In Wonder Together

A couple of days ago I had an art open house. My husband and I hung paintings, along with the stories behind them, all over the walls of our house, and we turned my art studio into a concert room for my brother, who came from Asheville, North Carolina to fill our house with his wonderful music. A dear friend loaned me all these tiny fairy lights that I strung up EVERYWHERE and it truly felt magical to me. To see all these people who I love walking around my home being stirred by imagination—it reminded me of something from long ago.

Moss grew everywhere so my memories are forever in brilliant shades of green.

When I was growing up I played outside all the time in the woods behind our house. A creek meandered through the forest and behind it rose a steep, rocky mountain. Moss grew everywhere so my memories are forever in brilliant shades of green. This was the backdrop of a hundred stories—my world of make-believe that I came back to again and again. One large mossy rock a little ways down the creek was an evil queen's throne. Hours of imaginative play revolved around the queen, the diamond mines, and two sisters—runaways. One of the sisters was me, the other was whichever friend happened to be at my house at the time. My friends entered straight into my stories and added their own strands, making the whole thing that much richer, that much more fun. 

I realized the other night, that this is what I love the most—inviting people I love into my stories and watching them enter in and make it richer than I could have made it on my own. This is why I love to create books and paintings. Every book and painting that goes out into the world is a mingling of my stories with other people's stories. And I find myself a child all over again as we walk in wonder together. 

~ Amy

The Wondrous Nonsense of Childhood

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Early in the summer, when we were out on a walk, my daughter Esther said, "Look at that worm." "Yuck!" I responded.  "I've never thought they were yucky," said Esther. I began to tell her that I'd always thought so when I remembered how I felt as a young child. When I would find a dried up worm on the pavement I was determined to revive it. So I would create a couch out of cotton balls and tape and I would prop the stiff, lifeless worm on the couch. Then I would fill a bottle top with water and dip what I believed to be the worm's mouth (?) into the water, and I would pray for the worm to feel better. Thankfully my attention span was short enough that I never noticed the zero percent revival rate of my patients. 

Thinking about the lifeless worms I tried to heal as a child reminded me of the Roly Poly trees I planted. I loved Roly Polys (for those who aren't familiar with these, they are cute little bugs also known as Pill Bugs). I loved the way they crawled along on my hand and if I touched them much, they would roll up in a perfect little ball. Sadly, sometimes I was impatient, wanting them to unroll and crawl again, which lead to a few accidental Roly Poly casualties and a lot of tears from me. I comforted myself with the notion that if I planted the dead bugs, Roly Poly Trees would grow up and there would be lots of Roly Polys. I was always careful to mark the spot where I'd planted them, but later I still couldn't remember where they were and what I'd marked them with. 

And then there were all the salads I made for the squirrels. I would gather everything from the yard that looked squirrel-worthy: nuts, mushrooms, tiny blue flowers (for color) and all sorts of twigs and leaves. I can still see them in my mind— colorful, textured circles of nature-art. I bet the squirrels really did like them. 

I made leaf sailboats too. Where I grew up, Magnolia leaves worked the best. And I'd use a twig and a flimsy leaf or petal as the sail. Flower crowns, pillow forts, wishing stars… Don't you love the wondrous nonsense of childhood?!

 

The Day I Should Have Stayed Home (a retrospective tale of woe, part III)

Only a really silly person would venture out into community two days in a row when they are clearly in a super gloomy mental fog. I mean, if I'd personally found the end of the rainbow and a leprechaun had given me a pot of gold, I still might have been like, "Yeah, but I just feel kind of sad…" so I had no business leaving home that day. And especially when there wasn't even a rainbow or a leprechaun involved. 

In fact, my husband said to me, "Are you sure you should go? Why don't you just stay home?" And I said, "I should go. And besides, I don't think I could feel worse." Read back through that sentence and think about it. It's a terrible argument. I don't think I could feel worse? These are clearly the words of a person who needs to go for a walk by them-self and pray, and stare at trees, and listen to birds, and maybe call an oldest and dearest friend while drinking coffee. This is not a person who needs to go sit down with writing agents and receive critiques. No. NOT TODAY!!! But that's what I did. 

The first agent I sat down with was helpful and pleasant. But remember how I said in part II of my retrospective tale of woe, that when some people walk into a beautiful garden they only see the spiders and slugs? And remember how I said that I was in that terrible frame of mind? Well, that's why I came away thinking not about the first agent and how helpful and pleasant she was. No— instead I thought almost exclusively about what the second agent said to me that day. 

The second agent… hated me. You think I'm exaggerating. I am not. I very rarely believe someone hates me. But I'm telling you I believe she did. She didn't just hate my stories (though she very clearly hated them). She hated me because I wrote them. Okay, okay— I can't really claim a person hates me unless I can see into their mind, but I can confidently tell you that the word "HOSTILE" floated through my mind in big bold letters as she spoke to me. You may recall an example I gave in part II of my retrospective tale of woe— the way that some people are determined to assume the very worst possible meaning behind whatever is said to them. You might be sitting with them at the movies and say, "this should be interesting," and they will say, "What's that supposed to mean?" At which point your mind will start spinning as you wonder how your simple statement could have possibly meant anything other than…"THIS SHOULD BE INTERESTING." These are the people who, when you say, "I like your new haircut," they respond with, "So you thought I looked bad before?" 

This agent saw meanings behind my stories that I would never intend or imagine... since I'm not an Orc or an evil sorceress, or an oversized, three-headed rabid dog. I'm just a person who likes to write and paint, hoping to encourage others. But the hostile agent was clearly not encouraged…

Not every day is full of cotton candy and happiness, and if it were, we would all have stomach aches. But the truth is that if my head had been in the right place—if I had been focused on the way God loves me and the way he loves other people—including the hostile agent who (I believe) hated my books and myself—then I probably would not have been so thoroughly knocked down by this woman's opinions. Next time I'll stay home and go for a walk.