Mar is a photographer who can paint and draw. The other day I was shown several photos Mar had taken. One of them was of the stump of a big old tree. Mar had arranged a tiny bouquet of dainty flowers in its center. The contrast between the strong, hard wood and the delicate colorful blossoms was quite striking. It reminded me of the work of Andy Goldsworthy, a photographer who uses twigs, leaves, stones, and ice to make designs and structures in natural environments. He photographs his creations and then leaves them behind to let the elements return them to their original place. He works for days creating his art, knowing that their only permanence will be in the images his camera takes of them.
Mar and I spent an hour or so looking at these images in great detail and I was awed by how much more an artist’s eye saw than I did. As we were doing this, I said that I have seen people of all ages engaged in this kind of creation: on the beach, playing in the snow, or just sitting in the woods. Mar’s raised eyebrows expressed amused doubt.
Later I went outside to eat my lunch at the picnic table because it was a glorious Spring day, well appreciated after the long cold winter. At the table, Jane and Amelia, who are five years old and are great friends, were playing with pine cones, dandelion flowers and a rock. And then for a minute they arranged all these items in row, in a lovely pattern, just like Goldsworthy does. In a flash, they gathered the items and went away. The beauty was ephemeral, to be enjoyed in the moment, then quickly gone.
Without my conversation with Mar, and without Goldsworthy’s book, I doubt that I would have understood what those two little girls had created.