Grandchildren (and Others) on the Loose

Digitally painted photo: Granny at PlayAt Granny’s House

That impish twinkle in her eyes

might lead you to hypothesize

that Granny’s up to something good,

and you’d be right, oh, yes you would—

There’s something in the oven now,

sweeter than Mama’s rules allow,

and some wild playtime to be had

surpassing anything that Dad

prefers, as well, and there’s a tree

you’ll climb, you and your sisters three—

Before your parents spoil the romp,

she’ll make her funny false teeth chomp,

make goofy faces, mad as yours,

all five will then get on all fours

and roll around the living room—

Eight-thirty! chimes the clock, and boom!—

Just as their car pulls up the drive,

you all head for the couch and dive

into a tidy line, as calm

and placid as a Dad and Mom

could hope to see, and Granny’s eyes are

twinkling. Parents?

None the wiser.Digitally painted photo: Playtime

PostModern Coloring Book

Now that I’ve had my iPad and its various drawing and art apps for about six months, you might hope, if not expect, that I would have gained a certain amount of fluency in the medium. You would, of course, be disappointed in that. I’m still as ignorant a neophyte as ever. But I’m having a good time, and that makes plodding along at my own minimal speed worth my while, all the same. I suppose it could be compared to the childhood love of scribbling and crayons and such excellent things that leads to our continuing to practice for extensive periods over our early years despite being unlikely to become little masters of art for a much longer time yet.
Digital illustration: Modernist Coloring Book

It would be more meaningful to me, I imagine, and to those who know me, if I could extend that youthful courtesy not only to playing with my latest techno-tools for art making but also to other areas of my life’s education, the many in which I have far less patience with learning as slowly as I do and therefore generally end up quitting or making virtually no progress for eons. Imagine if I loved studying personal finance as much as I like scribbling: I might be rolling in wealth by now instead of still struggling to count change when I buy a few groceries. If I had learned to enjoy practicing exercise—any form of exercise at all—I could have been fit and fabulous and looking at living enough more decades that I could learn a vast quantity of other fantastic and exciting things.

But alas, none of that is my nature or my passion. Plodding along and just playing with those things that amaze and amuse me, that’s my style. I may get up a short burst of energy or speed and manage to improve at one thing or another in my repertoire occasionally, but if you’re looking for snappy progress, cast your eyes in any other direction and you’ll have a better chance of seeing something new and inspiring happen. I’ll be right here in my little corner, scrawling with a stylus like a crazed second-grader mauling her coloring book and cackling with delight over the slightest mark that pleases me. Just think how well I make the rest of you look good!

Remind Me/Rewind Me

For a person who considers herself happily immature relative to her age, I am sometimes caught off guard when I realize how little of my youthful pleasures I’ve continued to pursue with appropriate enthusiasm into the present. Why on earth would I forego standing on a big plank swing, grasping the chains that hold it and me up, and pumping my legs until I feel like I could fly right on over the top steel bar of the swing set with the greatest of ease? Why not kick off my shoes and socks, abandon them in the dirt, and plunge into the cold river’s slippery, rock-strewn flow without regard for getting the legs of my pants all soaking wet? Is there any law that says a 52-year-old is no longer allowed to slurp her fruit punch noisily through a straw just because it’s so wonderfully refreshing and sugary?

Why, indeed, is the common phrase seemingly always about youthful enthusiasm, yet we tacitly agree to let only actual youths embrace it?

Remind me how being childlike and impulsively happy is so dangerous.photo

Despite being of an age where my childhood version of the high swing was of rock-hard rubber on a steel pipe frame and underlaid with gravel-strewn dirt, I am—well—still alive at this age. I never broke a single bone or chipped a tooth, and my only stitches derived from an indoor activity, a school game of floor hockey. Though I wandered recklessly through many a stream and ocean’s shallows, without regard for my pants or my tender soles, and even drank from the occasional icy mountain brook, the worst that ever came of it was a cut from beach glass, soon enough cleansed with stinging but healing salt water. No clothes were ruined, and I got bit by nothing bigger than a sand- or horse-fly or two. I failed to contract Giardia or E. coli from those wild rivulets I sipped. Even the vast quantities of evil cyclamates in my childhood fruit drink binges failed to kill me off.

So how is it that I lost my ability to plunge ahead without caution to where I seemed, nearly always, to find joyful things? Remind me how always being responsible and mature and playing it safe is better for me.

But write it in a note and slip it under my door. I feel the need to go out and look for a little happy trouble.

Small Wonder

digital illustration from a photoRegeneration

Small children are such pretty little things,

Their chattering and skipping on the green

Playground of summer like the beating wings

And songs of flocks of birds are heard and seen;

It’s fortunate such playful charms are theirs,

That doll-like innocence and holding fast

To unspoiled beauty’s natural to our heirs–

Or this bunch living now would be the last.

Shiny Objects & Flying Illusions

Beetling Brow

Inside my skull’s a fizzing insectarium

of mystic, magic, merry little things

so wildly pretty that my brain can’t carry ’em

without the power of all their tiny wings,

Abuzz with sparkling brilliance and their fleeting,

so speedy that they’ve utterly forgot

regard for gravity or need for beating,

become instead bright vestiges of thought.

