The Wrong Shade of Blue

The Wrong Shade of Blue

On my desk stands an assortment of cheap pens, conference swag stamped with the names of cities and malls, colleges and garbage haulers, hospitals and law firms, architects and engineers and janitors.  Some are fat and uncomfortable to grip, like writing with a broomstick.  Some scratch the paper with stiff unrolling ball points.  My favorite boasts a three-inch ruler, a level, and a screwdriver bit in the top: the engineer.  The pens rise from a rough clay jar we turned so awkwardly on a wheel when we were together and laughing and making a memory – perfection was not on the agenda.  I can’t quite bring myself to throw the motley group away, in favor of a box of homogeneity.  They work passably well, and my children might want to play Boggle or have a Portuguese lesson.  And each pen has the hidden humble capacity to write a work of artistic genius in the right fingertips, and scrapping them seems tantamount to unraveling an unwoven tapestry, erasing an unwritten masterpiece, a manuscript only in the mind, lost before it can be discovered.

Colored pencils join in to fill out the vase, their sharps pointing upward so my nine-year-old can more quickly tell the colors, but she is fifteen now, her old coloring book filled with empty outlined spaces.  And yet the pencils still point colorfully upward amidst the mismatched pens.

Once a therapist insisted I write out my homework in longhand, not typed on a keyboard, because she said writing longhand with pen on paper engages emotive parts of the brain.  And I have noticed how the slowness of writing longhand leads my bolting racing thoughts to circle back and weave and coalesce into considered cognizance instead of running neck-and-neck with ninety words a minute, allows a different quality of flow, the rushing current slowed into swirls and eddies and whirlpools and dark blue-green depths, and as a student of the river I hope to read the roiling holes and course the main channel without flipping or dumptrucking, and though I might be tossed in rolling choking fighting to find air and cough and shiver terrified, yet I can rise and thank God for my flotation.  Straight speed draws one’s attention ever thrillingly forward but distracts from the beauty and mystery of periphery, of the full river canyon view.  And so I write my essays and my entries and my letters and my poems in my best curling cursive which has improved and is the envy of many typists today but is plain and imprecise against the calligraphy of a century ago.

The engineer is emptying of ink and my writing fades.  Clinking and rummaging, I begin again with the janitor, though short and skinny and the wrong shade of blue.


Roger is a municipal attorney, homebody poet and essayist, and amateur naturalist.  Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road and A Time and A Season.  Rabbit Lane tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  A Time and A Season gathers Roger’s poems from 2015-2020, together with the stories of their births.  The books are available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

9 thoughts on “The Wrong Shade of Blue

    1. Roger Baker-Utah Post author

      You are very kind. This essay was a challenge for me because I took something so mundane and had to make it so much bigger than itself without seeming sentimental or hyperbolic. Weeks of incremental revisions, until it felt just right. I find that the little nothings in life have such big and beautiful truths and emotions hiding just behind them that they are worth exploring. My daughter Laura made the pottery with me, and my son John was a river rafting guide who took me down the Salmon River in northern Idaho. Life has so much to teach us, if we will see it and learn. I’m slow at it, but trying. And yes, dumptrucking is a real rafting term, and not a good thing for you if you’re in the raft!


  1. anotherkatewilson

    We have containers of pens and pencils like that, but not as beautiful or significant as yours, that do get used for boggle (but not Portuguese lessons), and that get used until they run out.
    Apart from boggle and note-taking in meetings and maths (which I prefer a 2B pencil for, I don’t like pens) I do everything else on a keyboard. My husband uses typewriters – they seem to be multiplying in our attic – for his creative writing. A friend I co-authored with wrote several book chapters long-hand before typing it up. I think it’s a shame kids hardly pick up a pen or pencil anymore – I wonder what masterpieces are not being written because they don’t have the variety of media.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. cheriewhite

    Awesome post. I totally agree with the writing in longhand part as it has always allowed my emotions to flow and helps me to write much better. I always write my blog posts by hand before typing them in word, editing, and publishing. I thought I was the only one. Thank you for posting!

    Liked by 2 people


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