of daily monotony. These pages may be my descriptive words about staring deeply into a woman’s eyes or the story about walking the earth as a soulless soldier of poetic reform. The first page is always the hardest in all my past notebooks. Should it be a quote? Should it be some mission statement? I believe I will leave it as whatever wisdom I have in me shall will itself to paper. I hear stories echoing in my head as I attempt sleep late into the early morning hours. I am intimidated and excited to read this skin and story once unfolded. I feel the anticipation. I feel others weeping and laughing at constant pages that are turned. I can taste the pages on the tip of my tongue. I hear orchestras and strings depicting war, love, peace, and a desire for separation from past ink. I hold my notebook close to my chest today and forever more. The pleasure is not ever in the typed or reproduced editions. The purity, the simplicity, and divinity of my notebook is that it has been walking through my life with me. I understand what Chatwin meant by his fear and contempt for the lost notebook. Money, property, even lost loves can be replaced, but never can the intimacy felt for a notebook find a replacement once it is lost. I have felt this anguish, and hold dear to my notebooks above all else. I discovered the moleskin and have never turned back. It fits perfectly in a jacket or back pocket of my favorite jeans. It travels well on hikes or is a perfect gentleman when it is out on the town. It has a serendipitous pocket in the back cover that holds items of importance like IDs, money, or a bar napkin phone number you just received. The purity of white pages is soon gone, and what I am left with are stains and scents from my travels, discoveries, failures, and challenges on the road I have been on. I can always run to the bookstore and purchase a new notebook. I can easily reproduce what has been scribbled from the pen in my pocket. But, one day I comprehended the power of the writer’s notebook. It lies in the agony and pain I felt once I lost one suddenly, and the fragrance of my writing miles were gone forever. This day occurred when I got off a bus in a strange town and realized I left my notebook sitting on the window pane as I paused from writing and had a unique conversation with a beautiful woman sitting in the seat across the aisle. I discovered it was gone as I sat at a coffee shop and decided to write a tale about her smile. I left the full cup of coffee sitting on the table and walked two miles to a bookstore and purchased a new one before the pit in my stomach grew too gigantic to move, and drinking soon was the only cure to numb the idiocy I felt. I still wonder which city my lost friend decided to get off the bus and explore

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