Sunday, July 16, 2006

Blue crayon



In The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance (1990), Henry Petroski points out that Henry David Thoureau left out one crucial item when he made a list of supplies for a twelve-day stay in the Maine woods:

According to his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau seems always to have carried, "in his pocket, his diary and pencil." So why did Thoreau — who had worked with his father to produce the very best lead pencils manufactured in America in the 1840s — neglect to list even one among the essential things to take on an excursion? Perhaps the very object with which he may have been drafting his list was too close to him, too familiar a part of his own everyday outfit, too integral a part of his livelihood, too common a thing for him to think to mention.
When my daughter Rachel made a list of supplies for an imaginary camping trip (at the age of six or seven, I think), she was careful to include the blue crayon with which she wrote her list. This list has been on a wall in my office for many years; I thought it would be fun to scan it and post it here.

[List reproduced with permission of Rachel Leddy]

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The list now appears in Sasha Cagen's anthology To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us (New York: Touchstone, 2007).

comments: 1

Newfred said...

Love the list! I think I remember making a similar list when going on a (real) school trip. Can't remember the contents, but I know that I wrote it only because I enjoyed the feel of ball-point pen pressing on glossy paper.