The Zen of Crayons


Melanie Safka

This is a wonderful post written by a friend in real life, she doesn’t blog here at Word Press, but perhaps we can woo her here. Tomorrow wraps up the challenge, but if anyone gets inspired, send it on, and we will add it. ❤ I have to continue the work I revisited here with my Inner Child, and we may be blogging about it more.

With no further adieu~

The Zen of Crayons

By Lori Elward

Generally, when we are trying to be mindful and centered, we are told to seek quiet and stillness. We get settled somewhere and breathe – and try to clear our minds of all the “yada yada” of daily life. One exception to this is the act of coloring with crayons. It is an activity that evokes mindfulness in its very DOING. Pressing that little stick of color against paper and seeing the result brings us into the moment unlike few other things.

Life is like a box of crayons. I’m not the first person to say that, but it’s true. Some people never let themselves be more than an 8 crayon box. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve done some amazing coloring with blue, red, purple, yellow, brown, black, green, and orange. Having only 8 crayons can limit you – or it can make you try creative things – like mixing them together to make other colors. Problem is, crayons don’t blend very well. Not like tempera paint. If you give a toddler a paint brush and 8 little puddles of color on a paper plate, 9 times out of 10, the paint will end up blended together perfectly to make a unique and wondrous color I refer to as baby poop brown.

Paint likes to blend. Crayons do not – a lot like people, I guess. Some of us like to blend in – and some of us like to stand out. The stand out people are more like the boxes of 24 crayons. I remember when I graduated to that. Now I had things like red-violet, scarlet, and indigo. There was also yellow green…… and green yellow (which were always kind of a puzzlement to me – but some things you just have to accept as a kid.) And what about orange, yellow orange, and red orange? If you ask my 3 year old grandson Sebastian what color it is, he says orange. They’re all orange. The subtleties may be wasted on a lot of kids… but not on me.

The leap to a 64 count box was like the earth had split open and incredible rainbows had come pouring out. My first experience of the “Magnificent 64” was when it came out in 1958. I was 5, and it was kind of like Christmas, Birthday, and 4th of July all rolled into one, rectangular, gold and green magical cardboard box. You opened it – and the smell hit you. Probably one of the most well known smells on the planet. Ode de Crayon.

The assortment was mind-boggling – aquamarine, chestnut, plum, raw sienna and raw umber (as opposed to cooked sienna and cooked umber – I used to wonder about that). It was incredible… and you would color and color with midnight blue and mulberry and cornflower… just so you could get those little pointy ends off and have a reason to use that special secret crayon-only sharpener on the back. Wow. It was like having a secret decoder ring or a magic wand. You wore those points off your favorite crayons, and then you enthusiastically shoved lemon yellow in that little hole in the back and turned it hard to the right – and the crayon broke in half in your hand.

Disaster strikes in the crayon world.

So, being the resourceful 6 year old that you were, you took the bigger of the two pieces and, a little more gently this time – tried to stick it in the sharpener and turn. The lovely colored wrapper, which had been torn in the earlier disaster, spun around in your hand – but the crayon didn’t move.

“Okay,” you thought. “I can do this. I do not need to call Mommy.” You removed what was left of the wrapper, and stuck the now naked partial crayon in the hole, twisting it as you went. It spun around, but nothing happened. You pushed harder. Nothing happened. You pushed harder… and the box went crashing to the floor.

20 minutes later, when you had tried unsuccessfully to put all 64 of the scattered crayons back in the box so that the colors are lined up like they were before, you realized there was one gaping crayon sized space. You spotted a nugget of lemon yellow on the other side of the table, but where was the… Oh no… there – under your PF Flyer – waxy bits of bright yellow ground into the carpet. So now – you were not only in deep doo doo with Mom, but there was a hole in your box – like a missing front tooth. You dropped in the small rescued yellow piece – but the space above it just mocked you and served as a reminder of your shame…

Eventually we all learned how to peel back the wrapper and sharpen our crayons. We learned to deal with the slowly deteriorating collection as one crayon after another broke, or disappeared under the back steps, or melted in your pocket in the dryer. It didn’t take that long for the shine to wear off – but we still loved them. It made a new box that much more exciting.

I still think a new box of crayons is a miraculous thing. A million mindful masterpieces have come from those gold and green boxes since they first came on the market in 1903. Sadly, lemon yellow, mulberry, and raw umber no longer show up – they, along with 10 other magical colors, have been “retired.” You will no longer find a peachy looking crayon called “flesh” because of course, flesh is not all peach colored. Colors have been added, like Electric Lime, Fuzzy Wuzzy and Mango Tango. There are actually 133 colors of crayons, not including specialty crayons such as Silver Swirl, Gem Tone, and Metallic FX. There are also some crayons called Magic Scent which smell like Baby Powder, Daffodils and Pine trees. I am categorically against them. It would ruin the whole effect. I will stick with Ode de Crayon, thank you very much. It’s part of the mindfulness of the whole crayon experience. The smell, the choice of color, the feel of the crayon in your hand – the creation that starts the moment the crayons come out of the cabinet.

The minute you are old enough to scribble with one of those big crayons in your chubby little baby hand, you can begin the art of crayon mindfulness. And until you are too old to hold a big fat crayon in your withered old hand, you can continue the art of crayon mindfulness. Buy a box today. Buy one for a friend. You can now buy 120 lovely crayons in one gold and green cardboard container – can you imagine the creative works and opportunities for mindfulness that could come from that?

Lori Elward

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Chris Buzelli

8 thoughts on “The Zen of Crayons

  1. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says:

    I love this so much!! Yes, woo her to WP!
    Love the image! All your images!

  2. Oliana says:

    I love this. She spoke my thoughts at that age. Still love colouring. Heck we still do it at work. A room full of youth counsellors colouring at breaks. Sometimes I just sketch lines sand colour inside then later.

  3. […] and the theme that month was, “What Do You Teach?” The lovely Lori, (I blogged her article, The Zen of Crayons) was singing a song about teaching . . . As you may, or may not know, I am currently working toward […]

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