Slow & Steady Wins the Race

by Carrie Pepper

Years ago, while attending community college as an adult, I took a class in Calligraphy. I always wanted to have beautiful handwriting; both my father and sister had lovely penmanship, but mine was just the opposite. Sometimes, I couldn't even read my own writing! So, I thought calligraphy might be something to help me craft a nice hand.

Each week, we completed another project, focusing on a particular type of lettering, using different instruments - quill pens, wooden pens, paint brushes, each giving a different look and feel to the letters. And, we would use different mediums - sometimes ink, sometime paint. We'd letter on paper, on thin slices of bark, on cloth. And each week, when I turned in my finished project, I knew it just wasn't very good. My instructor was positive though and kept the encouragement coming - this was not an easy thing, at least not f or me.

Most of the time, I received a C or lower. After a few weeks went by, I started to think that maybe I just wasn't meant to do this - I was no artist after all; maybe I just wasn't cut out to pen lovely, flowing letters and phrases. But, each week, I tried again, turning in my work, knowing that I could do better - but it just wasn't happening.
Then, finals week arrived. We were given our final assignment. We could do anything we wanted - we could use any kind of lettering style, any kind of instrument, any kind of medium, and the subject was also completely up to us. I panicked at first, but then, I thought of a dictionary full of pressed autumn leaves - ones I had collected nearly 20 years before, growing up back on the east coast where you can collect these colorful treasures.

Everything came together. I found a poem by Robert Frost titled "Gathering Leaves," went and purchased tubes of oil paint in the exact colors of fall leaves - burnt orange and russet red and amber yellow. I picked out a very special angled brush; I mixed the paints and matched my leaves exactly. Then, I got out a huge piece of very expensive, hand-made paper I had been saving. I arranged the leaves around the border and very painstakingly took brush in hand and slowly, slowly, carefully, I transferred Frost's lines to my page. I used my favorite lettering style that we'd learned, one called Oncial, a nice rounded, typesetting style used in the Middle Ages. I liked the way it felt and as my brush created each reddish-brown letter, I remembered picking up the leaves and how wonderful they smelled.

When I was finished, I stepped back and nearly gasped - it was perfect. All of it. Proudly, I turned in my final project and received a A+. I just realized now what the difference was - of course, it was a consistent progression of skills, but in the end, when I was "let go" to run with whatever felt right, all my skills merged into one and flowed directly onto that paper.

I think of this often when I am discouraged, when I feel slower than the rest, when it seems that I keep trying and nothing changes. I know, in the end, I will have a masterpiece.

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About Carrie Pepper

Carrie Pepper (Sacramento, California) is a freelance writer who has written on a variety of topics (health/sports, anti-aging and skin care, environmental, natural resources, etc.) for local and national publications. She is a monthly columnist for Health and Fitness magazine (www.healthfitness.us) and has been a contributing author for Health Communications, Inc. (HCI Books). She is currently working on a collection of short stories and a memoir about her brother who was killed in action at Khe Sanh, Vietnam. He was never recovered. You can read more about her at: www.carriepepper.com

Recent articles by Carrie Pepper

Nov 16, 2011 Fighting Free Radicals with Antioxidants
Mar 31, 2010 Network Marketing: A Business Model Fit for Today's Economy
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