Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Without Looking Back

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how the children gathered around, then ultimately took over, as I made a piece of junkyard playground land art.

Last week I made another one. Again, a dozen or more kids gathered around to watch me as I tried to balance a twig over a plastic baby's back or wrap a bit of twine around a wine cork. Some of them treated it like a sort of suspenseful show, holding their breath in anticipation as I placed each "precarious" piece. For one guy in particular the pressure was so much that he broke down in tears, saying, "I don't want it to fall."

Most of the kids, however, like typically happens when I do this, wanted to have a hand in it. I had not instructed the children to not touch the piece, but instead used words like "fragile" and "delicate" to describe it, which was enough. Instead of putting their hands directly on it, they participated by bringing me new materials -- rocks, sticks, broken toys, florist marbles -- they thought I might like to add.

Normally, when I do this, I try to gradually extricate myself, turning it slowly over to the kids, but in this case I got called away. Within minutes, J informed me that "somebody" wrecked it to which I replied, "That's okay."

But it wasn't okay with J. "I didn't want them to wreck it."

I answered, honestly, "I didn't really want them to wreck it either. I wanted them to play with it, but it wasn't mine any more when I walked away."

He scowled for a moment, "I wanted to play with it too."

"Looks like you're feeling frustrated about that."

"And angry." He made a show of his anger, exaggerating his features, clenching his fists, then he let it go with a smile.

When I found J again, he had set up shop not far from where I had previously made my thing, making one of his own. The difference was that he didn't have the audience. He was fully absorbed in creating this thing for it's own sake and when he was done with it, he stood back, admired it, then left it to be wrecked without looking back, letting it go as lightly as he had his frustration and anger.

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