Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Growing Frogs, little boys and me

It was a warm and rainy day here today, and Elliot had just finished the last of his school work.  He ran out to play and not long afterwards I heard squeals of excitement and was shocked to find him holding this enormous frog.  Since we put in the little pond in the back, we've had regular visitors of frogs and birds.  I've suspected that some of the frogs simply decided to stay as I've heard them making little chirping noises from time to time as I pass.

In the spring, Elliot found this tiny fellow that was no bigger than his six year old fingers.

Then, over the summer, he turned seven.  And the frogs must have been growing too.

Time is passing. It's become better for me lately.  This awareness of change going on while I stay at home working and teaching.  Just now I've come back from reading the most beautiful interview on NPR with one of my favorite writer/illustrators, Maurice Sendak.        Here are a few quotes that I connected with on a very deep level:

"Those two lines are essential. 'I'll never be 10' touches me deeply but I won't pretend that I know exactly what it means," says Sendak. "When I thought of it, I was so happy I thought of it. It came to me, which is what the creative act is all about. Things come to you without you necessarily knowing what they mean.  (I'll never be 10" is a line from his latest book Bumble-ardy).

The creative act being something that comes to you is dead on.  I didn't spend my life thinking up things to do.  They just come to me, and for some reason I've decided to take those gifts and do something with them, instead of dreaming at the windowsill.    

I might not be very talented or skilled in those areas but that is why I think they are gifts.  Because God knows how much I love to be challenged and to learn.

Sendak went on to say,

"When I did Bumble-ardy, I was so intensely aware of death," he says. "Eugene, my friend and partner, was dying here in the house when I did Bumble-ardy. I did Bumble-ardy to save myself. I did not want to die with him. I wanted to live as any human being does."

When the idea for my business came to me, my father was dying of cancer.  I had been spending the month of October with him.  Elliot was with me too.  We were all sad.  I came home needing to fill the void with something hopeful because at that time, there just was no hope except for his release from this life.

And this last thought helped me to think differently about the way I've been working on the development of the shop and it's marketing.

"I feel like I'm working for myself at this point. If it's publishable, fine. If not, it makes not too much difference. Because I claim that this time is for me and me alone. I'm 83 years old."
"I'm writing a poem right now about a nose. I've always wanted to write a poem about a nose. But it's a ludicrous subject. That's why, when I was younger, I was afraid of [writing] something that didn't make a lot of sense. But now I'm not. I have nothing to worry about. It doesn't matter."

As an inventor of something new, I often feel that I'm working with "a ludicrous subject."  But thank goodness I am reading Sendak's feelings about work now, while I am somewhat young.  I would love to be able to really feel it deep down that I truly work for myself.  That if what I make is sellable, fine.  If not, it makes not too much difference.  Because I want to claim that this time is for me and me alone.

I get so many request for different things from my customers that suddenly the original plan has gone from something new and original to something that people are familiar with. I feel like it's become more of a costume shop than a shop for little ones who simply like to pretend every day.  The basic simplicity has gone out of it.  And while I'm amazed at how I was able to diversify and stretch my self taught, bumbling skills, there is a part of me that just wants things the way I want them and if they sell or not, so what.  I have done my best and will continue to do my best with that thing that just came to me...that gift of an idea.

I seriously hope that Sendak publishes his work on the ludicrous subject of a nose.  I will order a brand new copy and keep it forever on my desk.

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