I was at work when I received a very strange text message. “Hi Sarah, my name is Will and I work for a company that sorts through donated and discarded books and came across a stack of your lovely notebooks. I am not sure if you would be interested in having them returned, but I at least would like to inquire about the pecan pie.”
The message was followed by a picture of the interior of a Moleskine sketch book of mine. The first page of a Moleskine has a place for you to write your name, address, phone number and a designated reward “in case of loss.”
I have about two dozen Moleskines from the past 13 years, and in them I have offered various rewards — a painting, $20 plus a painting plus a kiss, a hot-air balloon and, in this particular book, a pecan pie.
My heart raced a bit. I instantly knew what had happened. A few weeks before I had told a friend that he could donate some books of mine that had been sitting in his Los Angeles garage for eight years.
The sketchbooks were among them, appropriately placed in a box marked “Art School Feelings.”
When I realised some guy named Will now had them, along with every intimate and potentially embarrassing thing I had put into them — my musings, fears, emotions, assorted drawings and stories that would now seem ancient — I cringed.
My early 20s had been dark and depressed (an emotional state fuelled by 9/11) but entering art school at the age of 27 gave me new energy, and allowed me to channel that energy into something positive.
A few more text messages and 10 days later the box showed up in my brownstone’s hallway. When I opened it, I found seven of my notebooks. Since I had started art school relatively late in life, I was self-conscious about my skill set, convinced I was the worst student in my life drawing class. I obsessively drew in these sketchbooks in order to catch up and improve. And I loved it.
On the first page of my watercolour Moleskine I found a tree painted in Pasadena, California, at the Rose Bowl. I remember painting it as if it were yesterday. I turned the page. There was my teacher sitting on top of a tree trunk.
Maybe it meant something and maybe it didn’t. The great thing about a sketch book is that it is for you. It’s where ideas, conscious and unconscious, form. Accidents happen, but they are happy accidents.
I turned more pages. Good drawings, bad drawings. It reminded me how much I loved to draw. I can’t say that I am completely happy when I draw. It’s not happiness. It’s feeling occupied, content. So, what to do about the pecan pie?
I thought about ordering one from a fancy Los Angeles bakery and having it delivered to Will at the book depository. But no, that didn’t feel special. I sat down to paint a little watercolour pecan pie, but all I saw was a brown gooey mess. I wanted Will’s pecan pie to sing. A friend suggested that I send him a copy of one of the children’s books I had written and draw a little pecan pie on the interior. Perfect.
And so with a Micron pen (the same type I had used to draw in those sketch books more than a decade ago) I drew Will a pecan pie. The book I chose to send him is called “Let’s Go!” It’s about an elephant named Tuski (a play on tusk and taxi, since Tuski drives a taxi) and a bird named Bird out on a joyride and the surprises they experience along the way. Drawing and a pecan pie for Will — come on now, let’s go.
Sarah Williamson is a children’s book author, illustrator and art director.