Welcome back to The Inkwell. Today, I’m sharing the genesis of this writing space, a la Spiderman, because let’s be honest: who doesn’t love a good origin story?
This one starts with death. I don’t mean to be morbid, and I don’t even mean to espouse a “memento mori” ethos - though I recognize the value of living as such.
In brief: my grandmother died last year. The heartbreak has followed me like a doggedly persistent shadow. I can’t remember her without my eyes filling up with tears, or my throat suddenly getting constricted. It’s hard to even type this now. Like any good Catholic, I should be ok; I should accept that she is with the Lord she loved so much. Yet, the grandmother shaped hole she left behind in my heart — that can’t seem to heal fast enough. I guess one can repackage the pain I feel as the remnant of the love I felt for her while she was earth-side.
I bring this up to share that it took me almost a year to go back to her home and this is important. I went to visit my uncle, who had shared a home with my grandmother. As I stepped through the door of the house, my whole body reacted. I instantly remembered the smell of her home, and the way that the entry way was narrow but opened up to the dining area on the left and the living room on the right. I could picture it all in my mind's eye, my grandmother sitting at the sofa against the wall with her walker to the right. It was difficult to continue walking through the house as changes were rightly in place. My uncle had put up posters, and a stunning image of Paris now greeted me.
Memories of her floated about, like afterimages of a camera flash. No matter how many times I blinked, there she and I were. That’s how brightly she burned in my life. Every where I looked I could easily imagine me cajoling her to make a peace sign with me as I snapped a photo. I have about 10 years' worth of photos of us doing those peace signs together — I had the wherewithal (or spiritual prompting) a few years ago to take a photo with her no matter how short the visit. Those selfies now mean I have a virtual memory bank to draw upon when the aching need to visit or just see her becomes overbearing.
To get back to the origin story: I inadvertently avoided going back to her house even though my uncle was there, and even though I wanted to be with him. I didn’t think it was right that he shoulder the suffering of her death alone. After that first visit earlier this year, I’d like to say the pain of visiting the house went away but that’s not true.
Last month, my husband (Matt) and I went to my grandma’s house to visit my uncle and meet his new dog. I had brought with me a fountain pen, an ink and a notebook to gift my uncle, a reparation of sorts to signify that I love him, and I was so sorry I had been unable to come visit him more often. We delighted in chatting about pens, inks, and his journals throughout this visit.
Now, a critical note about my uncle’s journals. They are stuff of legend to me. Complete journals (yes, complete, cover to cover), capsules of time, full of Sacred Scripture and sayings from the saints that particularly enlighten him on a given day. He is a constant inspiration for me to use my own journals, and there is also a bit of envy that he is so dedicated - he of course deflects and shares that the Spirit is guiding him as he writes.
In any case, our bonding over fountain pens and writing instruments continued over text message (we have a robust texting relationship). The next day, I receive an early morning text: Title for your book TALES FROM THE INKWELL (just saying). My mind immediately started to race. I texted back right away, effusively sharing my love for the name and sincerely asking if I could use it. In true fashion, he blithely responded that the name was mine now and that the title came to him as he took the plunge and inked the blue fountain pen I’d gifted him (get it?).
A more perfect name could not exist. I shared the name with my eldest sister and my wish to create a space to share pieces of my own journals, writing journey, and stationery love. My sister’s entrepreneurial mind (a gift from our grandmother) took this idea and ran; she encouraged me to start with Instagram and coached me on what posts could look like. She’d been encouraging me for the past year to share my talents with others — and by talents I mean my creative journals, my handwriting, and my unboxing videos. I had exclusively been making her videos for the last year because I was (no surprise) convinced I had nothing to offer this creative space. I live with my family and they can get loud. In fact, they are constantly in the background of my videos - at times swearing if there is a sporting event on!
This was my flimsy excuse as to why I couldn't share facets of myself with an online community. I simply didn’t think it would be possible to start this journey, despite the silent yearning to connect with others (lingering sentiments of the pandemic perhaps). I suffered from an at times debilitating case of imposter syndrome and its feelings of unworthiness to be in this community. However, like any good cheerleader, my sister had never wavered in supporting my creative side and when she came to visit two weeks later, Tales from the Inkwell began. Importantly, my sister challenged me to show up authentically for and as myself.
I’m finding this endeavor to be many things in its short life: scary and exciting; raw and fulfilling.
The spirit of Tales was born out of grief, but also hope. Hope that despite the losses that come with life: the losses that take the shape of a loved one’s death, loss of confidence, loss of one’s purported purpose - that we slowly find our way back to ourselves, complete with the scars and knowledge from where we’ve been. I carry my grandmother with me, always. I miss her, and I am constantly inspired by her. I am inspired by the legacy she left, the indelible imprint she’s made on her family and the ways that she’s coming to comfort us in little and big ways.
I find it fitting that the seed for Tales from the Inkwell was planted at her house and how it took a community to create and nurture such a creative space. Thanks to her, my uncle, my sister and family for supporting this endeavor.
As always, you are welcome to The Inkwell, so glad you are here.