Back in the day when folks played parlor games (even if they didn’t have a parlor), there was often a particular question that would come up as part of a game. “If you had to give up one of your senses, which one would you choose?”
That choice occurred to me the other day as I was driving down the road and saw a drawing of a pumpkin on a billboard. For some reason, the sight of that pumpkin stirred my other senses of smell, taste, and even feel. But those were not what I thought of. I thought about crayons.
Each year when I was a little boy in school, around Thanksgiving and Halloween, we’d always draw and color pumpkins. Coloring pumpkins requires a lot of crayons...or it did back in those old days. A few months ago I wrote an article for954 Magazineabout the changes that have occurred in the elementary classroom since my day. The students I observed did have crayons, but I saw colored pencils and grease markers and artist paint brushes and a lot of digital stuff on which the black or gray item doing the coloring created all kinds of colors on a digital pad. Orange was still one of the colors.
After drawing and coloring all those pumpkins, my mind would fill with the smell of crayons. The smooth touch of the crayon seemed to linger on my cramped fingers. I licked the crayons to dull the color, and I could still taste them on the end of my tongue.
But there was one other intangible feeling I remember from coloring with those crayons. There was a calmness and serenity that came from the activity. Of course that feeling is nostalgic now and perhaps not a realistic memory. Nevertheless, just thinking about coloring pumpkins replaces more serious thoughts that usually cross my mind. It also causes me to think about more sensuous (not sensual) activities.
When I was in the fourth grade, there was a field of broom straw behind the gymnasium (about where the football field is at the old Hallsboro school). During recess some of us would play in that field. On a few occasions, I’d go away from my classmates and lie down in the broom straw so no one could see me.
If the sun was shining, it would warm me as I lay in the broom straw, hidden away from the wind. I would feel the dampness of the grass under me and smell the sweetness of the straw. I would hear the wind blowing above me, and I would hear the soft swish of the grass as it swayed back and forth. Above me I would see the sky and the clouds. The sky wasn’t always blue and clouds weren’t always white, but it all provided a canopy, a shelter. All that combined with the sun and the solitude gave me a feeling of contentment that I haven’t experienced since.
If I had to pick one of my senses to live without, I would be hard-pressed to make a choice. The touch, smells, sights, tastes and sounds of life are the essence of life itself. I know that folks who don’t have one of those senses adjust to it, but I’d rather not have to make the adjustment.
I guess what remains for me as I grow older and some of those senses begin to fade is to get a box of crayons, lie down in a field of broom straw, and color pumpkins.