Awhile back, I posted about the treasures and gifts that students give to me when I am in residence in schools. I am completely delighted when a young person makes me something, even the smallest note or drawing, and I keep every one. I have several file folders in my cabinet but I also have them on my desk, tucked into my journal, framed on my wall.
Often with student art, I am able to decode the image and respond appropriately with a compliment or a question. Every so often, I am stumped. In winter 2010, I was in residence in a small rural town in southern New York, working with 6th graders. One boy, a very outgoing kid and very invested in the poetry projects we were investigating, came into class the last day with an paper mache art project in hand and a bit of a scowl. I offered my compliment on his sculpture and he grumbled that he did not like it. I asked “Why?! It is a great cat.” Oh my…wrong! He declared, “See?! It’s not a cat; it’s supposed to be a wolf.”
Darn…I messed up by not letting him tell me first. I never did manage to master paper mache and I have never successfully created a realistic sculpture in any art project I have ever attempted so I fully empathized with his disappointment. But I complimented the work anyway. In turn, he asked me if I wanted to keep it. I said I would be delighted, no matter what manner of animal it was.
I got the piece home and adjusted to life with my virtual pet. My own cat had just died so I was somewhat comforted with this little being. And the pseudo cat became my project for a few weeks. I moved him around the house, as did my friend Brian, and we took pictures of the still cat in live cat poses. First, the kitchen:
Soon the cat moved to the living room to check the weather report on television:
He proved to be a scamp and an acrobat as the holiday decorations were being put away:
My virtual pet finally settled into a semi-permanent perch on my dictionary in the dining room. Humorous as it is that I keep a dictionary on a lectern in my house, why not?! I am poet with a penchant for word games. I find it both appropriate and practical.
As for the cat, his original owner starts 8th grade this week and is likely a foot taller than the last time I saw him. The cat, well, he serves great purpose as he minds my words and hopefully wards off the wolf at the door.
Thanks again for following my blog. I appreciate your consideration of my words and thoughts.