Guestwords: The Palmer Method | The East Hampton Star

My seat is by an enormous window with an unobstructed view of the Empire State Building. A gradual stream of individuals passes by. I assume that are vacationers, which natives, which new immigrants.

Light as it’s, the MacBook Air has turn into heavy in my backpack — too heavy to cart to the espresso store. On my proper and left are individuals on computer systems, many with earphones. They fuss with chargers. Seated right here with pen and pad, I really feel superior; everybody is aware of that the best literature of all time was written by hand.

Nice to have the ability to place alternate phrases atop one another, to come back again and choose the very best one later. Fun drawing brackets round sentences, arrows to point the place paragraphs may be transposed. Once dwelling, I can barely learn my writing. Cramped fingers speeding to maintain up with racing ideas have led to elisions right here, indecipherable scribbles there.

Penmanship was my finest topic on the Harriet A. Baldwin School in Boston in 1942. An alphabet of excellent letters (capital A, small a; capital B, small b) crawled above the blackboard in each classroom. And wasn’t it referred to as the Palmer Method?

Google brings this: The Palmer Method of cursive writing was devised on the finish of the nineteenth century by Austin Palmer and held sway in public schooling within the U.S. for over half a century. It isn’t concerning the fingers. It is about the entire arm. It is about rhythm. Its key attribute is muscle motion.

Isn’t muscle reminiscence at work after we bear in mind find out how to journey a motorcycle a long time after the final time we tried it? And rhythm. Isn’t rhythm about cadence, the narrative voice that separates one piece of writing from one other? The very essence of fashion. Seems I’m on to one thing right here.

Next day on the espresso store I heat up with long-forgotten, newly remembered push-pulls and ovals. The push-pulls are straight, close-together traces tilting proper; the ovals are interlocking spirals. To create them, you place your elbow on the desk, grip the pen, slide your ring finger and pinky together with it, and glide them onto the web page. This is named “a forearm sweep.”

The shapes look as bizarre and magical as they all the time did. As if I’ve created and am now decoding my very own ink blot check. This day they recall a area of wheat and bales of hay. Whence this rural imagery in the course of Manhattan?

A number of individuals stroll by my desk, idly look at my web page, then at me. Doodling? Demented? I transfer on to letters. I do the entire alphabet earlier than I begin writing for the day. My handwriting is ideal, the letters identical to those on Palmer’s chart. Each phrase is legible, however the ideas that had rushed by means of faster than I might catch them at the moment are sluggish in coming. So sluggish and banal that I hand over after an hour and head dwelling.

Still intrigued by the strategy, I return to Google and be taught {that a} public schooling debate has been raging between cursive and printing lovers for a number of a long time now. And then . . . a pop-up advert. An image of Hillary Clinton, her face distorted in a grimace under which is copy decrying her use of a non-public e-mail server. Followed by an equally unflattering image of A.O.C. and a diatribe towards her.

An algorithm has introduced me right here, the opinion web page of The Federalist. There is nothing about penmanship on the web page however the message is obvious — an curiosity within the Palmer Method equals conservatism in its present incarnation.

I get it. For all its swish hoops and loops, Austin Palmer’s technique was designed within the spirit of the social reformers of his day. Muscle motion was about muscular self-reliance. Rhythm was studying to suppose the identical ideas and write the identical issues in the identical time as these seated round you.

It all rushes again. Rows of picket desks bolted to their seats, every bolted to the ground. The spherical gap that held the inkwell. The fountain pen with its pointed metal tip. The trainer asking one of many “massive boys” at the back of the room to unfurl the maps rolled up beneath the letters. The maps of America with its “amber waves of grain” and “fruited plains.” (Perhaps my earlier affiliation with push-pulls and ovals?) There had been no individuals on the maps; I had escaped to the town for simply that cause.

The following day I return to the espresso store with out pen or pad. The MacBook not feels fairly so heavy. I take it from its case, plug it in, and start to put in writing.

Ann Burack-Weiss has had a home in Montauk for over 40 years. She is the creator of “The Lioness in Winter: Writing an Old Woman’s Life.”

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