My daughter played recreational softball for several years. She was never particularly good at it, but she practiced with dedication and played even “the bench” with enthusiasm. I always admired the girls who sat the bench the most for being the ones who often led the team in the rousing cheer that went something like this:
MY NAME IS ANNIE AND I KNOW WHAT I GOT, I GOT A BAT THAT’S HOTTER THAN HOT.
They would take turns, with each girl shouting out her name at the appropriate time in the cheer. Fortunately for my daughter, she always got to play on teams that encouraged everyone, from the girls with the hot bats down to the girls who never went any further than first base. She was never the worst player, but she was never the best, either.
After Easter dinner yesterday, we looked through old photos and I scanned a few in to play around with in Photoshop. I came home and started fiddling with this picture of my brother. Doesn’t he look so cute? Oh, I know, he looks like a little geek, with his hands on his hips like that and his dark socks, and one higher than the other, no less. But it was 1967. What else would you expect? The photo is a tiny Polaroid so the face detail is not real clear. You can’t see that he has the cutest little grin on his face.
My brother is a lot like my grandfather. Both these guys were simple, straightforward people. They never met a stranger. They never hid behind a mask. In computer terms, they were WYSIWYG people, what you see is what you get. No putting on airs with these two.
Both of them had lots of friends. I ran into an old friend of my brother’s and he talked fondly of what a good friend my brother had been. My brother has been dead ten years. My uncle said that he still runs into people who tell him what a good man my grandfather was. My grandfather has been dead twenty years. There are lots of stories that could be told on both these men.
As usual, I have gotten off my track. The thing I wanted to write about is that, in playing around with these photos, I put a “filter” on them that makes them look a little less like a photo and a little more like a watercolor painting. I don’t yet know enough about Photoshop to do a really fine job of enhancing the photos, but what I did was just enough to bring my “drawing eyes” out for a moment or two. In looking at the photos, I could see the lines and angles and curves that would make a drawing if I wanted to take a chance and pick up a pencil.
I am not particularly good at drawing, but I had to take an illustration class for school. While I was taking the class, I learned that we all can draw, or at least we could when we were young, before anyone told us we couldn’t. Part of what it takes is to really scrutinize the object we are sketching, and not to draw from our memory. Given a little practice and some courage, most anybody can improve their drawing skills.
My hardest work in illustration class was to relax and do my drawing without comparing myself to the other students. I had to lose my inhibitions about my own work. It can be intimidating to draw next to someone who has drawn eyes that are in proportion to the nose, which actually looks like a nose.
I especially enjoyed doing pastel chalk drawings on brown craft paper. It probably helped that we did these drawings outside on a perfect spring day. But doing those drawings was the closest thing to meditation that I have experienced. My mind seemed to empty of all the chatter that usually is in there, and I just felt at one with my paper and chalk. Making mayhaw jelly does that for me too, come to think of it. That’s a post for another day.
I don’t have a bat that’s “hotter than hot”. I’ll never be as easy with people as my grandfather and my brother were. My pencil will never draw as well as M. C. Escher’s. (Check out his posters, especially the "drawing hands" one.) But wouldn't it be a shame not to try new things, simply because of fearing that we might not be the best at doing it?
It all sort of reminds me of the story of the Jewish rabbi who said that when he went to his reward, he would not be asked “why were you not Moses?” He expected to be asked “why were you not you?”
(Another part of what I wanted to write is that when I am open as I was in the post "Chasing the Rabbits of Easter", sometimes it scares me, and I want to disengage, to run and hide. And so the real issue is not being brave enough to play softball, or to be as easy around people as my grandfather and brother were, or to draw.
The real issue is to be brave enough to let others see my pains, to take off my masks, to let that skeleton out of my closet, the one that shows I am imperfectly human, just like everybody else. Imagine that. I am human, and full of fears and flaws, as well. I am.)