Another Opportunity for Small

I began holding “Writing Workshops” with my granddaughters as soon as the Shelter-In-Place orders hit, and have continued this summer, though modified and less frequently. Last Wednesday, for example, we collaborated on writing a “graphic story” on the sidewalk in front of their house, each one of us successively adding a sentence to the plot, as well as drawing a chalk illustration for our sentences. The plot, as far as we got, went something like this: Two sisters were stuck inside the house. They didn’t like being stuck inside. But it was raining so they couldn’t go outside. They were bored. They had nothing they wanted to do inside the house. They were tired of all their puzzles and games.

In addition to the illustrations under each sentence, we created a border for every sidewalk square, framing each segment of the story and its illustration in colorful configurations of lines and curves. We had a lot of fun sitting on the warm concrete, thick pieces of pastel chalk in our hands, collaborating on the plot and the illustrations, the sun shining down on us, neighbors walking their dog, clearing a swath around us and smiling as they passed.

After about 45 minutes, the girls had had enough of sitting mostly still and concentrating, so I decided to shift activities and teach them something about small. I selected one of the flowering plants in their garden for us to admire. Once we had all discussed what made that particular plant beautiful, each of us picked a flower from that plant. “Look at that flower for a minute and notice one small detail you find lovely,” I told them.

“It looks like lace around the edges,” seven-year-old Poppy announced.

“I see a slightly darker blue line down the middle of each petal,” eight-and-a-half-year-old Amelie offered.

“Look at the tiny bulge where the stem begins,” Poppy offered.

“The back side of the petal is lighter than the front,” Amelie observed.

“You know,” Poppy exclaimed, “I thought the plant was beautiful, but each tiny flower is even more beautiful than the whole plant.”

“Yes, and there’s lots to discover about each tiny flower!” Amelie added.

Not only was this a lovely lesson in small, it was also an opportunity to bone up on my botany. I googled “Anatomy of a Flower” on my phone, and the three of us were soon comparing the pistils, antlers, sepals and filaments on the rose, fuschia, dogwood and salvia blossoms in the garden.

As we stood several feet apart, masks covering our mouths and noses, outstretched hands cradling petals and whole blooms, I realized that this moment of discovering nature’s infinite beauty had been brought to me—to the three of us–by Covid 19.

Sidewalk Art

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