Why I Like an Ink That Is Easy to Clean

fountain pens needing to be cleaned

I had this on my counter the other day: nine pens, all needing to be cleaned out.

You know how there are people who love cleaning things? Who find it meditative or restful or enjoyable?

Yeah, I’m not one of those people. So I love inks that are easy to clean.

Most of these were, actually. Montblanc William Shakespeare was the only exception. Not a total surprise. And I survived. “Come what come may, time and the hour runs through the roughest day.”



I’ve been struggling with something about fountain pens lately, which I will call the “mehs.”

Time really flies in the summer, but on top of all the usual fun, I’ve had a succession of things that have combined to bring me up short. On the pen front, my Monviso arrived, which was very nice. On the ink front, I realized I was sick of blue inks, which for me is beyond strange. Then, on the life front, we had some hard things. The hardest was when our beloved 12-year-old Labrador Retriever suddenly became seriously ill with pancreatitis, which meant round the clock nursing by us and a lot of veterinary intervention, since she could not eat and drink, or even stand up, on her own.

I saw a thread on a forum where some people were expressing the thought that “you are what you own.” So sad. Meanwhile I kept seeing nice pens, new and used, popping up for around $400 to $500. Oh and the Montblanc Shakespeare pen came out. I love Shakespeare. That pen is more than $900. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with Shakespeare, of course. It has to do with parting people from more than $900.

Speaking of Shakespeare, he’s always there with an apt phrase. Hamlet opens with a scene where a watchman at the end of his shift says, “For this relief much thanks: ’tis bitter cold / And I am sick at heart.” Here, the weather is hot, and I’m only nonplussed. But as always, Shakespeare’s words resound more convincingly.

I do enjoy pens and inks, and I have since I was a kid. When I like the pens I use, my job is a little more fun and my day a little brighter. But, as a hobby, there are negatives. The fountain pen hobby does revolve around the acquisition, ownership (and sometimes selling) of, stuff. And that can be warping, and that can be hollow.

Not that I think that stuff is bad or buying stuff is bad.  Actually, I think that life is short and we should delight in every part of it that we can. I don’t feel bad about getting to own some nice pens — I feel lucky.

It’s just that there should be a balance in everything. I’m also the person who reads Thoreau’s Walden every year. My mantra (not from Thoreau) is: “Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming.”

And yet I devote free time, and some discretionary income, to fountain pens and ink, which is essentially about having and getting. So, sometimes when I’m reminded of that, it brings me up short.

Right now, I’m a little sick of it. I have never thought “you are what you own,” and never will. But does it matter if I spend time in environments that foster that?  Do I contribute to that? Seeing pens on the internet every few weeks that cost $400, or $500 or $900, is that a positive? Or is it out of whack? When none of this is important. Do I remember that often enough? What do I do about it?

So I’m wrestling a little. On the bright side, at least our dog is doing well. Her life has actually been saved, which is a staggering thing to contemplate, and a good way to spend your time. Important things, like that, make me think, “just forget pens.”  It was nice to watch Serena Williams win Wimbledon this weekend. The BBC made a great video of Serena reciting (part of) a Maya Angelou poem. I would rather listen to that.

Because it doesn’t matter who comes to mind: Maya Angelou, the Ramones, Stephen Sondheim, Henry David Thoreau, Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot. They all say the same thing. Be and become.

All Those Years Ago

Today is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Sonnet 18 seems especially apt:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


Image in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Not Fortune’s Fool, Not I

Fortune cookie fortune

Fortune may be fickle, but I always enjoy a fortune cookie. Here’s the one I got yesterday, which is very inspiring.  Like, crush it. Life is a banquet. That kind of spirit.

Except for me it’s a teeny bit of a buzzkill.  See, I was totally planning to sneak a visit to the Montblanc Boutique, to look at the new Heritage Collection Rouge et Noir pens.  But looking at pens I cannot afford would not be something new.  It seems like that fortune cookie was trying to tell me something.

So, change of plans.

The trouble is, I don’t actually want to zipline or parachute or anything adventurously new.  Well, I would be willing to go clubbing.  But it’s Wednesday, and I have to drive carpool for my kids, and I just think it would be hard to fit in a satisfactory amount of clubbing before 3 p.m., so that’s out.

So yeah.

So I’ve settled on … wait for it: healthy eating.  Oh yeah.

And sure, maybe it sounds terrible. Like you know you’re old when “healthy eating” is your “try something new.”  As if anyone needs actual fun when you can eat kale, right?  And I hate being healthy. I like chocolate.

But I’m just going to pretend it’s fun. Right?  I’ll do the wild and crazy version of healthy eating.  Pumped up healthy eating.  Healthy eating like a boss.  Crush it.