Sandbox


At some point this week Seth told me that he has two favorite colors pink and red.  Pink is his primary favorite color, and red is his secondary favorite color.  This more or less resonated with the Seth I have known from spirit to flesh.  Seth’s energy has always seemed red to me sometimes even magenta, pink fits neatly in that spectrum.  After all, if he was always red then he would never vary from his basic mold.  Add a little white and you get shades of pink, a glimpse of character and self-definition.

Pink is all around us here in our California February.  For all intents and purposes it is spring here.  It is not the spring fever spring that overcomes the cloistered New Englander after mud season.  It is the “oh if you insist” spring, coaxed by temperate zones who can’t be bothered with the cold.  These are the zones that endure the long dry tedious summer in exchange for the miraculous few green months with winter relegated to absentia.  I’ve been to parties festooned with pink camellias.  I’ve idly observed the kids busy in the cradle of green grass and oxalis.  Gradually I’ve been toying with revisiting a memory.  If it were “wicked cold” here maybe the urgency of writing this would escalate.  Is it possible that flowers as lazy as camellias and banal as oxalis could provide insight into the core meaning of my life?

On a sunny February day at approximately one o’clock in the afternoon I sat down to play in the sandbox on our back patio.  I remember feeling weary of the humans that I was forced to endure in Kindergarten, how my mornings of stimulus gave way to the blessed, quiet afternoons at home.  The light was bright as it reflected off the bits of mint green paint that still clung to the 1950s cement.  I ran water from the hose and marveled at the crystalline nature of the substance.  I gathered camellia flowers and the impossibly yellow oxalis blooms.  After much organizing, the sand box transformed into a landscape of rivers, punctuated by floating flowers and constructed beauty.

Perhaps this process was the same as the many repetitions that came before it.  It may have taken many hundreds of hours in the sand box to get to this day but there it was, my first “ah-ha” moment.  People often refer to the “ah-ha” moment where a design is just right, just as it is – effortlessly absolute.  Well this was it for me, my first taste of creative satisfaction.  My first understanding that materials can be architected to bring about an aesthetic that mirrors exactly the vision the creator had in mind.  For an artist this cognitive realization is a moment that shapes our entire lives, we strive for it always.  Wither we are conscious of it or not “ah-ha” drives us toward meaning.

In the process of raising a child I have born witness to the hot bed of cognitive development that is the sandbox.  Although Seth consistently has an agenda I wonder if someday soon he will have his “ah-ha” moment.  Or perhaps his mind works at a different pace.  He seems to have hourly “ah-ha” moments where he pops up in joy and shouts something like, “Ya concrete!  That’s what I’m talkin’ about.”  Perhaps he is just more social than I ever was, and his creative play develops mitigated by interaction with others.  My own ideas and self-awareness were only reflected by nature.  Our sand box experiences may shape us to become very different people.

Seth won’t have the same experience as I did.  I’ve been reconciled to that from conception.  However, I can wish Seth the joy of “ah-ha” moments.  I can studiously make note that he refers to oxalis blossoms as “bell flowers”, and I can quietly indulge his love of the color pink.  I try to encourage Seth in his explorations of pink.  It may get beaten out of him later, but today he is standing his ground and keeping pink as his muse, his chromatic guide to the world of beauty and joy.  It sounds something like this ~ Ah-ha mommy!  I know…we should paint it…PINK!

I took these photos of our ornamental kale in December.  The deepest pink in the shadowed crevasses is the color of the camellias that grew next to the back patio of our 1953 tract house.  The inspiration for this post came from Carolyn Fosters writing exercise Root Memories.