Don’t hesitate to wipe your slate clean

When I was a girl, family picnics, end-of-school picnics, and special outings with friends all were held at Whetstone Gulf.
There we were among the tall pines eating watermelon, playing tag, and roasting hotdogs. You almost had to look straight up to see the sun.
Then after lunch, we were allowed to go wading in the wonderful slate-bedded creek.
The waters ran cool and ankle-deep. The rocks had been layered there for centuries, and now we could walk on them and never once encounter a sharp stone.
They were smooth as glass.
Like all things that seem perfect, however, there was a serious drawback. Have you ever tried walking on smooth, wet slate? It’s slippery!
But my favourite part of those wonderful picnics was finding a large piece of flat slate rock—let’s say eight inches by eight inches—and another small slate rock with a sharp edge.
Then, with my two rocks in hand, I would find a smooth slate-rock ledge under a tall pine tree and sit there all by myself. Next, I would commence to write on my own personal slate. You can write such wonderful things on a slate.
But the miracle came whenever I wanted to write something new. Just by wetting my hanky a little in the cool stream waters, I could wipe my slate clean—totally clean.
You just can’t do that with paper.
Your grandmother would have understood. She probably used a slate in school. A real slate—one made of slate rock. And she would have understood the “clean slate” concept.
Every ending, they say, leads to a new beginning. And that’s the way it is with slate rock.
If you’re not willing to give up what you wrote yesterday, or an hour ago, you can’t write something new. And if you don’t write something new, or for that matter, do something new, how will you ever know what you might have been able to accomplish?
Writing on a slate is very different than writing on a computer. A computer has almost unlimited memory. You never have to erase anything. You can keep most everything forever.
But some things aren’t meant to be kept forever. And keeping them can stand in the way of new things begging to be explored.
It’s a special danger when you get this side of 60.
I still have a piece of slate rock from Whetstone Gulf on my desk—two pieces in fact. And when I want to, I can use one piece to write on the other.
True, I never write anything too important that way, but those two rocks keep alive the memory of beautiful Whetstone Gulf in between the times when I can go there to relive the reality of my childhood.
But more important, those rocks remind me that a new start in life is always possible. You can have a new beginning anytime you want to, and at any age.
Anytime, that is, when you’re brave enough to rub out what you wrote on your slate yesterday.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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