Being nine years old, and intent on getting my message out into the great, wide world, I wrote a note in cursive, the clumsy curling script I had decided I would dedicate my life to learning. I tore a piece of paper from one of those notebooks that only releases a page after blessing it with a thousand, ragged edges.
I rooted a pencil from The Drawer. We called it simply, The Drawer, with capital letters. It was like the Room of Requirement, only drawer-size. But it was more like the opposite of the Room of Requirement because it usually held lots and lots of things I would never need – the wrong size batteries, a compass for drawing circles, a calculator with a malfunctioning number nine.
I scribbled out a note on the paper, a message to the wild beyond. It was an important message, a world-changing message. Then, because I was nine years old, I went out to the ramshackle shed in the side yard and found some scrap two-by-fours (no longer than my hand) and a few only-slightly-bent nails. I bashed together a squarish thing that would float and secured the note to the outside of the wooden vessel with endless layers of clear tape.
From there I wandered down the long farm lane, past the apple tree I would fall out of the following year, past the garden and the tall, gangly stalks of sweet corn. I walked through the church parking lot, past the hide-and-seek cemetery, and then I slid down the bank to the field beside the stream.
I stared at that message in my hands and I wondered if it would hold up under the rigorous whitewater of the Pequea Creek. I wondered if I had put enough tape on it. I wondered who would find it, because in my mind that wasn’t even a question. Someone would find it. But who?
I threw that clunky block of wood into the swiftly moving current, and it floated away. Past the small dam we had built. Past the Amish schoolhouse. Down the long straightaway, around the bend, and out of my life forever. I turned and walked back up to the house, speechless with awe at a world where a little boy like me, barely nine years old, could send a message out into the world.
Twenty-seven years later, I’m still amazed.
* * * * *
It’s been almost a year since I last wrote a blog post here. It’s been a busy year, one I can’t wait to tell you about. It’s also been a silent year, in the best ways possible. A few people have asked me why I decided to start blogging again. Why am I returning to the blogosphere? The thought of coming back brings me a little anxiety, a little hesitation – one of the main reasons I stopped blogging was because I felt like I was standing in a crowd, screaming, trying to get as much attention as I could with whatever post would drive the most traffic. I hope I don’t go back to that place. I’ve never been much of a shouter.
While I don’t yet know how to articulate the various facets of why I’m blogging again, this story from my childhood came to mind. I guess I still feel like an eager little boy, nailing these clunky vessels together, hoping they will somehow carry a message – with all its ragged edges – downstream.
36 Replies to “The Note I Sent Downstream (or, Why I’m Blogging Again)”
I’m thrilled you are back to blogging… I have missed your posts about life, Jesus and the intersection of the two. Your rawness and openness on your blog have definitely helped me on my journey towards Jesus and away from religion.
Thanks for coming back to your blog….
Thanks for coming back, Jon. I’m looking forward to blogging again.
I’m glad you’re blogging again, Shawn. You definitely give us words that make us wonder and ponder. Did anyone ever tell you they found your message in a box?
No, Lise, no one ever called my phone number – I had scribbled it at the end of the note.
Cheers to new beginnings. I’m looking forward to starting with you at this point.
Thanks, Shelly. Welcome.
Because this is where you clearly belong, here beside this digital creek. I, for one, look forward to you boats, far better crafted than so many.
love it! welcome back dude! #fistbump
#Fistbump right back at you, Dan. Hopefully I’ll see you in December.
Yours is a voice I am definitely looking forward to hearing more of, Shawn.
There’s something in returning that can be very good for us, yes? Felt that sentiment through your whole post.
Yes! The theme of leaving and returning has been a powerful theme in my life. Thanks, Kelli.
Excited you are blogging again!
Thanks, Bronwyn. Is that the west coast behind you in your picture?
You were missed. Welcome back!
“…one of the main reasons I stopped blogging was because I felt like I was standing in a crowd, screaming, trying to get as much attention as I could with whatever post would drive the most traffic. I hope I don’t go back to that place. I’ve never been much of a shouter.”
That’s beautiful, right there. Good to see you back.
Thanks, Ira. Good to be back.
My soul is smiling. I’m so glad you’ve re-opened this quiet place of words that move deep. I always found it to be a respite from the white noise of the crowd. Glad you’re back.
I think it’s a respite for me as well, Brynn – yet another reason I’m back. Thanks for joining me.
Welcome Back! I was going to ask you the same thing…did you ever hear from anybody that found your board, but I read you didn’t. And just think…look at how many ways we have to communicate now and reach an unknown audience. I loved your “downstream note’ story.
It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it Paula? Thanks for rejoining me here.
I’m glad you’re back because you capture ideas, thoughts and stories in ways that I can’t. There is a beauty and rythm to what you write and I’ve missed it over the past year.
Larry, you’ve always been such a consistent reader and supporter. I appreciate that.
Welcome back, Shawn! Amena Brown had recommended I follow your blog, and I was bummed when I saw you were no longer posting to it. As I recently quit my full-time engineering job after 27 years in the business to finally embrace a full-time writing/editing career, I needed some fellow “leapers” to lean on for support and encouragement. I’ve been going full-tilt on my blog and my books, and I’m now looking forward to absorbing your wisdom with interest and excitement. Thanks for having the courage to start again. Many blessings!
Well, hey, any friend of Amena Brown’s is a friend of mine. She’s incredible. And I’m glad to hear about your leap. Keep pushing through, David, and thanks for joining me here.
Welcome back! I look forward to reading your blog. You have a wonderful way with words.
Thanks, Jesse. I miss you and your wife. We need to get together soon.
Shawn… Welcome back! I kept you on my RSS feed and went back to periodically reread your stuff. Helped me with my own writing, though I won’t be blogging anytime soon. Thanks.
Thanks for the warm welcome, Gary, and for hanging around all this time.
Reading this just makes me smile. :-) Thank you for never ceasing to put your words out there in the various vessels you have chosen. I look forward to catching them ’round the river’s bend.
Hi, Michelle! I missed you. Thanks for coming back and for traveling along with me and my crazy clan.
This is one of the loveliest “I’ve-been-away-for-awhile” posts I’ve ever read. Glad you’re back!
Thanks, Elizabeth. Glad to see you here again.
Reading his work requires some activity; I can’t just let it wash over me
and absorb what’s there until next month. Kirk, of the Star Ship Enterprise, not only for reminding another that intuition was formally a command prerogative, but also
for having been the kind of man who utilized it so superlatively
well in the process. I was taken aback when I noticed her wiping her cheeks.
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