It’s been years since I’ve had a stack of newspapers on the coffee table, and seeing it there made it look like home. As if this was what the living room had been missing. The papers. And to think I only ordered a subscription again because I didn’t have anything to put down by the front door for wet boots this winter. Or crumple up and stuff into a box to cushion the cookies or whatever it was I was packing to send off. Newspaper had also been handy to have around for repotting a plant indoors so the dirt wouldn’t get all over the floor. I once volunteered to give away a stack to a woman who posted on the app ‘Next Door,’ saying she needed them for the bottom of her bird cage.
Apps are great. Phones are wonderful too. There’s no end of news to read on my phone. I have several digital subscriptions with up to the minute reports of what’s going on in the world. It’s quick and it’s easy, but touching a screen and scrolling down isn’t the same as holding a paper in your hands, turning those unwieldy pages. Having to read near the window or turn on the light. There was a knack to folding the pages over and back and folded when riding a crowded bus or subway in the morning. You could tell a lot about a person not only from what paper they were reading but what section. Now everyone’s looking at their phones you don’t know what they’re seeing. Of course it’s none of my business, but I can’t help wondering anyway.
We’re all in our own world now, our own reality. But this isn’t about that. And neither is it about the difference between having to get dressed and leave my apartment to pick up the paper tossed on the front doorstep of the building, versus picking up my phone or looking at my computer to find out what sort of news the day has brought. It’s about home, and what feels like home used to feel. Like the touchy-feely newspapers that piled up and had to be tied in bundles for the recycling bin. I’ll have to go buy some string now.
I don’t know how long I’ll keep the subscription. I get it for half-price the first year. I remember when the paper cost a nickel and I was the paper-girl in high school, making half-a-cent for every five-cent paper I sold. It wasn’t enough to even buy my lunch, but it was fun, and I got to wear the green canvas apron with pockets for change. I remember when the ink used to come off on your hands, and the paper was fat and bulky, thick with advertisements. It’s a lot thinner now, and a lot more expensive, but I can feel it with my fingers. The news itself won’t be any different from what I can read on my phone. It’s only the sensory experience that changes. But isn’t that everything?
The feeling is everything. When sight goes, and touch and smell and taste and hearing, it’s the feeling that remains. The feeling I once had. It’s why I keep drawing. It’s simpler and faster to take a picture. But my eyes have already taken a picture and sent it to my brain to figure out what it is, and my brain sent it back, said it’s a pile of old papers, end of story. Whereas when I draw something, even if it’s just a pile of newspapers from last week—old news you might say—I’m doing more than replicating an image. More even than picking up the feeling I get from looking at the pile of papers. Because once I have the eye-hand coordination going on, it goes through my body. It’s all about expressing the feeling my brain sends through muscle and bone with magnificent speed until it comes through the hand holding the pen or the brush. And somehow the feeling is stored in the cellular matter, and I’ve got the memory in my body, in my heart, and in my feeling body. When the body goes and the watercolor fades, and these particular newspapers are long gone, what will be left is the memory in my heart. Because I touched the papers.