Amie and the gluestick (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

(Concentration)

Amie has taken a fancy to the glue. She has “glued” before: we put glue all over a sheet of paper and she stuck bits of paper and other things to it. But this time she wanted to glue.

This meant first tearing up a page out of a magazine. We were both of us, I think, rather surprised that it was the first time she had torn anything (on purpose), and that tearing paper doesn’t come naturally (but then, what does?).

So we had fun getting the hang of tearing first, and then Amie set to gluing. In the end I was the only one sticking the pieces onto the tree (in case you are marvelling over the even distribution of pieces). But Amie would have gone on putting the glue on for hours if I hadn’t pointed out our art work was finished.

So we’re crafting now, she and I together! It’s so much fun and I am beginning to (re)acquaint myself with the many craft-with-kids blogs out there.

Amie and the gluestick, result (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

(The result)

Mama and Amie picking flowers (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Thanks to Moonmeadow Farm, this is Wendell Berry’s poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from his book The Country of Marriage (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973). I hope it’s ok to reproduce it here… 

Oh but be fearless!

 So:

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry (my hero)

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

                 ~

There is so much in this poem, I won’t even try to write about it, as yet. I’ve only just discovered it, let me read a couple of hundred times first, soak it up… rest my head in its lap.

Stella by Mama (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Watching this video of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on education and creativity at TED – hilarious, insightful, engaging and (ringing) so true – and reacquainting myself with Danny Gregory’s website and books on drawing, I realized there was a gap in my approach to art and creativity with Amie.

When she draws or paints and asks me to draw something too, I always respectfully decline for several reasons. I don’t want to influence her lines with my perception of things, I don’t want to impose my sense of realism on her, and in the end I like to have a drawing that is wholly hers.

But then how will she see a drawing being made?

Ah!

So I’ve instated another book: the story/drawing/scrap book. It is a sturdy receptacle of stories told and pictures drawn by Amie, spontaneously or when asked. And every other day, I sit down, right there next to her or nearby (“what’re you doin’ Mama?”) and draw something in it.

I copy something from her favorite picture book of the moment, or I draw an object in the room or something imaginary. When she asks, I explain to her what I’m drawing, and let her watch me make lines and add color. If she wants to contribute to the drawing, she is welcome to.

This is a typical page: a note of what she said that day about the names Stella and Elisabeth, and then my copy of Marie-Louise Gay’s Stella. Amie draw some of Stella’s hair.

Stella by Mama and Amie (hair) (Tombow felt pens):
Stella by Mama (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Amie was so inspired, she wanted to draw Stella too, “on my own page by myself”.
Stella by Amie (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

How neat to have those two interpretations of Stella next to one another!

Here’s the page we did today:

Drawing book Pooh and Piglet (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Can you see how it is a collective effort? She chose the images I should copy, did some of the coloring in, and in the frame in the bottom right corner drew her own Pooh Eating Honey.

I interfere in only two ways: (1) I stop her from blotting everything out with black and (2) I ask her to not push my arm, pen or the book while I’m drawing.

Cover of Home Ground, ed. Barry Lopez (c) painting by Eric Soll, Trinity University Press

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A while ago I was given a review copy of Home Ground, Language for an American Landscape. Barry Lopez, the editor, set 45 writers to writing over 850 new definitions for the terms Americans use to describe their land.

What a book! It has revived my love-affair – lately somewhat neglected -with America and American nature writers, from Rick Bass to NathanielHawthorne, from Mary Oliver to Walt Whitman, from Wendell Berry to Bill McKibben to, of course, Henry David Thoreau.

I wrote a review for Suite1o1.com that explains why I think the book is so succesful and necessary.

Amie as Spider on Halloween 2007 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Amie had a blast as a spider yelling “trick or treat” and “boo!”. She insisted that the day was called “Halloween Party”, not plain “Halloween”.

I managed to keep her exposure to candy to a minimum, and she still thinks it means just chocolate. Someone offered her a lollipop and she looked at it with amazement – she had never seen one before, and probably even its unnatural neon-ish color came as a shock. I succeeded in wisking it away as “never mind, something for older kids”.

For those of you who want to learn more about Halloween, over a year ago I wrote a whole series of articles on Suite101.com about its origins, its place amongst the Fall Festivals of Death, the European take on Halloween and European alternatives. It was a fun topic to research.