Before most every home and person had a computer, there were typewriters. The best ones were equipped with correction tape and mistakes were relatively easily remedied. Prior to those machines, we wrote longhand: school reports were completed by hand-written draft version and a final copy, printed or in cursive. My fingers ache just thinking about that sixth grade, 8-page report on koala bears I was required to pen for my natural sciences class.
In stenography, longhand referred to using ‘ordinary written characters’ rather than a shorthand which could later be transcribed into complete sentences. The underlying nature of the word longhand implies an exertion of effort, of doing something that is both time consuming and unhurried. This format of writing requires a thoughtful and mindful approach. It’s hands-on, literally.
We live in a culture where busy is a badge of honour. A simple daily greeting of “How are you?” is replied to with “Oh, busy,” as a manner of encapsulating the breadth of our commitments and obligations. When did ‘busy’ become a good thing? Perhaps we could reflect on how a response of anything but ‘busy’ carries with it a negative implication of inefficiency and overall poor performance. I won’t go into that here, but I propose we consider rethinking our use of ‘busy’.
Back to longhand. When I wrote that report on koala bears (using the Encyclopedia Brittanica as reference because it was pre-internet), I was careful to express the facts while ensuring my voice carried through the din of 32 other reports written by schoolmates who had use of the same resources. I learned to tell the story as only I could tell it.
As a writer, I hold an unrelenting curiosity about the people around me. Does that mean I’m nosy? Possibly. From chance encounters in a vacant and remote rural bar with someone named Grizzly Brian willing to demonstrate the history behind his nickname (he removed his shirt) to discovering a talented sushi chef using real crab meat nowhere near an ocean in a tiny community better known for car races and mining, there’s a story waiting anywhere and everywhere. We need to want to slow down, take time, and listen for them.
I graduated beyond koala bears and an outdated encyclopedia to writing about sustainable food sources and using a trusty MacBook. Those longhand reports evolved into narrative essays, shorter and longer form. Interesting locales, dynamic people, and ridiculously good food and drink are more my topics now.
I’ll drive hours to document the small-scale dispatching of chickens and hike up a cactus-strewn hillside to learn about dry-farming bush vines in a Canadian desert. My first sabering of a bottle of British Columbia traditional method sparkling wine was with something from one of the finest champagne houses in France. I planted a vineyard and my legs hurt for days, but we ate duck confit lasagna. It was worth it.
Longhand is about finding those obscurities we see every day and taking time to look beyond the surface layer. Busy is for bees. Let’s slow down and break bread together. I’ll take notes, longhand.
Stay tuned for stories of people, place, food, and drink.