Wow, all work has been handed in and I am about to embark upon the next leg of my journey. This will take me to Switzerland for at least 3 months while I work in apiculture and honey bee conservation. I cannot wait to start!
But this post is about something different: I want to remind every artist out there that no matter what your skill level, you have the potential to bring happiness and spread light.
I took myself off to a secluded beach one day to escape the throngs of tourists that had invaded my peaceful little Cornish town. On the beach I sat down to enjoy the precious rays of sunlight that dribbled through an almost endless blanket of cloud. Just behind me I could hear children bickering and tried to ignore them. They peaked my interest after a while because it seemed one was being treated differently by both parents and children. This single child was complaining that the other would not let her play with them. I sat up and looked round, trying not to make it obvious that I was now paying attention. The one singled out was a young girl, now sitting on the other side of her parents from the two boys playing with a small shovel. She had been told to leave the others alone and watched them while she picked at the sand halfheartedly with the shovel. The parents seemed not to mind her exclusion, and went about reading their magazines.
After a while the little girl developed a defiant look, scooped up a bit of sand and chucked it onto her mother's foot. She was promptly yelled at and told to 'go away'...by her mother.
What happened next annoyed me to my limit, when after a while one of the young boys strolled over to her. "I need this" he stated bluntly and proceeded to rip the shovel from her hands.
Both parents watched this happen with little change in their facial expressions. She looked at them for help, I could see the outrage in her face. Anger at injustice but more so at the indifference. That struck a chord with me.
I could have stood up and spoke my mind, berated the parents for their complete incompetence in distributing fairness at a time in their offspring's lives when they depend on it for developing the view in which they anticipate the world.
But instead, I smoothed the sand at my feet and started to dig.
I dug and dug, churning up the cool wet sand and piling it handful by handful onto the smooth, dry surface. Then I began to shape.
This (as I had hoped) peaked the interest of the young girl. After a head had formed from the oblong mass I was tending I looked up.
She asked me what I was building and I looked down again. "I think its a horse. Would you like to help me?"
I watched her smile and nod, which made me smile too. As I worked she gathered stones and seaweed to decorate it with, still not confident enough in her abilities to help me manipulate the sand. We added things and changed the design, the horse became a unicorn and grew in detail and beauty.
Our efforts drew the attention of the parents, who sat and watched us transform beach garbage into a magnificent sculpture. The humble horse became a proud unicorn with a white, stone horn and a sparkling, limpet shell eye. The mane was deep black as the tangled seaweed the little girl had chosen coursed down its back, ending in a magnificent, flowing tail.
The boys who had shunned her originally came over. One put the sculpture down, making fun of the decorations and teasing the girl. But each time he said something I would immediately offer her a new suggestion for her unicorn, completely ignoring the taunts. The other boy complimented it, amazed by what had been created in such a short amount of time. To these comments I responded happily, and so did the girl.
She had the courage now to shape the sand on her own, gently pushing it into new forms and tweaking old lines.
At one final point the first boy who had tried to belittle our efforts put his foot carefully over the sculpture's head, in one last attempt to secure his own confidence. A yell surprised us all as the mother sat forward abruptly: "Don't you DARE step on that unicorn!" she barked. The boy retreated meekly, allowing us to finish our work.
At the end both parents marveled at the sculpture, praising the young girl and complimenting her efforts. They took pictures of her and the unicorn and I caught a smile on her face that I could say I helped put there.
So just remember, our gifts are for sharing, and indeed I believe artistic talents really only have meaning if they can be shared. But also remember that the gift is powerful, and you can bring light, hope and life into a place where perhaps there wasn't any before.