Debra Darvickenhance your now in word and image
KIDS @ HEART
There was a single epic snowfall when I was a child. It couldn’t have been more than an inch, two at the most, but I was ecstatic. When you grow up in the South, even an inch of snow is miraculous. I spent the afternoon scraping snow into the best facsimile of a snowman I could make. He was little more than a mound, but he had a carrot nose and a ribbon for a scarf. I went north for college; the first snowfall my roommates showed me how to make a snow angel.
It’s still a thrill to fall back into a flawless blanket of snow, windmill my arms and legs and bring to earth an imagined heavenly being. I love lying cold-warm within my angel’s outline, blue sky above me, tree branches limned in white. I inhale winter and exhale joy. Winter will never be my favorite season, but making snow angels is grand compensation.
Photo courtesy of Martin Darvick, my fellow Kid @ Heart
I am overcome whenever I see a blue like this. Cobalt blue. Yves Klein Blue. YInMN Blue. My heart quickens; I can’t stop smiling; I’m sure my eyes dilate. All the signs of love. I want to dive into such a blue, merge with it.
This love affair with color began with my first set of 64 Binney & Smith crayons. You know them as Crayola but they weren’t always such. I can still see six-year-old me sitting on the floor of my room lost in sounding out the names of each paper-wrapped stick of visual magic. Magenta! Periwinkle! Mulberry! Bittersweet! Goldenrod! I memorized the subtleties between Forest Green and Pine Green; Raw Umber and Burnt Sienna; Brick Red and the (appropriately now-retired) Indian Red.
I dreaded ruining the points of all my blue crayons but I had no choice. Aquamarine set me sailing, while Midnight Blue seated me beneath a starry sky way past my bedtime. Cornflower felt like a summer day and Periwinkle made me swoon. The shade of blue to the left, the shade of delphinium and the Girl with the Pearl Earrings head wrap delights me like no other. I don’t know why, but every time we cross paths, I am happy to be alive to enjoy it.
What color zings your strings? What hue colors you happy? Share, please!
This week’s shout-out to blue was planned before I saw today’s NYTimes story on YInMN Blue (2.7.2021, Sunday Style section, page 3.) It’s leapt from the lab and has made it into Crayola’s offerings under the name Bluetiful. Limited availability for artists, but hopefully not for long.
I am keeping up with my intention to play with my art supplies daily. Notice I did not set the intention to “make art” each day. Too scary. But play with paints, pastels, paper and scissors? That’s kid stuff and my 2021 intention is as much about allowing my inner kid free rein as it is to allow myself to be an amateur in its original sense — one who is a “lover of…” I am indeed a lover of color, of pattern, of potchkeying, which is this great Yiddish word that means among other things, to play and make messes.
The whole way thorough I see-sawed between feelings of joy and self-criticism. There were the voices that told me the clothes hung too close to the ground and that the clothesline was strung so high in the trees only a giant could peg them to the line. I imagined friends who are professional artists raising their eyebrows in dismissal. There was the voice chiding me for working so hard on the branches that were going to be painted over. And the voice that said the flowers dotting the lawn were a lazy way out.
The see-saw also lifted me skyward. I rendered a sky with white clouds! I adored the feeling of my paintbrush stroking shades of brown up and down the tree trunks. I played with the greens: pine greens, khaki greens, brown greens and then darkening the brown greens with a bit of black. Carefully, I daubed bits of blue here and there between the leaves to try and show some sky.
Creating the clothes on the line was the best part. I collect paper and old greeting cards. They are full of potential—all that color and pattern giving way to new forms. I cut out pants and a top from one card and snipped hearts from another for handkerchiefs. Get lost! I told the voice when she sniffed that the handkerchiefs were way too big and all out of proportion. They’re elephant handkerchiefs, don’t you know? I love the brocade skirt and the mod pillowcases that started out as stained glass windows. The white slip was a happy accident that brought some open space.
