One of my earliest creative memories is of trying to amuse myself with the tools at hand while attending a day camp in a wooded area near my home. I was ferried off to this camp on a regular basis one summer to the point where I think it felt like my first job. Most likely it was only a week or two, but I took my appearance there every day very seriously. I even got up one rainy Saturday and wandered sleepily downstairs in my jeans and t-shirt and rainboots, ready for a day of damp outdoor activities, to find my parents and brother eating breakfast in the kitchen and telling me I had the day wrong and I didn’t have to go.
A little creek wandered through the trees and the prickly bushes and the tall grass at the camp. Who wouldn’t have been drawn to the water to splash and play and watch rivulets form between the mud on the bank and the shallows? I discovered I could mold things with the dirt, in much the same way I could with the sticks of clay at school (still love that red clay smell). I happily settled in to create something with my bare hands by mixing the rich Kansas soil with some murky water. “What are you making?” “I’m making a Jayhawk!” The Jayhawk, a fictitious red and blue bird with a yellow beak, is the mascot of the University of Kansas. If you were born in Lawrence, Kansas, as I was, Jayhawks were a part of your life from day one. I knew from memory what one looked like. My Jayhawk rose from the ground a solid dark brown mass with a somewhat unsettled proboscis.
I never got to finish my woodland golem. “Sunny!”, I heard someone cry. (Yes, my nickname at camp was “Sunny”. ) “You have to come see this!” I reluctantly left my growing lump of wet mud and ran off to see what on earth could be more important than my project at hand. “It’s a cow killer, a cow killer!” Apparently this is a type of insect which I had not heard of before and haven’t since, for that matter. Much high-pitched screaming by five-year-old girls ensued and after much running around to escape the dreaded scourge of bovine mammals, it was time to go home.
I couldn’t wait to get to camp the next day to finish my creation. It had rained that night, and when I rushed to the creek, all signs of my muddy sculpture had been washed away. I suppose if this was today and I rushed away from the computer to save my husband from a large insect, I would have hit “save” first and happily returned to Adobe Illustrator after throwing pillows at whatever was attacking Joseph.
My childhood attempt at sculpture may have been my first lesson in the impermanence of art installations (you can’t hit “save” in the woods), and also in the ability of creating art to keep one focused on one thing for a period of time. It was sheer delight creating something out of nothing and if I ever go somewhere without my sketchbook or my camera, I know I can still have fun making art with the help of Mother Nature’s Art Supply Emporium.