Saturday, February 16, 2008

An Elephant's Toes

The circus is in town! I remember the excitement of the 100th Anniversary Year of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. We had tickets for our three and six year old. Imagine our surprise when we spent most of the performance with a crying toddler who was frightened by the clowns.

So this year, almost 35 years later, we have taken the circus in tiny bites for the little ones at our house -- reading at the library with the clowns last month and, during our walks in the neighborhood this month, standing on the sidewalk just twenty feet away to watch the tigers, zebras and elephants.

The white tigers slept, paced and purred, the zebras pranced, and the elephants got a bath.

As we watched the big elephant's bath, we could almost see a smile when the spray of water tickled his ears and squirted between his toes. And that surely was a sigh when he lifted his giant legs for a tummy wash. It has been a lovely way to erase the fear from such an exciting adventure.

I wish it were as easy to introduce the great adventure of painting. The truth is that, like the circus, it can be scary to face -- all at one time -- those squiggly tubes of new color and expensive paper and "try this brush" and other people watching who surely understand what to do and . . . maybe hiding under the seat is good!

Why then do most first timers want to come away from their first exposure to pigment and brush with a full-blown, three-ring masterpiece? Ah. The nuances they miss. The possibilities they don't understand. The fright of just being a part of what's happening all around. Overwhelming.

Learning to paint and going to the circus for the first time. Great adventures when you are ready. Like the circus, painting deserves an introduction in tiny satisfying bites.

By the way, we'll always have a new perspective on an elephant's toes.


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