Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Living Arts: On Art as Imitation, Contemplation, and Honoring By Emily Hall, Caregiver

When I was three, until when I was eight, my mother ran a calligraphy business from our home. For my fourth birthday, she made invitations to the party in calligraphy adorned with my favorite story character. My sister and I would watch as she carefully laid out the pens, inks, and paper for us and then for her. She had a big book from which she would choose the fonts for the birth announcement or wedding certificate that she was making. The book was filled with unicorns, butterflies, and little people that hid in the letters of the alphabet. We would imitate her as she drew out the lines in pencil with a ruler, then began to form words. Sometimes she would write the alphabet for us to copy. Sometimes she would give us her scratch paper to fill in. Sometimes we would get paper and markers for our work. I adored the quiet time with my sister and mother while my baby brother was napping. A meditative, quiet mood came over my mother when she was drawing. I longed to draw like she did and would sometimes be upset that I couldn't. Then, she would tell me that my drawings were beautiful and to please make more for her. So I did. I remember watching my mother draw as my sister and I made paper dolls to represent the characters from our favorite movie, Camelot. Then we would put on paper doll plays about the story for her. After I give a puppet play with silks for the children, they often will imitate me as they play with the puppets, inventing their own versions of the stories. My mother herself was my focus of imitation, as she her created celebratory art. My sister and I then brought our art to our family as an honor to her. I strive to imitate my patient, artistic mother as I bring the Living Arts to your kindergartener.
To honor Spring's birthday this year, we at LifeWays are having a festival on Saturday, May 15th. One of the ways I bring the Living Arts to the children is by honoring the seasons with art for our festivals. A forest full of flowers is being harvested each day to make decorations for the trees at our festival. Everyone will have a beautiful environment in which to work on the play yard! The children would also like me to tell you that the flowers are for their parents as well as for decorations. The children made gardens with wheatgrass in Kinderforest for the Easter egg hunt next Monday. Working together to plant a garden is a quiet way to honor spring, with some eggs to collect in the clearing. Then the children will have a picnic in the fresh air. The Kinderforest children will also have a egg hunt on Tuesday. Then they may take their baskets home. The children have also been stirring the soil in the garden to prepare for planting. All of these projects, and all the care that we do for our gardens and the LifeWays garden are ways that we attend to beauty, and show reverence to the environment.
Another Living Art project we have been working on is our stick house. Near the path is a fallen tree, and near the tree is a shelter someone built from sticks. A storm tore it apart, and the children and I have been gathering sticks and patching the walls and roof. Anyone who chooses to hike in the forest can see that we have been there attending to a gnome-home in need of some care. As I begin to build often Rapunzel, Snow White, The Wolf and The Aliens will mysteriously appear by my side with a stick or two to help. Sometimes, if Rapunzel and The Wolf are arguing, one or the other can go to the house to get a little needed quiet. Or, The Aliens can point out trash that someone left in the woods and help me to beautify the forest in that way.
The most important way that I work on life as art, and the most under attack in our society right now, is non-interruption of a child's play. My mother would not interrupt me as I was drawing near her, because she was busy working herself. I tidy litter and build the stick house as the children play. This is not because I am ignoring them, but because I respect that their play is as important and multi layered a work as my adult tidying and building. Positive guidance of course is needed. A child who is told "Don't hurt so-and-so!" will hear " and so." A child who is told "Be gentle to your friend." will hear "Gentle...friend."
In conclusion, thank you. Thank you for valuing life as an art. Thank you for dressing and caring for your child's warmth and comfort so well this year. Thank you to the children who are crossing the rainbow bridge into other kindergartens or first grade. I am excited to see you all at the festival! Below, as a P.S., are the songs we have been practicing for our circle to perform with you at our celebration of Spring's Birthday.
Miss Emily
A farmer once planted some little brown seeds
With a pitter patter pitter patter pitter pat pat.
He watered them often and he pulled out the weeds
With a tug, and a tug, and a tug, tug, tug.
The plants grew tall and strong in the sun
With a push push here and a push push there
And a lovely plant grew from each one.
Sunflower, Sunflower, turn your face to the sun
Sunflower, Sunflower, bringing happiness to everyone
You follow the sun, the whole day through
And when the sun sleeps, then you sleep too
Here is a snowy branch of May, a branch the fairies gave me
Would you like to dance today, a branch the fairies gave me
Dance away, Dance away, holding high the branch of May.

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