Harold’s Purple Crayon

Cat's crayons
Cat’s crayons


Friday last week, I am in the local bookstore, wandering the aisles, pulling books off the shelves to thumb through.  This is one of my favourite things to do.  It relaxes me, clears my mind, opens and inspires me, shows me what is possible to create with words and love.

I am in the children’s section.  All picture books, colour and play.  What joy here, image and word on every page of every book!  I am in one of my versions of heaven.  I move from shelf to shelf, slow, taking time.  Then, there in front of me, eye height, is ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’ by Crockett Johnson.  50th Anniversary Edition, it says on the front cover.

I remember reading this book in grade one.  Six years old and discovering that I can create my world.  All I need is a purple crayon or any colour of crayon, and my imagination, loud, wild, galloping and romping wherever it chooses like a herd of wild horses.

At six years old, joy is a fistful of crayons and a pad of paper.

Harold and the Purple Crayon is my favourite book.  I read it over and over, watch Harold create an apple tree with a dragon to guard the ripening apples, a mountain, a balloon to float in, a bedroom window to see the moon from, a bed with a blanket to draw up and sleep under.

Soon I have the book memorized, but I keep putting it into my weekly stack of borrowed library books anyways.  I love it so.

I am teaching myself how to create my world, although I do not know it then.

At eleven years old, I discover an old typewriter in the back room at my grandparents’ house.  Cold grey metal with rubber feet, and a narrow fabric ribbon in black and red that spools endlessly from left to right and back again.

My grandparents get a new portable typewriter in a leather case, and they give my dad and mom the grey metal typewriter.  I put it on a table in my bedroom.  I pull my Isaac Asimov books and my Tolkien Reader off the shelf.  I prop them open and type out Asimov short stories and Tolkien poems.

I watch the yellow sheets of paper fill with black words, hear the click and crack of the metal keys hitting the page, hear the bell and the thump of the carriage as I end a line and begin the next.  The rest of the world goes away.

I am teaching myself how to write, although I don’t realize it.

It is that slow studied transfer of words from books I love to typewritten page.  I am learning rhythm and flow, how a story moves from word to sentence to paragraph to completion.  From a writer’s mind out into the world.  I am learning by imagining, feeling what this feels like.  These aren’t my words on the yellow pages, but they will be eventually.  I am sure of it.

I have discovered a second joy.

Cat with her box of crayons.

Cat with her typewriter.

Cat creating her world.

Cat's World
Cat’s World

Now at fifty-six years old, this is the world I choose to create with image and word—–love joy happiness play fun laughter friendship family partnership companionship compassion kindness forgiveness generosity gratitude abundance flow grace simplicity balance completion.

This is the world I choose to create.  I write these words today with a purple pen on lined loose leaf paper.  Then I type them into my laptop, move them around, listening for rhythm and flow, feeling for connection and love.

Cat with her purple pen.

Cat with her laptop.

Cat in love creating her world and adding it to the worlds each of us creates.

This is what I know.  There is an abundance of worlds, visions, joys, passions, loves, creations.  There is an abundance of purple crayons, one for each of us, that never wear down or wear out, that never break and never get lost.  All we have to do is feel our purple crayon in our hand, love and imagine, and begin.  Choose to create our world.


Mentioned in this post:

‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’ by Crockett Johnson, 2005, Harper Collins Publishers.  Originally published in 1955.

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