As usual my column appeared in yesterday's edition of Small Town Newspaper—you can read it here, if you want.
I found the site, Combat Paper Project while nosing around the Internet a couple of weeks ago, and I thought it was worthy of some local attention. Plus, it put me in mind of the homemade paper projects my girls and I used to do when they were younger and how we took useless trash and turned it into one-of-kind things I think were beautiful. I still have a collection of the paper they made.
We had a couple of small kits with framed screens and blotting paper, and on slow days, the girls would take off and let their imaginations go wild with paper. They would rip up scrap paper and throw it in a blender and then add other things—herbs, flowers, lavender from the back yard, ribbon, bits of rope, you name it. Then they would blend it all into a slurry, pour it into a tray, dip in the screen, and pull out something entirely new.
You can let the new paper air dry, or you can microwave it—I think the Combat Paper people actually bake it. And then you have fascinating little pieces of paper. Before the stuff dries completely, you can press molds into it for embossing, or you can stick in other things to give it added texture. Then when you're finished, you hold up your creation and say, "look what I made?"
There is a sense of pride in making things, and I can only imagine that sense is intensified when you know you've taken the thing that haunts you and turned it into something that graces the room instead. There are insurance commercials floating around these days with the line, "take the scary out of life." Even though I have never been in combat and don't begin to equate my troubles with those of a soldier with PTSD, I have taken on this line as a personal challenge, and I can see how making paper from a combat uniform would go a little way in doing the same—turning army-issue clothes into art takes the scary out of life, doesn't it?