As for the lawn? Yeah, not my finest moment of ingenuity but instead of trying to “fix” it or do something else ,I’m leaving it alone. I’m learning to be OK with “it’s okay.” I’m delighted every time I look at this small fusion of kids’ stuff. I see it and relive the fun I had, the quiet of the evening as I worked, fooling around with patterns, getting my fingers all glue-y, creating a scene at once soothing and refreshing. The voices of doom? The breezes carried them far away beyond the treetops. For now, I can’t even hear them.
Reading Paul Fleischman’s Joyful Noise, Poems for Two Voices is akin to Double Dutch jump rope — you have your part, your partner has hers and when you’re in the groove, it’s pure joy.
The poems (all of them about insects) are set up in two columns. One reader takes the left column, the other the right. Some lines are read aloud in unison, others, alternatively. Sometimes you and your partner are reciting the same words, other times your words are completely different. It’s dissonant and delightful.
Many moons ago, Emma and I would cuddle up in the chair in my bedroom and recite the poems. We loved House Crickets for the onomotopoetic chorus of “cricket cricket” that rubbed throughout the poem. The entomological narrator of Book Lice “… was born in a/fine old edition of Schiller. His fellow louse “…passed [his] youth/in an Agatha Christie.”
I’ve never particularly feared these six-legged beings. Reciting the poems with Emma was a particular pleasure, especially when the fireflies told us, “Light is the ink we use/Night is our parchment.” How can you not fall in love with such an image and thus think a little more kindly of the “bugs” so many want to squish?
Our Double Dutch poem reciting is now the stuff of memory. Like the life of the mayfly, our time of reading poetry each night after dinner seems to have lasted only from morning till night. The next time we’re together, I’m bringing the book along. And maybe this poem, too.
Though our hearts
Though our hearts
Span the miles Span the miles
When we visit
When we visit
There is joy There is joy
taking one another taking one another
with us with us
as we go
as we go.
Debra B. Darvick
“Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children.” So begins the most magical book I have ever had the delight to hold in my hands and read.
In 2007 the Oxford Junior Dictionary dropped fifty words used to describe the natural world in favor of words tethered to computer desks: post, analog, upload. A decade later, author Robert Macfarlane and illustrator Jackie Morris set out to return to us twenty of these lost words, among them acorn, adder, fern, heather, raven, bluebells, otter.” Their collaboration resulted in The Lost Words, a “spellbook for conjuring back these lost words.”
Oversized (11″ x 15″), liberally graced with gold type and artwork so sumptuous I can’t stop sighing, The Lost Words is indeed a spellbook. Some spells are brief and clever, others are brilliantly complicated. Mr. Macfarlane’s wordplay steals the breath: “Kingfisher: the colour-giver, fire-bringer, flame-flicker, river’s quiver.” Ms. Morris’ illustrations are so evocative you can hear the mourning doves cooing to one another.
If you buy no other book this year, or for the rest of your life (Heaven forbid!) The Lost Words must be it. Of course, magic begets magic and there are now two more books to savor — Spell Songs, a musical companion to The Lost Words (CD included) and the duo’s latest, The Lost Spells.
If you order The Lost Words and love it as much as I do, let’s talk spells. Which is your favorite?
When I bought this game for my granddaughter, I nearly bought one for myself. The idea is to create faces from the 160 facial features — photographs by Saxton Freymann of street debris and other found objects, leaves, shells, and branches. My inner adult overrode the inner child, admonishing the idea as totally juvenile. Had my inner teen been awake she’d have rolled her eyes and retorted, “Well, yeah. Your point?”
During our week’s visit with Olivia and her family, I got my chance. Olivia and I built face after face. She went on to play with another toy while I made faces for a while longer. Each face had its own personality, its own emotional aura. Some were silly; some were grumpy; some were quite lovely. What a brilliant concept — creative, simple, endless possibilities. Order a set of About Face. If your inner adult balks, tell her to take a walk. Or better yet, invite her along to play with you. and if you make a face, send it along for me to share.