I did know the play, but I did not reread it prior to showing up that night. My part was assigned a couple of days in advance, but I did not fret over memorization or timing or accent.
The ladies with me had them. A few doubled as more than one character. And, a friend known only to you by the initials ER, as I have not asked her permission, actually read the parts of two characters who had an in depth conversation between themselves.
Kudus, ER. You were quite impressive.
This is a perfect group activity when you’re feeling social – or, not.
We wondered if we were like generations of old who did not have Netflix or dvr’s or televisions – even though we each were reading from our own tech device.
We finished feeling quite cultured – even though the play is a silly story of trickster boys and finicky females.
I do not remember her. I’m not sure that I was ever that raging thrill-seeking, uninhibited freedom-loving girl.
But I was prone to dreaming.
At about the age pictured above, my summer ecstasy was a bit more tame. I’ve described it before in an essay titled Sandbox Dreams.
Before I knew of Southern lady rules of dress, the most important guideline for apparel came down from Ginger, the resident “nanny” of sorts for the daycare I attended. She was somewhere between momma and great-aunt age and she could just as easily shoot fire from her eyes as whip you up a homemade rice pudding. Such resulting actions depended on you, but mostly you’d register somewhere between reprimand and praise.
There were a few things you had little control over and one of them was this Ginger rule: No going bare-foot before May 1st.
From somewhere around the middle of March until April 30th, we hated that rule, every one of us children who spent our Mondays through Fridays, parents’ working hours, at Laddie and Lassie Nursery School.
But come May 1st, the world was made new. And everything was good.
Children who normally sauntered in a half-sleep state then ran in early morning hours. You wanted to be the first to arrive, but you never were. Already in the playroom, there would be a group of them sitting on the floor, untying laces. There would be the smell of sweat that comes from anticipation, not from activity. And always, there would be the row of sock-stuffed sneakers and unbuckled sandals covering the top of the old black piano.
It was all a flurry of unwrapping not seen since Christmas morning.
And in the end, feet were naked and unashamed.
We girls had one destination in mind, but knowing the limits of tender, uncalloused feet, we took the long way there. We scurried down the porch steps and straight into the yard, bypassing the rough sidewalk for soft grass instead that tickled our toes. We lingered in dew drenched clover fields that clung to our soles and when we knew our feet were wet enough with the morning, we stepped into the sandbox.
We squirmed. We squealed. We danced in delight, like pixies pouncing into the pliable earth. We cooled ourselves in shallow dips, toes separating, sand exfoliating, stretching deeper until only ankles were left on top of the ground. And when we were sufficiently refreshed from the lifetime of winter, we sat down to dig and dream.
The sandbox dream was always the same and we began each year with determination. We would dig to China. I had never been.
I imagined new friends, how they would appear as we came up at their feet, what surprise would show on their faces, and who would help us to learn their names. I daydreamed of newspaper headlines in a language that I could not read, describing our feat to the entire world.
It was an excitement I have not known since.
On occasion I wondered what the center of the earth was made of and if it might be dangerous, but laughter drowned out the trickle of fear.
The joy would last until almost lunchtime when I was five, six and seven years old. After a hot meal and a lazy nap, we usually decided we would not be able to make it to China in a day. We dug a little. We played a lot.
By eight or nine years old, doubts began to destroy my dream. If you could dig to China, then someone would have done it already. With every scoop of sand, I repeated this negative mantra to myself. Such pessimism slowed progress.
At ten years old, I knew too much about geology to even start digging. I waded through the sandbox, but never sat down.
By the time I was eleven years old, I worried more about having to wear a bra than about getting to take off my shoes. Some dreams are so short-lived.
Anything like you?
Then you’ll forgive me if my adventure this week was one that most might think little of.
You see, on the first day that grandma’s neighborhood pool was open, I put on that tankini from last year that was a bit too small and I took a swim with Ian. No one else was there. So, I suppose there was no real bravery in the near nakedness.
But, the water was chilly – and I still waded all the way in.
All the way.
My face, I believe, looked a bit like that little girl’s above.
I decided to forego the Sunday afternoon nap for an Artist Date with Ms Christina.
You know about the artist date?
I learned of it years ago when first trying Julia Cameron’s thirteen week course, THE ARTIST’S WAY. Imagine my surprise when I googled Cameron and found that for a fee, you can now experience the course through videos with the author herself. So, bookstores be damned, I suppose; Julia continues to find her way into varied markets.
In this free video clip she describes the once weekly assigned play that students are instructed to maintain. I had little trouble keeping up with this portion of homework when I did this with a little book club I found by way of Kirkland Smith during my first year in Columbia, SC.
An artist date is wooing your own consciousness…people are reluctant to play…we will go work on our creativity, but we won’t go play…(yet) play is refilling. – Julia Cameron
I can play.
A trip to the gardens, a window shopping spree, a special homemade journal treat.
Not a problem.
The prescribed date is supposed to be solitary, but Ms Christina and I are rebels. We went together this time. We played. And we were refilled.
We were refilled by other artists.
In their own studios.
Imagine my delight when I got into Ms Christina’s car and she asked if I wanted to go to the OPEN STUDIOS in West Columbia first. Yes, two artists were basically in my own neighborhood.
Michael Cassidy and his great dane greeted us and I talked a lot about the neighborhood elementary school our children both attend. Note to self: bumper stickers can be useful. I found him to be the regular person he claims artists often are until I entered his studio barn. After that, I was a bit mesmerized.
Mr. Andy will likely return to purchase a knife painting. I texted him while there. Just saying.
But it was Cassidy’s collection of small things like dandelions that intrigued me most.
What delicate attention. What detail. What specific moment in time captured.
And yes, I asked about the cotton hanging at his work table. You can see it in the top left of this photo, taken from his facebook page – like the others I’ve posted.
Oh, go back. Look again. I know you mostly saw that smiling girl.
It’s ok. I’ll wait.
The cotton. See the cotton?
Cassidy has yet to paint the cotton, that he no doubt will take down from the wall and position under that lamp that is sitting on that desk. When he does, he will, I am sure capture its very likeness after he has studied it from various microscopic perspectives.
But he will capture more than its likeness. He will capture its story.
Cassidy and I spoke of the story of cotton that is not his story. I confessed that it is not mine either, though I am a native South Carolinian. I pondered this idea that Cassidy would want to understand more before attempting to paint.
Such a small thing.
So much at stake.
To one who creates with integrity.
I’ve since discovered Michael Cassidy’s logo that contains the word integrity and my creative heart is filled – refilled – with a yearning to see in more complete ways. Certainly Michael Cassidy’s works are ones of quality. But my mind is rolling over and over again with that word – integrity – and all it may mean.
So many things caught up within a painting.
Our second stop in West Columbia proved that multitude of things that can be shown in just one painting. Christopher Lane‘s subjects were massive in comparison to Cassidy’s studies, but held similar depth of thought.
While Cassidy studied the story of a simple object, Lane studied the simplest truths of life, showing the goodness sometimes muddied by man. He carefully pointed out images in a bank scene and what they meant to him and we talked of a life of thought, a socio-economic analysis of our time. With the same passion, he went on to explain his Circle of Life that measures 72.5″ by 55″ and I felt myself smiling.
Look closer. There’s so much there.
Look deeper. You’ll see more.
I walked out of Lane’s home, got back into Ms Christina’s car, and was refilled.
Christy, people are doing it. They’re out there doing it. Creative things.
I wish I had time. There were other stops at OPEN STUDIOS.
And each was inspiring.
But for now, I think I’m going to do my own creative thing.