This is Summer: Season Six {Episode 38}


Back in town for now

Settling into house, routine

and creating, too



This is Summer: Season Six {Episode 34}


Edmonds, Puget Sound

First wake up in Washington

Oh goodness, I’m hooked



Arms Lengths Away

Please stay two arms-lengths away from the art!

Her rebuke cuts the air, rising above the appreciative hum of the art connoisseurs around us. The only ones remotely close to her, we look up from where we stand, and reflexively take a step backwards, away from the statue that stretches into the air above our heads.

Two arms? He says, next to me, as I spread my arms to my sides, demonstrating with my wingspan the required distance between art and observer. On the other side of the statue, her hands tucked loosely into her pressed black pants, the woman nods.

I’ll tell you a trick, she offers, gesturing with a strong hand in the general direction of the piece. The circle of the spotlight falls about two arms-lengths around the art on each side. So if you’re looking from just outside of the spotlight, you’re good!  She nods again, then, suddenly, she glances around the wide studio space, occupied only by three larger-than-life statues depicting a boy at various ages and stages of development. We step away, moving slowly towards the information plaque on the wall, yards beyond the spotlight’s forbidden circle. Please stay two arms-lengths away! She repeats, this time to a man whose white hair has receded into a half moon around his scalp.

But we’ve barely turned away when she addresses us again. It’s the same boy, she says. He sculpted the same boy at three, at five or six, and then here, in this one, he’s 12. Unsure if we should turn back and fully engage with her, and careful of giving offense by leaving our odd, lopsided conversation, we hover for a moment between the statue and the wall. She tells us more about the statue; it’s clothing, the attitude and emotion the artist intended to convey. We nod, listen, learn from this unexpected museum guard art lesson.

As I listen, it occurs to me to wonder if the museum staff rotates throughout the building. I vaguely question my assumption that each post, each doorway-standing personnel, changed throughout the museum each day. Does she know this much about each piece here? The question forms in the back of my mind. And then, further, If not, what is it about this particular exhibit that so captivates her? 

Even though the afternoon has been spent in the time-suspended hush of the art-laden halls, I know that barely three minutes have passed since we inadvertently stepped inside the spotlight’s forbidden glow. Three minutes and we’re three people here, separated by a ten-foot statue of a 7th grader, and strangely- but not uncomfortably- disarmed by the guard who teaches, who speaks. Yet even as she speaks, monologuing her presentation with gentle intonation, she glances around the room, interrupting herself, almost apologetically, to tell others to step back, move away, don’t get too close.

And then, as suddenly as the interaction began, it ends. Something beyond this gallery, something or someone in the space beyond the doorway, has caught her attention, and she excuses herself, smiling almost regretfully, and steps out of the room.

The echo of her steps tap purposefully, but not harshly, out of the cavernous room, and we’re left there, reading a plaque of information we already know, and thinking about the way there are a million rules and a million reasons to stay two arms-lengths away, but every person here, every heart around, just wants to speak- and to be heard.


Makes Us Writers

Once a week, on Thursday morning. Between pledge and prayer, that morning tongue twister, and Bible, we have art. They canceled Art this week though. It’s because, we know, we have Spiritual Emphasis Week. Because schedules have been rearranged and teachers have their own kids in their own classes, and this week, we have no art.

I decide, on Tuesday night, that maybe we just might. Maybe we will have art. It’s only minutes after I’ve begun to wonder that I’ve become convinced: we are going to have art. And I will teach it.

Of course, I’ve wandered the hallowed halls of tens of art galleries in my life. From the Art Institute of Chicago to Paris’ Musee L’Orangerie; I’ve seen art. But my eye for excellence in brushstrokes and in hue is untrained, and I’ve no formal instruction in art. My drawings are rough, my characters are stick figures, my paintings- well, it’s been awhile since I painted anything, really.

But I can see beauty. In words and in phrases, in the little souls that fill the classroom, and in the One who made us all. I can see that, and these words here, these pages of things I’ve seen, things I remember, are a museum; not of what I’ve done, what I’ve said, but of wonder I’ve seen, and gifts He’s given. I don’t know art, per se, but I know beauty, and I’ve sunk deep into wonder, and those can be taught just as well as brush strokes, color choice.

So we set aside that Thursday morning hour, and when chapel ends, the calendar says ART and they are curious, intrigued. We look at the Little Dancer, talk about Degas and what he saw, what he captured, what might have moved him most. We look at paintings and real life models, and talk about the artist’s eye, the way it is him- or her- only who decides what to capture, what to communicate, what to emphasize. The artist sees with an eye, with a view, that none other share, and what comes from her-or his- brush, pen, hand, is as unique as the one they portray.

Then, an image on the screen before them, I give each student a paper, 8.5×11 inches of inviting white spread. They’re not going to copy, not going to follow the lines on the screen, communicating the exact details, exact image, exact feelings of the original artist- if even that were possible. Rather, they will show me. Show with your words, show with your pictures. Use your pen, your eyes, your unique gift to capture a detail- any detail- of this image.

They work, then. Heads bent over papers, some. Others leaning back in their seats, eyes roving over the screen, catching details like falling stars, hoarding them, treasuring them, savoring them. In the dim light, I wander amongst their desks, the white glow of the screen against my back. One or two, maybe more, shrug as I approach, their eyes wide with confusion, dulled with preemptive defeat.

I can’t draw, they tell me, looking up from blank pages, their pens clutched loosely in hands limp with uncertainty. Ah, I shrug definitively when they say this, neither can I. But I can use words- you can use words- anyone can use words. To tell me about what you see, what you want me to see.

Don’t draw, I tell those who shake their heads, shoulders slumped. Write. Write what you see. Write how you feel. Write what caught your heart, what broke your heart. Write the beauty that stopped your breath, and the mundane that kept you breathing. Use your words, child, and write it all.

And they do, a little. They’re learning. We’re all learning. But they are all- we are all- individuals who create, who see, who notice, who remember. And that makes us artists.

Makes us writers.

Makes us creations made in the image of God.

And that is our greatest trait.


Life Right Now {#58}


Three hours in Starbucks,
Working, typing, sipping painfully unsweetened tea,
All the while sneaking glances, longingly, at the museum across the street.
I left sooner than I had planned.
But walking those wide halls,
Stepping solemnly through exhibits,
Their high ceilings echoing with wonder,
Moving systematically through an enchanting, fascinating show of Magritte’s work;
I really believe that the Art Institute
Is the best kind of reward.


Life Right Now {#55}


It’s not the first time, of course,
that I tell you I love the Art Institute.
And it’s not the first time I tell you
I love these little sisters, either.
But I do and I do.


Cultural Bath



“I feel so clean,” she said as we walked out of the Art Institute of Chicago and back into the September sun; “I feel like I just took a bath. A cultural bath.”

And today, on a rainy day in March, the mother, the littles, and even Stevy and I enjoyed just that: a cultural bath.

~ Natalia

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