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“Red” Heuton, from my 1971 high school yearbook

The Flower Blooms in Time

Teach the Children Well

For generations my male progenitors have been craftsmen, shipwrights, builders, and custom cabinet makers. By the time I was fourteen I had a working knowledge of cabinet construction methods and techniques, but I spent more time deconstructing contraptions than building cabinets. I was fascinated by processes, mechanics, shortcuts, and solutions. I never excelled at cabinet-making because I chose another path.

My brother and I were encouraged to develop our talents through music, art, manual arts and language — but not writing. In view of the many hand-written family journals in my possession it poses a minor question, but it is not one of any import. I played piano; I sang; I took art lessons from a family friend who later became a well-respected internationally acclaimed artist. I cooked, following in the steps of my mothers. I gardened, I sewed. Artful expression was encouraged and recognized as an essential part of a well-balanced life.

The first writing experience that shot endorphins through my soul was in my junior year in high school. And while the assignment is a small memory, the experience erected a milepost on my personal lifeline.

I saw my AP English teacher, Kelly Seay, as a genius. He drove a 1967 Glas GT, a rare European sled, and he was cerebral, kind, challenging, and he required us to grade our own work. Mr. Seay assigned the class to write an alternate ending to Huckleberry Finn. I don’t remember the particulars and the actual paper disappeared years ago, but I remember feeling as if this was one of the most difficult assignments I’d ever tackled. Somehow I got through it. When it came time to submit our papers he asked us to grade them. I gave myself a C. When he returned it the next day, he had crossed out the C and had given me an A, with short words of praise and encouragement.

Tangential to this writing assignment was another course, the single most influential course in my life. I studied General Semantics in my sophomore year in high school. Taught by Verlin “Red” Heuton, that seemingly insignificant course set me free by encouraging me to step aside, to turn upside down, backwards, and sideways, to engage life from angles I hadn’t considered. It was a language course, but Red taught it from the soul. I had discovered something that engaged me.

These seeds were sown in high school. They settled dormant until 1986, when, due to a confluence of events, writing commanded my attention again. I found that writing was therapy, and the practice arguably saved me from myself over the next few years. Now, thirty-two years later, it is a central focus and an essential element in my well-being.

Today, at the age of sixty-five, I consider the choices I made, the paths trod, the talents granted me, and I see a clear line of reason that brings me to the point where today I sit quietly and peck at this keyboard. Yet, there have been days when I wrestled with the question “why didn’t I choose to write as a profession much earlier in my life?”

I’ve concluded that I wasn’t ready until that day in 1986, when I wrote in order to maintain a semblance of sanity. I wasn’t prepared to step up and scream my truth until then. At that moment it was required of me. I was 33 years old and I had lived a tumultuous life. In essence, I had filled up. Now I was ready to pour it out.

Without the myriad influences of my childhood, encouragement from parents and others, I may have chosen accounting or auto mechanics as my career path, ignoring the natural talents granted me at birth — an insatiable thirst for self-discovery; a desire to experience life in all its dimensions; creativity. These prepared me to expose my own frailties through the written word.

We speak of Old Souls, and those young at heart. The terms allude to an element disconnected from the concept of age. The writer in me feels very old, but my heart is young. When they spend time together chronology disappears, and I am whatever age I feel at the moment — and I am free to tap a lifetime of positive and negative experiences.

Is youth wasted on the young? I say no; let them enjoy it. But it’s ours as well — if we will receive it.

LaMar Going is a writer living in Solana Beach, CA, with his wife Carla and ten-year-old Summer, who makes all the major decisions. There is a huge duffel in the closet stuffed with Happy. Drop in if you’d like some. Thanks for reading.

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