The machine-looking object was on the stationery table and I thought it might be a pencil sharpener - unlike any I had seen before - and one of the men sellers confirmed this; he said you twirled the pencil around.
I googled and found out it was meant for drafting pencils; it works just fine on my ordinary ones; I like to think of its intended use and imagine where it has travelled over the years. I opened it up and there were lead shavings but no wood shavings; wonder how it will deal with my kind of pencils.
It is very satisfying to use; the sharpener is heavy and steady and the circular motion gets to the point; you don't turn the pencil in the cylinder - you hold it and turn it around the whole base! Simple. Somehow reassuring.
It was while writing notes for this blog with the well-sharpened pencil that I got to thinking about longhand writing and how a lead can be too thin and break or too thick and not give a fine enough point for writing; this sharpener is perfect.
Writing by hand is constantly changing; it invites and encourages and fosters variation in how the pencil is held, at what nearness to the lead, at what angle, with what pressure.
I can look at what I have written and tell what mood I was in when I wrote it.
I can vary mood by playing with the writing - extend the length of the words, lengthen or shorten the letters, slant this way, now that way, grip the pencil tightly, let it sit lightly in my fingers and follow it more than direct it.
Many letters, journals, poems, stories, books, plays, columns, articles, reviews, memories, conversations, recipes, lunch box notes, lists (!), post-its, thoughts, ideas, ponderings .... have been written over the years and there is a rhythm that happens between mind and hand. A flow.
It feels as if this pencil sharpener is honouring the last stage, through the lead, before the words attach themselves, secure themselves to the page -the paper... the fibre ... Ah, the fibre - but that's another story.