I suppose we all do something like this right about now: hanging big heart shapes on the easel, then setting out cups of pink, purple and white tempera with a few brushes.
I always tell myself it's a vehicle for talking about love as the children paint, but it doesn't ever happen because they're just too darn prolific, producing heart after heart, each a shade all its own, that there's really no time for the parent-teacher at that station to do much beyond remove the wet ones and hang fresh white ones.
Though it hardly matters in the end as it's mostly about mixing colors on a heart shaped paper, swirling it all together into shades of lavender and pink, either standing alone . . .
. . . or side-by-side with all four fists full of brushes.
I ask myself why it must be heart-shaped paper, because it's not like the easels will stand unloved without a special shape. Why not another rectangle from which an adult can later cut a Valentine? If we're not talking about love, then it's really just an easel-based production process, but then we see things like this . . .
. . . an interim stage in the process that lets us know the shape is guiding our brushstrokes, at least some of the time, teaching about arcs and curves, and that dove-tail bit at the bottom. Although in the end, most of them just keep right on painting until their paper is saturated through its entire length and depth, tempting the adults to remove it with a damp sponge. But, of course, we honor their work by trying to save it even if it won't survive being clipped up with a clothespin and even drying it flat presents doubts about whether or not it'll ever come off the rack in one piece.
And if the truth be told about us at Woodland Park, after two days and 42 children taking a whack at painting hearts, we're all out of spaces to leave them to dry. By the end of the second day, there's that question about each one, sometimes answered by going directly to the recycling box that sits adjacent to the easels for that very reason. We do try our best to honor the work, but when it comes off the easel in shreds there's no other choice.
We didn't get to talk much about love, at least while the painting was taking place.
Even so, even if all those paper hearts are just scooped up and thrown away wholesale, there is love there anyway, birthed from all those little hands and bodies and hearts standing at their easels, living fully in the moment of shade, shape and color.
As far as I can tell, that's where love comes from. Sorry all you poets, but your words having nothing to do with love. You can only talk around it, or perhaps guide people to it like the arcs and dovetails of a heart shaped paper, but love, like happiness, can only be understood by doing it.
Think about it too much and it's gone. Words about love are only necessary when it isn't there.