Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Wondering about Crayons

My whole life I have wondered deeply and well about things that most people don’t even think about. A driving force within me needs to feel that I belong on the planet. I sensed this difference at an early age and kept most of my wondering to myself. But the silence didn’t stop my wondering. I wondered why people looked at me and what they saw. I wondered why they didn’t notice that I didn’t want them looking, and why they called me “Bashful” when I hid.

Then the Crayola™ Company introduced the box of 64 crayons. Other kids went crazy coloring. I took each crayon out of the box as if it were a jewel for a princess crown. I read its name and laid it delicately on the living room floor in front of me. No paper required for this work. I was wondering.

I wondered why red violet wasn’t called violet red, and why blue green wasn’t green blue. I wondered who decided and when it was decided, whether people had to talk about it for a long, long time. I worried at this question like a puppy pulling at a rope loose at one end, staying with it until I knew how those color names worked exactly—the strongest color comes at the end—but everyone knows that by now. I didn’t know that then. Then I had to wonder until I found out about it.

I studied laid-out crayons with intensity, moving them around one at a time, checking how many were yellow, green, or blue. I liked the purple ones. I had no time for browns. I considered how to relate the colors to each other. Did the violet blue go with the violets or with the blues? How did that impact the rest? I wondered.

I needed at least two boxes of crayons to sort them properly and I needed even more to explore the 656 other wonderings I had about the attributes of crayons. It could be months before I would be set to use them for their intended purpose—if ever. The truth be known, I’m still wondering how they make that perfect edge around the crayon's neck. Every time I hold a crayon in my hand I find myself wondering about them. I probably always will be.

I came to identify with those crayons. A box of crayons didn’t seem so different from a classroom full of first-grade kids. Each could only be defined by the few physical traits they had in common. No simple rule could place them in a line and get them to behave. The day I got that box of 64, I became the 65th crayon, born outside the box, meant to wander life wondering, hopefully meeting other 65th crayons. Maybe that’s how I got to be a first-grade teacher.

Now I explore with confidence every piece, part, and parcel of the world. Every detail of life is the stuff of color and of wonder. Each little answer makes the ground more solid as I wander around wondering about things that other people don’t even see.

I even wonder . . . what other people wonder about.

Sometimes I do color.
—me strauss Letting me be


mojo shivers said...

I always loved the idea you bring up about positing people or society as a box of crayons.

It's a somewhat comforting and amusing thought to me.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Mojo,
It's easy enough to picture crayons with little arms and legs walking around talking to each other isn't it. (giggle)

Dawn said...

Thanks for this post, Liz. I've been a Wonderer since childhood, too. Not about crayons, but about other things. When I learned at an early age that other people found my wonderings odd, I stopped verbalizing them, but never stopped wondering. Reading your blog has helped me give myself permission to try verbalizing my wonderings again. I really relate to being a 65th crayon. I guess that's why I love the Crayon's posts on Sundays. Thanks, Liz.

ME Strauss said...

Thanks Dawn for your comment,
It's nice to meet another 65th Crayon. Actually I had started to wonder whether anyone was still reading those Sunday posts by my alter ego. I guess now I know. Feel free to let me know if you have any wonders that you think our report should be tracking down.

Sassy said...

I always felt different from others. I felt like I was the broken crayon in the box. Then I realized...all of the crayons will break at some point. What matters is the ones who will still keep them.

I find your writings very creative and deep.

carrie said...

nicely written. i used to organize my crayons, too... but i don't think i was as patient as you were.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Sassy,
I think everyone feels like the broken crayon sometimes, maybe most times. In fact, I think that's the big secret that we all keep. Thank you for reading what I write. I hope you'll come by and tell me more of what you see.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Carrie,
I don't know that I was patient, exactly. Nice to know that someone else was organizing her crayons too. Crayons are good for so many things besides just coloring. I wonder how many people don't know that.

carrie said...

unused crayons are a beautiful thing.

ME Strauss said...

I've never said that out loud.
But I've thought it, even with my fingers.

Lance said...

I like this post and how you look at things. Most people do not disclose their uniqueness, we have to search for it. Unique as in special and a talent of imagination not many of us share as strongly.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Lance,
Thank you for what you say. I like that you are open about such things. Most folks aren't very open you know. They worry someone will swoop right in and take something. I don't know what. People can take whatever it is that I've got.

Lance said...

I like commenting on your site. It is like getting dressed up, to go out and I put my good clothes on. For a simple man that is a compliment. You raise my game.

ME Strauss said...

That is the coolest compliment. You are anything, but a simple man. Your thoughts are deep and your heart is wired to your mind. That's something incredibly special.