I don’t make it out to the playground as much as I used to, thanks to my office job. I don’t miss the dirt and sand that gets kicked into my shoes, but I do try to spend some time each week on our school yard so I won’t miss all of the cool and imaginative creations the kids come up with just using the available raw materials. For example, last week one of the teachers told me to check out what they’d done over near the 40th Street wall. It took me a day or so to finally go see it, and sure enough, it was impressive. Suspended from an acacia branch was a mobile made from sticks, acacia leaves, small pieces of wood, and rocks. There were actually two parts to the mobile, hanging precariously in mid-air. It was a creation that would have raised the eyebrows of even Alexander Calder, the famous mobile artist many of the children studied through our Art Masterpiece program. I don’t know what inspired this creation, and as with most playground projects it only lasted a day or two before turning into something else.
I can only imagine what went on in the minds of the artists who created such a beautiful metaphor for life. Maybe they were just trying out a random idea or seeing how many different objects they could balance before it all fell apart. I’ll never know their intention, but I do know a few things from what I witnessed hanging from that branch. It was art created by careful, patient hands. The tedious knots that held it all together with long, slender acacia leaves were the work of someone with vision, a future engineer, perhaps. I imagine there was an audience of supportive onlookers offering their advice and assistance as needed. Maybe a rock runner or stick gatherer in the crowd. It was the work of children who have time to think and imagine as they play, day after day, in a space that sustains their sense of freedom and creativity. It was a celebration of what, in my opinion, childhood is all about.
These days, in the aftermath of personal change that’s left me pondering how to live life with greater ease, I am grateful for small messages about balance. As I reflect on what to let go of and what I want to draw more closely to the core of my being, I remember the ephemeral piece of art dangling from a branch on the playground. For each of us, life is equally fleeting. We find our balance in the present moment, not knowing for sure how long our glory in the sun will last, or when it will suddenly be gone, carried away by the wind or someone’s small hands, transformed into a different expression of life.