Although I missed Writing Day by a couple of weeks (October 20th, so essentially a month by the time I post this), I must have known it was happening somewhere in my core. I’m led to believe this because I’ve had an ache that I’m attempting to soothe by writing, for a short time each day, during the month of November.
So, I ask you (and myself), What was the first time you remember writing?
My first clear memory of writing is from 1996. I was in Mrs. Kindig’s second grade class, and the topic was Pandas. We had to pick an animal, and I was very careful to pick one whose rareness rivaled its cuteness. Illustrations were also part of this DIY book, and I remember being surprisingly proud of my rendition of the black-and-white-patterned creature. Drawing was and is still not my forte, so I welcomed the writing portion with open arms. With a flourish of elementary-level adjectives, I described the crunchy bamboo, the soft grass, and distant China. I can remember that my first favorite word–one that I used anytime I could–was immense. So, naturally, the pandas lived in an immense country and were immensely adorable. Although most phrases and sentences were playful and happy, the difficult truth I had to address in this tale was the precarious world pandas live in. With shrinking habitants and decreasing numbers, pandas were and are an endangered species. Endangered. I knew danger was not good, and I equated “en” with “in,” so the word was easily defined. Internally, I thought, “I don’t want to write a tragedy!”
And my mind switched to dodo birds. Again, judging by the name, I knew this creature was not the wisest of fowl yet, from Alice and Wonderland, I knew of its existence, and I also knew there were not any dodos in the world anymore. As my wheels turned, and I processed the reality of the panda situation, I was sad. However, I also realized they weren’t gone yet. They were in wildlife reserves and zoos and the wild. And maybe, just maybe, there was hope. Beyond hope, I needed to make–and would eventually make–the jump to action. Because, even if the issue isn’t saving the pandas, hope can’t sit still. It acts, it protects, it perseveres.
I don’t remember if I got a good grade on my panda project, but I do know I’ve never forgotten about pandas. I look for them when I’m at the zoo, because it’s rare to find one. Thinking back on that first memory of writing, I see its power. I see how I cannot process without it, and I cannot seem to bloom without it. Although speaking comes much more naturally for me, and verbalizing is helpful, the page has no history, no agenda, no advice. As neutral as a person can attempt to be, they cannot rival the page.
So, I must return to writing daily with the curiosity of a second-grader learning more about the world around her–learning more about life, struggle, and hope. It shows me how I’ve grown, and it shows me how much growing I have yet to do. But it never mettles, never judges. It’s just available as a simple tool to be everyday, and I pray to never take it for granted.