Friday, August 07, 2009

Environmental Influences & Creativity

Well, I didn't get any de-cluttering done this summer. After last summer's success setting up the girls' rooms, I had hoped to get just one more room in order this summer. I figured that if I could consistently do one room each year, I'd be done in no more than five years, even if we counted the bathroom (which we probably won't) - but this just wasn't our year.

Some combination of the past school year's accumulated stresses regarding the Lone Star Girl's health and the unreliable car odysseys and then the Lone Star Girl's surgery and, well...I seemed to have no creative energy at all or any get-up-and-go, either, this summer. I got practically no writing done, even though summer is the only time I really have time for much writing, and no real cleaning to speak of, either. It was about all I could do to keep up with my column and help edit the next Mamaphiles and ferry the kids to their activities and doctor appointments. And I'm tired, not rejuvenated like I should be at this time of year. I keep experiencing creeping feelings of having wasted this precious, precious summer due to the fact that I did not accomplish the things I wanted to accomplish. However - I know that's really some bad and inaccurate self talk there and I am trying to battle it. I did a lot with First Day School and am really excited with where that's going, though worried that the Meeting might be back to having just my own kids again soon as folks have been moving. AND I organized the ongoing Sunday night Mothers & Others Against Las Brisas
demonstrations and have been doing a good job at steadily working at raising awareness on this issue. I know that's important and I know it is plenty to have accomplished in one summer, given all that the family has been going through. Intellectually, I know that. It is hard to hold on to the feeling, though.

Back to the clutter. Our house is always such a cluttered mess. The Lone Star Baby goes to a Montessori and those Montessorians are pretty hard-core about the importance of an orderly environment for the development of concentration and focus. They have a point, too. It really is easier to order the mind and concentrate and Accomplish Things in an orderly, uncluttered environment - no doubt about it. And I know that we get a big fat red "F" in providing that kind of environment and its benefits for our children. Seriously. We do. And I do see the deleterious effects at times and worry about them (all while hoping that they are somewhat balanced out by that orderly school environment). Also, I am starting a Daisy Girl Scout troop this fall and am worried because one of the girls who will be in her kindergarten year with the Lone Star Baby is the daughter of one of the teachers. If she joins the troop and their family, all of whom I adore, sees my house - well, they are going to be very disappointed in me, I can tell you that. And they are going to feel sorry for my kids - and I hate that feeling.

That said, there is another side to things, however accidental. Our crazy cluttered house has an upside for its downside. This sort of environment seems to foster a certain ongoing, relaxed style of continuous artistic expression and creative thought in children. Yesterday, the Lone Star Baby dug into a pile of clutter and plucked out some paper towel roll tubes that I had left lying around for her to play with. She remembered that they had made snake bracelets out of the same implements at school once and she cut along the lines of the tubes so they could spiral around arms and painted them with her paints and glued on googly eyes and made tongues out of bits of red crepe paper (torn off of the birthday party streamers that are still hanging up from June in various states of disrepair) and glued them on. These sorts of spontaneous multi-media projects go on pretty much without surcease around here. The Lone Star Girl made a doll out of a plastic fork when she was little and proceeded, while watching Saturday morning cartoons, to make a house and furniture for it out of disgarded cardboard and other detritus and then made it an elaborate wardobe of ballet tutus using mainly paper muffin cup liners. Our walls and refrigerators and shelves are covered with their interesting creations. And the kids have the most interesting way of thinking about things - as anyone who knows them can attest. This is how they roll.

And it is not the sort of thing you much see in a more well-ordered and focused environment.

Kids are natural artists in almost any environment, I think, but the sort of laid back, inventive and continuous creativity that I am talking about - one that has no real connection to artistic talent or aspiration - usually arises from the piles and stacks of an environment littered with natural materials and a healthy dose of benign neglect. And this has value, too. And it is something that I love about our kids and would not want to give up.

1 comment:

Saints and Spinners said...

Oh I hear you. Boy, do I hear you.

Regarding clutter, I just recently swept up so many toys and things (beloved toys!) to pack away, simply because there is not enough space for it all. If I had more energy, I'd organize it better, but for now, I just need things to be out of sight/mind.

If it's any comfort, I have it on good authority that Waldorf teachers are often disorganized and do not have tidy homes. Tidy classrooms are one thing. Tidy homes... ah, if only.

I've found that the tidiest homes are either cleaned professionally, or someone in the home cleans the house as his or her creative outlet.