A Mountain of Choices

I came home from work one day to find I had no kitchen table.

In its place loomed a minor mountain range of paper and glitter glue and washable paint, covering every inch of the wooden surface and possibly a few nearby air molecules to boot. I smiled and shook my head, reading the signs as surely as a billboard.

Missy the Artist had been at work again.

Regular readers of this column will remember our developmentally disabled ward Missy, whose creative impulse can seem somewhat akin to placing pepperoni on a takeout pizza: namely, that if some is good, more is better, placed with as much vigor and energy as possible. But her approach to, say, collage or painting, is actually a bit more subtle than that.

First comes Step One: The Early Deliberation. At this stage, Missy has surveyed the canvas – er, pardon, the sheet of paper – and decided exactly where each element needs to go. If assistance is needed, she will then indicate this sport to my wife Heather with great determination, so that glue may be placed at the proper location, followed by the proper piece of cut-up magazine. Failure to match this precision will be met with a disgusted “Noooo, here!”

“Here?”

“Nooooo! HERE!”

This continues through the first couple of dozen gallery creations. Then, at Missy’s discretion, an unseen line will be crossed and we will enter Step Two: What The Hell.

At this point, precision and planning take a back seat to enthusiasm. The object becomes to create as much art as possible, as though it were going to be made illegal in the next 15 minutes. It’s entirely possible that a stray hand on the table may find itself painted blue and purple, wrapped in glitter tape, and adorned with cutouts from Glamour magazine.

“Lookit! Look!”

The funny thing is, the method seems familiar.

It’s the approach of a sports team as the season gets late, when carefully-applied draft schemes and lineup theories give way to simply surviving the final few games.

It’s the approach of a cast and director when trouble arises on Opening Night, and a solution has to be improvised in real time.

And it’s the approach of so many of us with our Issues of the Moment, whether personal or political. The world is busy, life keeps happening, and at some point, the ideal solution gives way to the pragmatism of getting something done, even if it’s not perfect.

And that’s OK.

There’s an old saying that “the perfect is the enemy of the good” – in other words, that insisting on the absolutely perfect can keep you from seeing something that’s perfect enough. Call it paralysis by analysis, or writer’s block, or gridlock, the end result is the same: frustration that only really lifts when we can take a breath and simply try something. Because not only is “something” better than nothing, it’s often pretty good on its own terms.

When I perform art triage on Mount Missy, sure, some items are too chaotic and tangled to be displayed or stored. But an awful lot survives. Some of it even thrives on a wall or a refrigerator door. And whether its origin was deliberate or frantic, all of it is there to be considered – and some of it, from every stage of creation, is pretty darned fun.

So go ahead. Push on. Make the choice that works. Let the mountain range rise.

And when you’re done, start soaking up some paper towels to clean the table.

Seriously. That glitter glue is stubborn stuff.

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