I’m writing outside today, sitting on the beach. Wednesday. Sun and wind. The ocean waves have whitecaps on them, and the seagulls are flying cartwheels. Everything right now is shades of blue, white, grey. Ocean. Sky. Birds. The mountains across the strait.
I love colour. It is what I notice first in anything I see. Maybe this is why my favourite birthday or Christmas or anytime gift is a new box of crayons and a colouring book. This has been my favourite gift since I was old enough to grasp and move a crayon across the page.
Right now I have a Hello Kitty colouring book with a red cover, and a pack of 24 Crayola crayons. The points on the crayons are all rubbed down, except for black and white. I have used each of those exactly three times. The rest of the colours are well-loved. When I use them I have to peel off some of their paper covering, a thin strip round and round until enough of the crayon is exposed. I don’t like having the wrapper rub and shred on the page of my colouring book. It feels gritty and rough. It interrupts my crayon-colouring-book reverie.
The purple-pink-cerise and the blue-cerulean crayons, my favourites this week, are broken. Sad accidents, each time. Pressing too hard against the page, trying to make the colour completely solid.
I am always sad when I break a crayon. The funny thing about this–I am exactly the opposite with my pastels. When I pick up a new pastel, the first thing I do is break it in half and pull off its wrapper. I remember someone gasping out loud as I did this during an art show demo.
I have never done this with my crayons. I like them whole.
I love my crayons and I love the possibilities in my colouring book. Black lines on white paper waiting for me to give them life. Rainbow on the page with at least a hundred more than six colours by the time I have finished blending and mixing and layering.
I remember in August each year, in my brand new school supplies, there was a cardboard box of twelve Sargent hexagon crayons. I loved my Sargent crayons. It was the smell of them as I opened the box, and the shape of them in my hand. I remember one of my girlfriends did not like her Sargent crayons. The edges felt sharp against her hand and left lines pressed into the skin of her fingers.
That never bothered me. I loved my Sargent crayons because they were faithful. I never worried about them. I could put them down anywhere on my desk, and they never rolled off and broke on the linoleum floor. They stayed where I left them as I went from one colour to another. Each would be waiting when I put my hand out to pick it up again.
This was necessary, this faithfulness. By the time my colouring was done, I had all twelve crayons out of their box and scattered over my desk top. I used all my colours on every drawing I made.
If you asked me what my favourite colour was, I would tell you a new favourite every few days. I was never able to decide, and loved all of them in turn. I guess my favourite colour actually was the rainbow.
The July I turned ten, among my birthday presents was a set of sixteen Whitman crayons in a plastic crayon keeper box. A wonder. A treasure. This box of crayons went everywhere with me that summer. When I started Grade Five in September, the crayons went with me to school. I was the only one in the class with a set of sixteen Whitman crayons in a plastic crayon keeper box.
Here is the odd thing.
Even though I carried them with me, had them in my school desk during the week, and brought them home every weekend and holiday that year of Grade Five, I stopped using my set of sixteen round Whitman crayons in their plastic crayon keeper box when each of them was half used up.
I could not bear the idea that I would use them all up and they would disappear from my life.
I understand now that the possibilities they represented were more important to me than the joy of using them. They were a symbol, special and unique. They made me feel special and unique every time I looked at them, touched and played with them, carried them with me. Something in me thought once they were gone, I would no longer be this special and unique person they had made me.
I know now, this is not so. I know the possibilities, the joy, the feeling of being unique and special, all live within me. I can choose to feel and know I am this whenever I wish.
All I need do is stand in my memory of my sixteen Whitman crayons in their plastic crayon keeper box. Feel them in my hand. Smell their perfect wax crayon smell. Possibility and joy, unique and special. Feel and know. I choose I am this.