This I believe
I believe in the words, “It’s my best so far,” words children in the Art Room, where I taught for 25 years, used to say when they showed me a finished drawing. Sometimes the empty white paper was intimidating. How could they dare mark that vast space?
“What if I make a mistake? What if you don’t like it?” said one child or another.
“She always likes it,” said another voice from the back of the room, “if it’s your best so far.”
“I can’t draw noses,” said one.
“Noses are easy,” said another, ” Just draw a backwards seven, upside down.”
“My Dad used to have a mustache. I think he misses it. I’ll draw him with the
mustache on.” Words of growing confidence, after the third try.
Often nowadays, looking back at life, I remember things I wish I had done
differently–– if only I had tried harder or known better.
“But,” my grown children remind me; “You did your best, where you were at the time. It was your best so far.”
I’ve been retired from teaching now, for ten years. I summon energy to paint
in the daytime and write in the nighttime. I’m trying to put color on canvas and stories on
paper before it’s too late; filling the empty page with all the enthusiasm I can
muster, aware that the time ahead is so much shorter than the time left
I want to savor all that is left. I hurl myself into the empty page with whatever impulse, insight or vision I can conjure—most days. Afterwards–– I have to take a nap. It’s not easy to keep going, creating by myself. It was one thing to protect my elementary school students’ creative endeavors. It’s another matter to protect my own. Everything takes longer to accomplish than it used to. Make the bed, clean up the breakfast, fill the bird feeder–– and the morning’s half gone already! My glasses become invisible the moment I lay them down. So do pens and pencils. I take lessons at the computer store for help with my documents. I forget crucial steps and mislay my notes after I get home. Technical tidbits trip me up and slow me down, time and time again.
But I believe in the creative spirit— it’s like an engine inside. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t still be trying. I believe in what a third grader in an inner city D.C. school said to me years ago, when his clay dinosaur lay, cracked in pieces on the window sill. I’ll never forget Lamont’s words.
“Never mind, Miss Starr, “ said Lamont, ”dinosaur’s broke, but the artist ain’t dead!”
Life and art –- they are works in progress. Not quite there yet? Never mind: the DOING is rewarding. The DOING is nourishing. And sometimes–– not always, but sometimes–– I can imagine where it’s going and then I whisper,
”OK, this is my BEST so far!”