Nourish the Seeds
By Anna Hewitt
My one year old son bangs enthusiastically on his xylophone and sorts measuring cups with fascination. He calls out to wild rabbits crouched in the grass and picks up pine cones and leaves. With arms reaching, fingers grasping, mouth open to every taste, he explores the intricacies of the world that I usually take for granted. I marvel at his discoveries and share in his excitement. I wonder how he will someday bring his own imagination to life and where his passions will eventually take him.
As a new parent, I think a lot about the things I hope to give him. Courage, a good work ethic, a loving community, the ability to be truthful and caring. I have no idea how to begin or if he will even embrace the gifts I try to give him as the years go on. I worry about whether he will have the abilities and skills to survive and thrive in this world. It may be that finding his own creativity will make him a more critical thinker, give him an entrepreneurial spirit, or that he’ll never be bored. But I want to share my enthusiasm for getting my hands dirty and making things with him simply because it brings me joy. Because creating, no matter how small, is the thing that helps me understand and feel connected to the world. I hope, someday, he will know what this is like. Mostly, I hope to give him the time, space, and freedom to use his own hands to reach toward his dreams and ideas.
As a child I had a lot of time to roam. I wasn’t wild or abandoned but I had all the room I needed to explore the corners of my imagination. I daydreamed, read voraciously, and made anything and everything that I could. I wrote, illustrated, and printed newspapers and plans for my dream farm. I collected eggs from our chickens, gathered wildflowers into bouquets and set up a farm stand by the side of the road in front of our house. My sister and I transformed rooms of the house into a library, a store, a school. With friends, we rehearsed, made costumes, and staged a circus; the next year a carnival. We packed up food and a change of clothes and spent the night in the playhouse in the woods. For a few summers we hosted a one-night restaurant for our parents and their friends. We typed out a menu, bought groceries, and cooked all day. I made library cards to stick in the backs of my books, turned a globe into a fortune teller’s crystal ball, and saved money from lemonade stands. In those days, making came as easily as getting up on a summer morning. If I could imagine it, I would find some way to bring it to life.
Most summers, I planted seeds and harvested from the garden and explored the stream that ran through our property. I used sticks and rocks to dam the flowing water into chilly wading pools and dug clay from the banks to shape into tiny pots. There was an autumn when the woods became my home. In a grove of pine trees only shouting distance from my friends’ house I scampered all over the soft carpet of rusty fallen needles. I climbed up into the embrace of a tree, snapping off dead branches, hands sticky with pitch. Working away, with no particular goal, I came to know the sway of limbs and the scrape of bark like I knew the quilt that covered my bed. My senses flooded with textures, smells, and sounds that I can remember to this day. Immersed in nature, I learned that making was a way to begin to know world around me and to be a part of the energy of creation.
This creative freedom taught me to have big dreams, but that didn’t mean that they always came true. I remember spending an afternoon in the shade of a cherry tree puzzling with a hammer, saw, and wood. I nailed a square of boards together to make the flat top of a table. When I picked up a hammer and nail to attach a leg to each corner, I quickly discovered the limits of my basic carpentry skills. By attempting to make the things I imagined, I learned again and again that the idea or vision in my head rarely corresponds to what I can make with my hands. As a child this never deterred me and as an adult I have come to really appreciate the way ideas evolve in the process of making them. With trial and error as my teachers, I have become comfortable working without an exact recipe or set of instructions. I’ve known plenty of frustration and failure, but I never lose the urge to try and make.
Getting up in the morning is harder than it was when I was young and, now, it is too easy to get caught up in practical grown up matters. Still, I know that my creative childhood planted and nourished the seeds that grew into the maker I am today. Whether writing, sewing or simply making dinner, I still feel compelled to create every day. I continue to work to bring my ideas and dreams into reality. Instead of a handwritten newspaper, I publish a blog. Since those early years of picking wild raspberries and mint from the garden to drop into cups of lemonade, I have spent countless hours in the kitchen. Long after closing my farm stand, I opened an online shop. I am doing what I love even if it doesn’t often result in tangible measures of success. Creating is still a process of trial and error, feeling and learning, and doing my best with the knowledge and resources I have. While it doesn’t bring me much money or fame, I will always try to find satisfaction in my constant desire to create and my fearless approach to making.
On a warm day in July, we settle outside in the shade with containers of cool water, spoons and cups between us. I pour water in a long stream down into the bucket below. He smiles, blinking with surprise as drops of water land on his cheeks. Then he is off. Mixing, stirring, splashing, pouring, nearly oblivious to my presence. I sit and watch as his creative spark flickers and grows. I know that this is only the beginning.
Image credit: dfoster on Flickr