Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Come and see!

Last weekend was Lilac Sunday in Boston. This week we could well have our own festival here! For the first time in several years, the lilacs didn't get hammered by a late hard frost, and the neighborhood is lavender and fragrant. Brenda brought over a big cluster from one of her shrubs on Monday, and their purple smell fills my apartment. "Come and see!" she said. And I think later this morning I shall.

It's a significant phrase, "come and see," and last week in Boston I had a striking reminder of why.

Denis and I were drawing at Drumlin Farm, a Mass Audubon property. As the name suggests, the Farm has fields and barns and chickens and goats and pigs. A garden. A greenhouse. Tractors. And hordes of small children and their parents.
On that day, the visiting population was mostly pre-schoolers and their mums. (And two field artists.)

It's an interesting exercise, drawing in a public place. I've often found that I am treated as a manikin or other exhibit. I've had clueless teachers plant their entire classes between me and my subject so their students can "see what the lady is doing," without asking if I'd mind or considering that they are now completely obscuring my view. Oblivious kids have just run me over... sending paper and pencils flying in all directions. Adults talk about me or my drawing in loud voices, or continue their sometimes very private conversations as if I weren't able to hear them.

But I can and do hear them. And last week my ears caught two short sentences... identical in all words save one, but miles apart in spirit:

"Johnny, come and see," and, "Johnny, go and see."

One an invitation. The other a dismissal.

The "come and see" mums were on their knees with their kids, exclaiming over bugs and the softness of the goats' ears. They played in the dirt. They asked as many questions as their kids, and engaged in delighted conversation. They all saw the farm together.

The "go and see" mums talked to each other. About designer dresses and sales on shoes and the shortcomings of husbands and neighbors. Their kids broke twigs off bushes and ran across garden seedlings.

I realize there are good days and bad days with kids and mums and neighbors and goats and life. But given a choice between a "go and see" world and a "come and see" world of invitation, participation, and discovery... well.... it's no real decision, is it?

I'm going to Brenda's to visit her lilacs now. You're welcome to come along any time.

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