Now, you may think I’m just a bugged-out entity

with not a thought for anything of sense,

but every person has his own bugs, hasn’t he,

and with their glittering gleam, the joy’s immense;

I never really cared that much for images

or what all others thought my problem was,

but just embraced my inner insects’ scrimmages,

and love the shiny ways they make me buzz.digital collage

Tough Neighborhood

Watch Out for those Kids

We were playing at boules and pétanque

In a park not so far from the Seine

But the children we played were so bloodthirsty there

That we vowed not to play them againdigital collage

Pretty Beautiful

Of course I’m vain. I would love to be thought of as a great beauty. Not that many people on earth could probably say with full honesty that they wouldn’t like to be thought attractive and compelling and engaging in the slick social way, no matter how sincerely they live the principles of much deeper character. But, that confession aside, I can also say that I am not so exclusively vain that I mind having others be indifferent to, or even dislike, me. Let’s just be realistic enough to say that that would be beyond impossible.

digital artwork from photos

Take a good look at MEEEE!

So I really can’t have too many qualms about making fun of myself and exaggerating my own failings and shortcomings and even pasting on ones I don’t think I actually own, if it buys me any artistic pleasure. After all, there’s a bunch of fun to be had in clowning and playing characters and being someone or something new and weird and ridiculous. There are reasons we still have art and theatre and fiction all around us. It’s amusing to make the stuff and amusing to see what others have made.

digital artwork from photos

I’m pretty fabulous no matter what you see!

I guess that makes me a cheap sort of witch or magician, maybe, when I’m making up my fictions in visual and verbal imagery. Kind of a fun vocation, when I get to play at it. Abracadabra, here I am for your amusement. Poof! Now it’s your turn.

More Fun with Drawing Toys

Not much needs to be said here. I’m on another of my tangential rambles with my art practice, and what pleases me a great deal about crawling my way into the digital era is that not only can I document my work better than I used to do, I can retain it in numerous, widely varied states and play with it without nearly so much difficulty in changing my mind and erasing or altering things as I like. Talk about a bonus for a mercurial goof-off like me.graphite drawing

digital artwork from a drawing

Fly by Night

graphite drawingBeguiling Moonlight

Every autumn evening, at the end of day,

The moon’s pale eminence sends out a silver-shining ray

A-glinting through the branches and glimmering on leaves

And shimmering on spiderwebs tucked underneath the eaves

And calling all the kitty-cats from shadowed alleys out

To torment all the night-birds still fluttering about,

And drawing from their houses the dogs behind the slats

Of shuttered sleepy windows to torment all the cats,

And pulling on the heart-strings of every sleepy child

To call each one to play out in the moonlight, in the wild,

To dance among the cat-kins and soar among the birds

And leap among the moon-mad dogs and sing the magic words

That cast a spell of loveliness on creatures so, and soon,

We’ll fall asleep, each one of us, under the autumn moon.

What if I Never Grow Up?

digitally doctored photoAside from the fact that all of you know already that this is a given rather than a question, I can still pose it rhetorically and ask it of all people in general. See, I think about this a fair amount, and not just because of my own level of maturity at any given time or in any given category. It’s simply a question we all get asked in one way or another at some point, or should jolly well ask ourselves, at the least.

This marvelous Möbius loop of inquiry and insistence begins the first time we are told, as children, that we need to Grow Up, and it can be applied to any number of circumstances. The irony that this mandate is almost invariably handed down to us by a person or persons barely older and more grown than ourselves is of course lost on all of the parties involved, because we’re all too inexperienced and naive and, conversely, too full of ourselves to understand it. The bigger kid tells the littler kid to Grow Up mainly because the elder wants something that the younger has or has simply lost patience with her.

It doesn’t change. When we’re older, the toys and privileges may have changed to different brands of money and power, but as long as we think someone else has more of whichever kind we desire than we do, we’re just as inclined in adulthood to nit-pick at that someone for his supposedly lower maturity levels both as cover for our covetousness and in shallow hopes of shaming him into being more generous than we are ourselves. The failure of this silly system doesn’t change either, but it doesn’t stop the less magnanimous and less mature from nagging at those who are more so, no matter the age or the occasion.

There are perfectly good reasons to wish anybody, including ourselves, would think and act with maturity and keen sense and the wisdom of experience. Those things tend to lead to our being more level-headed in emergencies, more practical in the everyday, and more inclined to share those traits and all sorts of other things with other people–and that leads to better community. Who knows, even World Peace.

But isn’t it grand, all the same, to forever retain a large enough pinch of immaturity and, if not childishness, then at least the ability to be childlike, that we can still look at the wide world with the awe and wonder it requires. We should hang on, with youthful enthusiasm and gleeful tenaciousness, to innocence and hope, to curiosity and rambunctiousness, to unalloyed silliness whenever the moment permits. Maybe we should even be willing to get down there with the actual kids and roll around in the grass once in a while without batting an eye over how dirty it’ll get us or whether it might make our old joints sore tomorrow. If we can’t still do somersaults, then we’d better find other ways to regain and retain our not at all grown up point of view, because the world, especially while it’s still short of outright Peace, can really use a healthy splash of the ridiculous now and again.