If life had treated Missy differently, she would have been a first-rate chainsaw ice artist.
Pure speculation, of course. In the real world, Missy’s developmental disabilities and cerebral palsy don’t make her the best match for outsized power tools. (A fact that my wife Heather and I are grateful for during occasional temper tantrums, I might add.) Nonetheless, the potential is clear.
To start with, Missy likes to play it loud. She doesn’t like being surprised by noise, mind you, but if she’s got her hand on the volume … well, as the song goes, it’s time to “Take it to the Limit One More Time.”
Second, Missy does love to create. With crayons and markers. With paint. And most especially these days with collage, where she’ll draft Heather into cutting out ladies from magazines, and then grab a glue stick and some construction paper and POUND POUND POUND everything into place.
Third, and most important, Missy doesn’t see her art as forever.
Oh, Heather and I have saved a lot of it and even hung some of it up; that’s what good guardians do, and there’s a lot of good memories bound up in every piece. But it’s not unusual to see Missy taking one of her works apart again. She’ll start removing stickers, ripping off foamies, or – especially after she’s been working for a while – simply jamming together ladies in a glued-up indistinguishable pile that owes more to stress release than creative impulse.
At the end of a typical art blizzard, the kitchen table will have vanished beneath an onslaught of construction paper, glue, and cut-out photographs. Within which may be three or four actual art pieces.
And that’s OK.
In fact, it’s wonderful.
Because at the end of the day, art isn’t about having something for the ages or even for the scrapbook. It’s about the joy it brings you in the moment, however temporary and fragile that moment may be.
We forget that. Easily.
Oh, a lot of us used to know it. Ask a little kid to draw, or dance, or pretend to be something, and they’ll typically tear into it with gusto. Ask a co-worker to do it, and what are you likely to hear nine times out of 10?
“Oh, I can’t draw.”
“You don’t want to see me dance.”
“Trust me, I’m no actor.”
We know what expertise looks like, or think we do, thanks to Hollywood and the internet. And so, if we’re not good at something right away, a lot of us stop. Why bother?
That’s sad. Partly because – unless you’re a born genius like Mozart – you have to pass through a lot of “not-good” and “less-good” to reach the level of “good.” But even that overlooks a more important fact: “good” isn’t the object.
My piano playing will never be mistaken for Scott Joplin or Elton John. But it gives me pleasure and it even entertains my friends from time to time. That’s enough.
I know people who create pictures that will never see a museum. Or write poetry that will never climb the bestseller list. It won’t make them immortal. But it does make them happy. It brings out a necessary piece of them.
And if no one else ever sees it, they’ve still had that moment.
Seeing those moments, living them, appreciating them – that is a true art. No matter how the moment is spent.
And if you happen to spend those moments with a chainsaw, know that Missy is with you in spirit. And with an awful lot of glue sticks.