May 24, 2007
Last weekend, when we took a walk at the art park, a 104-acre piece of land with art installations set along nature trails, With-a-Why seemed fascinated by the art. "I wanted to look at everything," he told me that night when I was putting him to bed, "but everyone else just wanted to run around." So yesterday, I asked if he wanted to skip school for the day, and we drove to the art park early, just the two of us.
Because he's one of four kids and a houseful of extras, I don't get much time alone with With-a-Why, except for an hour or so in the evening when I read to him before bed. He's a shy, serious child who will focus intently on the things that interest him — music, books, art. He's usually the quietest child in any group. On car trips with the whole family, he is so quiet that I will often turn to see if he's even in the car.
But alone with me, With-a-Why chatters non-stop, a constant stream of questions, most of which he answers himself. "Do you know when the saxophone was invented? Did you know that the guy who wrote Alice in Wonderland was on drugs? Do you want to hear me do the Xiaolin Showdown theme song?" The flow of interesting tidbits is interrupted only by his musical numbers; he performs the music by singing nonsense syllables, but clearly he pictures it as piano music. "Okay, want to hear me do it with both hands now?"
When we arrived at the art park, we were the only car in the visitors' parking lot. We had the place to ourselves. Everyone else in the whole world was at school or work, or still sleeping in bed.
It was a sunny day, cool but getting warm rapidly, so we first followed the mown trail that ran through farm fields, climbing down a big hill to look at a giant clay sculpture shaped like an ear. We climbed around on that sculpture for a while, with With-a-Why doing a suburb imitation of Spider Man, and then continued downhill to a black steel structure that seemed more like a physics experiment than a piece of art. "Look, this whole thing moves when I touch it," With-a-Why said. He stood underneath a long beam and pushed on it with his hands. The beam seemed almost to float. We puzzled over this, figuring out how it could be constructed, as we followed the trail to the next piece.
When it was time to retreat to the shade, we hiked the trails that went through the woods, with me admiring the wildflowers and With-a-Why taking time to look at each piece of artwork. He loved climbing on and over and through the works of art, rubbing his hands against different textures, peering through holes and slats. We took a break to eat some oranges inside a strange playhouse type structure, and then continued on until we had seen everything.
We stopped for lunch in the little town near the art park and drove home, getting back well before the school bus. "Where have you been?" asked my daughter, pretending to be surprised, looking at With-a-Why as we came through the door. "Skipping school?"
"Yep," he nodded smugly. Then he went over to the piano to begin playing – loud, fast, happy music.
This piece was called "Meditation Space."
Posted by jo(e)