|Fall sidewalk in Santa Fe
Delicious autumn. My very soul is wedded to it. If I were a bird, I would fly about the earth, seeking the successive autumns.
I hear these words, by George Eliot, with renewed familiarity every year around this time. I pause and notice. It’s a poem I’ve memorized, and it re-emerges in my thoughts when I look out the window and notice the leaves sandblasted from the trees by heavy-handed winds, orwhen I’m driving down the road and a vortex of brittle leaves lifts up and sweeps elegantly across my windshield.
Ah, September. At the same time, I notice a heaviness beginning to layer itself in. A gradual loss of sunlight is turning in the northern sky. The decay under my boots will soon be heaped over with snow. I’m starting to feel the cold biting my neck on morning walks. As I slow down, all those months of thinking and feeling and doing will coalesce, and all those half-hearted projects will be harvested.
Well, sort of harvested.
I’ve been working on a glass mosaic for over two years, and it still isn’t finished. The pattern is fairly complex, requiring the cutting of many pieces that need grinding and repositioning…grinding some more, and repositioning. It’s a tedious process; slow, requiring constant re-adjustments as I plod my way forward. I felt myself hardening around the project, wanting to just get it done but unwilling to take any necessary shortcuts. The whole thing felt heavy. Then yesterday, a friend’s daughter came over to visit. She joined me in the shop, watching the whole tedious process of maneuvering pieces to fit where they weren’t cut as precisely as they should have been (in my impatient haste). And since she is, for a seven year old, quite handy in spontaneously recognizing color and texture with a lot more giddiness than I could muster, she suggested changing the design. She plopped down a pre-cut circle of yellow glass, a sun, and placed translucent fish swimming around it (fishing swimming around the sun??) Well…OK, I reasoned. And shooting out from that, she imagined long striations of leafy greens cut from a milky cat’s paw glass pattern.
What? What about my lines? This is getting off-course. We have to stay within the lines. We can’t change the pattern; ride off the rails, so to speak. We just can’t do that. Or can we? (She does, after all, own an anti-coloring-within-the-lines, coloring book).
My heaviness was starting to lift. I liked her ideas, her innocent eagerness, the joy that bubbled up in her from nowhere. She was a gust of wind. She was a burst of fresh air. This wasn’t a commissioned piece so I could do anything I wanted to do, if I just gave myself permission to have fun with it.
And just like that, I threw out my perceived authority, my hardened stance on how things are supposed to be. No need to intellectualize the art, make it fit into dead ideas. Art is supposed to evoke emotions, that’s its only purpose. Those beautiful fall leaves swirling in the sky, reminding me of decay and a dormancy yet to come? I just needed a little girl to help me rake them all up so we could jump into the whole messy pile.
So easily we forget that life is play. Or that it can be.
If we make a running jump into it.