Friday, December 14, 2007

Reflection - Gingerbread Houses

Today, my younger brothers (the twins) turned 41. Chris emailed early in the morning that at 11:30, he was going to visit Ciera's class and help them construct gingerbread houses. He thought it was cool that he would spend part of his day doing that. [I thought it was cool that HE thought it was cool!] After, he wrote: "I like this picture. The teacher was giving the class instructions and Ciera was thinking seriously how she was gonna decorate her house!" Isn't that just how it feels, inside? That silent contemplation, the quiet gestation of 'The Idea', as we sit at our studio desks or potter's wheels or sewing machines at the start of something? It's the most serious, yet exhilarating sensation to have: beginning! Arting, making messes, fiddling around, goofing off creatively -- all of this returns us to the low wide tables of our first grade classrooms, to the awe in which we held our teacher, the 'firstness' of each and every endeavor. When I received this email, I immediately dashed off an answer asking my mom if I had ever even made a gingerbread house - neither of us could recall such an event, but plenty of macaroni shell projects came to mind! Do you remember how engrossing the process was? The thrill of a puddle of glue and a mound of glitter? Back then we were smart enough to know, without knowing, that outcome, result, weren't the point. The thrill of DOING! Now that was it! The discovery of hands meeting material, shaping something, putting our signature colors and favorites on it. And wasn't it easy, then, to ask for help? To raise our hand, to watch the experienced mentor show us, explain again? The excitement we felt was too great to leave room for pride ... a wonderful benefit of being a kid, before the internal critic is ever internalized, before we somehow twist 'asking for help' into 'being weak.' I don't remember, when I was six, the thought of 'doing it wrong' crossing my mind, either. That hadn't come to me yet. A row of pink gummy fruits on the roof with orange glitter? A doorway framed in Good 'n'Plenty? Absolutely, no questions asked, no self-doubting. It seemed so easy to choose then; I was so much closer to an immediate awareness of 'what I wanted' -- what I wanted it to look like, the colors and gizmos and marks and spots of glue that would make it just so, the clarity of the vision. And all of this in spite of the fact that I might never have done a project like the one at hand before. Little children believe -- tell 'em they're going to take a paper plate full of oddball candies and a 4-wall slab of graham crackers frosted together and it will be a BEE-YOO-TI-FUL gingerbread house -- well, their faith is astonishing. And so, consequentyly, is their gingerbread house. Not to mention their excitement in what they've achieved. What we all do, today, as artists, in our adult heads, with our adult schedules and obligations and distractions and critical background voices, well -- can you see that, really, we're just making gingerbread houses again? Our internal 6-year-old is holding her hands out to us, to the glue-paint-brush-crayon-wax-fabric-canvas, with a big cheesy grin and telling us, with all her newfound confidence, "Here, I can show you." These pictures of Ciera reminded me of that. These pictures of Ciera reminded me to turn myself over, back, let the little Toni step up and teach me, show me, giggle with me, and pat ME on the back.