Friday, December 13

The Skill of Penmanship



I have a 16" by 18" framed diploma from 1919 on the wall in my house. It is my Great Grandmothers Penmanship Certificate from the Mills System of Business Writing. It is beautiful with its yellow coloring, worn corners and massive amounts of calligraphy.

I have a very dear friend who sends me thank you notes written with a fountain pen on card stock stationary made in France. The envelopes are lined with the richest of contrasting papers.

And I have dozens of historical documents from wills to draft registrations to notes jotted down in margins - all in the handwriting of my ancestors in the family tree.

Why do these things have value to me?

They were physically created by a human being with their two hands, some ink and an instrument to put that ink on some paper. It is tactile and it is personal. And I can't be the only person who feels this way.

Can I?

Or more importantly, will my 'generation' be the last to value this very personal, very artful and very necessary skill?

I say my 'generation' because I remember learning to write my letters on the lined paper in grade school. And I also remember being required to have all my work done on the computer, typed and printed, before it was handed in. Having 'good penmanship', writing a letter, signing your name - will my children and their educators value these things?

The fact that I am typing this post on my laptop is not lost on me. Technology and keyboards are here to stay and I love all my gadgets. But I also love my collection of fountain pens, textured stationary and the recipe cards written by my Grandmother, complete with margin notes and slight cooking stains.

Like modern homesteading, even though I sometimes wish I had never even heard of computers or cell phones or pinterest, I take the old and the new and make it work. Someone once said that the pioneers that went west and carved out homesteads on the prairie used every bit of technology they could gets their hands on, little as it was. We are doing the same - saving seeds with drying instructions found on YouTube. And we can type a blog post about our tomato trellis problems while still writing a check and signing our name to it when we place a mail order for next years seeds.

My fear that classic penmanship will be lost in the powerful rise of the keyboard does make me worry that my children will not appreciate the power of the pen, so to speak. I believe that their education will revolve around the keyboard and that it will not be some plot to get them addicted to online farming games. They will need to be technologically literate and ready for their future. the amount of advance that I have seen in my lifetime so far is amazing. What can they expect to see in the future?

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