It was the last day of my sophomore year in high school, and I was helping my biology teacher clean out his supply closet. Somehow, moisture from an AC vent had leaked into a cardboard box full of mimeograph paper, which had gotten wet and moldy, so my teacher told me to throw it away. But on my way to the trashcan, I noticed the only the top two reams had gotten soaked; the rest of the paper was fine. I asked if I could keep it, and could scarcely believe my good fortune when he said yes.
I'd grown up in a very frugal household, where money was scarce and school supplies were always doled out carefully to my five brothers and me. We had a clear mandate to waste as little paper as possible, and use it only for school assignments. Moreover, the sheets of loose-leaf notebook paper that we received were always imprinted with a cage of thin blue, horizontal lines and clearly defined red-lined margins that dictated the linear trajectory our sentences were supposed to travel.
But, suddenly, I'd been gifted with a virtually unlimited supply of clean, white, unlined sheets of paper to use as I wished - and I had three months of summer vacation in which to experiment, too. Freed of the need to conserve paper, much less write in straight lines on assigned topics, my writing hand took off running for the white open spaces. Soon I was filling page after page with words of multiple shapes and sizes, scrambling all over themselves while trying to make sense of the world and my place in it. I was sixteen, and it was 1968, when a seismic shift in social and cultural assumptions was knocking down walls and boundaries throughout the country, even in small, rural Texas towns like the one where I was raised.
Having recently been introduced to rambunctious writers like Lawrence Ferlinghetti, e e cummings, Pablo Neruda and Dylan Thomas, my stiff prose paragraphs quickly gave way to a non-stop stream of pubescent poetry and song lyrics. It was mighty exciting to watch my verses go sprawling off at random angles while I wrestled with the Big Questions that had taken over my rambling, teenage mind. And while those early explorations were undoubtedly clumsy, that paper trail marked a trajectory I've been following ever since: writing for the sheer pleasure of exploring, expanding and expressing the personal, cultural and spiritual stories arising within and around me.
Forty-eight years later, I continue to be astounded by the boundless power of a blank sheet of paper, with its open-ended challenge to let my thoughts and perceptions stretch out in any direction I dare to travel. I'm also deeply grateful to have this safe outlet for the many raw emotions that frequently arise in response to a world that often seems to be unraveling right before my eyes. At a time when I can feel overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of information and connections that digital technology delivers day after day, a clean, white sheet of paper offers a consistently gentle way to communicate clearly with the one person I seem to have the most trouble connecting with: myself.
Does any of this ring a bell for you? Or does it sound a little crazy and/or self-indulgent? Either way, please consider giving yourself the gift of some quiet time with a pen and a few sheets of unlined paper - and see what emerges. Or perhaps you'd rather follow your urge to paint, sing, dance or swim. In any case, I hope you'll find some time this summer to express yourself in ways that are deeply satisfying to you. After all, it's never too late to have a happy adulthood!
With gratitude and blessings,
PS: In the spirit of joyful expression, I'll be performing in concert tonight, July 22) with Rudi + the Rudiments at the Unity Church of New Braunfels, located at 408 Gruene Road, 78130. I hope you can join us for this special evening of love and laughter. And if you happen to have any friends or family who live in the New Braunfels area, please let them know about it, too. Big Fun will be had! For more info, RudiHarst.com.
to all who are holding the Circle in thoughts and prayers by visualizing a generous flow of financial abundance. And thanks to those who have responded to our appeal for donations to help us move through this temporary financial low spot. To date we have received $2,033 in gifts. Thank you for supporting us in dancing through the coming months, as we continue our vital work of fostering a creative, inclusive approach to spirituality. We are deeply grateful.