I taught myself to type while working in a grain elevator in Spruce Grove, Alberta. It was the summer my son Lucas was rescued by an emergency-response-team helicopter after an eight hour search in the thick boreal forest of Long Lake. And I needed to write about it. I had been journaling longhand for years but I thought that the momentous drama of the incident required something more then my cursive script.
Across the tracks and across main street from the Alberta Wheat Pool elevator was a second-hand store. They had a typewriter–a sporty blue Corona. Computers had hit the market but were still the size of filing cabinets.
I used a computer for my work. It didn't have a "word processor"–still a foreign term. I used it to enter data on grain weights and grades under peoples names. All of its bulk–with its spinning 14k hard drive discs the size of dinner plates–was in the basement. On my desk on the the main floor sat a 12 inch green-screen-monitor and keyboard. They were connected to the humming monster in the cellar with cords the size of garden hoses. The small blue Corona on the other hand was portable. I could throw it in the back seat and drive to Chickakoo park, find a picnic table, and peck away with the birds.
But the pecking seemed eternal. The flow came hard. I used a book, learned what fingers belonged to what keys. But I typed and whited out and typed some more, and slowly, I typed out the story of Lucas getting lost.
Years passed, we got a 286 IBM personal-computer. I met Mavis Beacon, installed her and she scored my typing speed on the computer monitor. The day came when I got to 30, sometimes 40 words per minute, this was fast enough for me and I left Mavis to strike out on my own.
I like keyboards. I like the sound and feel of them. I'm getting picky now. I could never go back to the half-inch key stroke of my old Corona, but I do miss it.
Author Madeline L'Engle was once asked how she wrote all her stories, all her wonderful prose. She replied, "With my hands." I knew instantly what she meant.
For me, it's all about the keyboard. All about hands and fingers on keyboards. All about a tactile experience.
Yesterday, Andrea, an Acupuncturist, gave me a hand massage. She began with my left. She rubbed oil into my forearm and wrist and then drew it out to the tips of my fingers. With her thumbs she applied pressure beginning at he centre of my palm, slowly relieving any tension in the bones and ligaments in my hand.
Then she took a pencil-like instrument with a round silver tip and began to slowly trace things on the back of my hands. Pictures maybe. With variable but steady pressure, she inscribed things into the palm of my hand. She used punctuation, lots of semi-colons, commas, and periods. She wrote a paragraph on the heel of my hand and a chapter along my fingers. And it felt like I was getting reconnected from within.
Now, this morning I can't help thinking how important a hand shake is. I mean a genuine hand shake. Today I know better why it is that people on the street who approach and ask for money, more often than not, before extending their hand palm-up, put out their hand signaling a hand-shake. It's an semi-conscious human desire for connection. Human and spiritual connection.