Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Work of Art

All across the country, students are gritting their teeth, rolling their eyes, groaning, and generally doing decent zombie impressions as they begrudgingly return to school. The little ones seem to enjoy the entire education process more than about sixth grade and up. This is partly because so much of what they are exposed to is new and partly because they want to see their friends. They don't get to see their friends nearly as often during the summer as they do during school.

I have never quite fit into the "normal" category. In my beginning years of grade school, I was friends with almost everyone, but I would spend recess walking around the playground singing to myself. I was happy to be my own person by myself. Whatever factors allowed me to be that way (more than likely the A+ parenting I received) also allowed me to befriend all of my teachers. It was probably the end of my first grade year when I realized that I wanted to give presents to them before school let out. There were a few days left, but it was the last day that I would have art that year. When my teacher blew the whistle to summon us to our line that would dismally trail behind her, eventually being secured indoors once again, I quickly bent over and scooped a few pebbles into my hand.

After recess, we wound our way through the white washed halls, past cells in which crouched exuberant kindergarteners and world weary second graders. We were a prison line of excitement, a snake of wildly separate individuals. The art room door loomed above us all, and through it was a haven. Yes, we were still required to sit in our seats, raise our hands, and not scream, but it was here that our individuality could shine, even when we were told to do the same project as all the others. I adored the teacher. She had short white hair, but somehow we never saw her as old. My mother said that she had taught my uncle. It would not surprise me to learn that it was that endeavor which turned her hair white. Still, she always had a smile in her eyes. She loved art. More than a teacher, she was an artist. She ran an art studio, and still does, that my mother took my sister and me to once. No one else was there other than my teacher. She welcomed us in, gave us each a can of soda, and showed the two of us (my sister had her classes too) to a table where we could draw. The windows had art pieces standing in them so that light could shine through. I thought that it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been, and entering her classroom for the last time as a first grader, I felt a full appreciation for her efforts with the snot nosed young of the human race in our little town. I waited until the other kids were busy with their work, then went up to her desk.

"This is my favorite rock, and I want you to have it." I handed her a little brown pebble, one of the few I had picked up only moments before on the playground. It was of an oval persuasion, brown and smooth. I told her it was my favorite because I wanted it to have the meaning for her that I intended for it to have. I felt horrid for not telling the truth, even if I had a good intention behind it.

Second grade started, and I was excited to see all of  my friends that I didn't really talk to all that much. The first day of art, I claimed a seat by myself and blissfully started on my assignment. Not long after, the art teacher walked up to me, smiled, and placed a gift on my desk. A sun-catcher of sorts, it was constructed of metal that had been melted and left to set around shards of glass.

Glass and metal, not unlike those large panels in the windows of her art studio. Here was a little piece of her that I would treasure for many years to come. I took it in my hands and felt all the changes in texture. There was a sea shell on the right side, just thin enough to let the light illuminate it the smallest bit. And then I noticed it. Above the shell was a smooth, brown, oval pebble. I had given it to her, and she had turned it into art.

She was the art teacher for elementary and the Jr. High. I had her for many more years, and she was always a friend. She didn't talk to me any more than the other students, but that was how it was with all of my teachers, all of which I considered friends. One year, I developed a loathing for water colors. I didn't have the control that I wanted. She introduced me to water color pencils, which fascinate me. She retired when I was in Jr. High. After she left, I didn't have time in my schedule to take art again until high school, so I never met the new art teacher. Art remains a releasing of energy for me, a directional flow.

The pebble is, in some ways, quite like my heart. It's a little thing, pretty in its own simple way. When I gave my heart to Father, He took it and polished it until it shone in the beauty He had always intended it to have. What is more, is that He set my heart in His plan, His plan being the most beautiful of all. Some days, we forget that, leaving it on the wall and allowing dust to slowly blanket the shimmering creation in our eyes, yet all it takes is the slightest glimmer of sunlight to remind us just how truly lovely His great art, His plan, really is.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Having Cats is Rather Like Having Children

I like taking walks. Wandering along paths with the sky above me, surrounded by trees and grass, is, for me, soothing. My mother says that, when I was still very small, when I cried and cried, she would take me outside, and I would go still, staring up at the trees. Outside is a place of peace for me.

A few weeks ago, I decided to go out to the goat pasture nearby. It's where my mother used to walk when she was my age. She had taken me there a few times, so I know the way. I set out across the field towards the gate, and I had barely passed the little pond when Sparkle came trotting up to me. She is, perhaps, the sweetest of our cats. I petted her a little and continued on my way. When I reached the fence a few minutes later, she was still following me. I didn't want to lead her off of the property, so I walked back to the little pond, Sparkle following me loyally. I sat down at the edge of the pond, and, after she had determined that I was not going to fall in and drown, Sparkle settled down in the shade of a tree. For a while I prodded some pond scum with a stick, at least until I felt certain that Sparkle wouldn't follow me.

I made my way back to the fence, refusing to look back in case that might encourage her. When I reached the fence, she was at my feet again. Maybe, just maybe, she wouldn't cross the fence. I climbed up and over the fence and continued on my way. A few yards later I heard panting so loud that it could have been my grandparents' Labrador. It was Sparkle. She looked up at me and mewed quite quietly. Looking down at her, I knew she would follow me all day, even if it killed her. It was ninety degrees outside. She'd pass out from dehydration and exhaustion. I picked her up and carried her all the way home. She wasn't happy about that. Sparkle is not one for holding still for long periods of time, especially when she's being held against her will.

I opened the back door, and she sprang from my arms, nearly tumbling down the stairs to the cool basement. Promptly, she located a shadow and flopped over, still panting. My mother and I sat down beside her. Despite her excessive panting, Sparkle still insisted on purring as she was petted.

We set a bowl of cool water beside her and talked a little.

"Having cats is like having children, isn't it?" I commented, watching Sparkle's heaving side as she stretched out so that she could rest her chin on the floor too. It did make sense. Cats will follow you about just because they love you, as will children, and, just like with Sparkle, having children often means you can't go where you want or do what you want, but you don't really mind all that much.

"Yes." There was a laugh in my mother's eyes. A laugh that said "More so than you know."