Friday, April 3, 2009

"Can you paint with all the colors of the Wind..."

"...You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind..."

Stephen Schwartz
Colors of the Wind*"

Our twins had lived in the suburbs for most of their childhood.  Everyone in their neighborhood had gone to the same school, shared similar values, shopped at the same stores, and spoke the same language....and my children had known almost everyone they long as they could remember.

When we moved to a wonderful urban neighborhood near the largest university in our city a few years ago, they were uncomfortable with their surroundings. The children who lived on our street were fearless, outgoing, gregarious...and different.  They came from many different countries and faiths, spoke a dozen or more different languages, ate unusual foods, and weren't afraid of strangers. 

As much as we encouraged them to engage in neighborhood games, it took almost two years before they felt comfortable walking across the street and joining the other children who were taking turns on a wonderful rope swing that hung from an ancient sycamore tree in front of the University coop. As their parents, we longed to have them feel at home in a neighborhood we loved dearly.  We loved walking in the public gardens that quilted the large urban park near our home.  We felt blessed to be surrounded by museums, galleries, a world-class zoo, and libraries.  We hoped they would grow to enjoy it too.  And they did, but it took dissolving false perceptions about what it meant to be "different."

I remember the first breakthrough.  It happened one afternoon as we drove home from their private school in the suburbs that first fall after school was back in session.  As we turned on to our wide street canopied by enormous oak and sycamore trees, the girls commented on "those poor children" who were playing hopscotch, dodge ball, and foursquare...or sitting in small groups...on their asphalt play yard behind the large church/school surrounded by chain link fencing on the corner.

I drove slowly by the school and the girls bemoaned the plight of "those poor children."  Their well-equipped playground out "in the county" was filled with state-of-the-art equipment, landscaping, environmentally friendly wood chips, and even a new Gaga pit.  They couldn't understand how "those poor children" could stand it.

After we pulled into the parking space in front of our house, unloaded backpacks and lunch boxes from the car, and changed out of school clothes, I suggested to the girls that we take a walk to the coffeehouse on the corner for an after school treat.  They loved the coffeehouse on the corner where their big brother was a part-time barista and were happy to walk hand-in-hand with me past the school across the street, on the corner. 

As we approached that end of the block, skipping along cracked sidewalks, uneven from the growth of large tree roots that had lifted them like seismic plates long ago, a bell rang and children poured onto the playground from doors on two sides of the school building.   It was for me easy to slow down our pace.  My girls were fascinated by children who quickly divided themselves into teams for kickball,  and congregated in small groups to play foursquare or hopscotch in hand-chalked squares all over the pavement. 

I asked the girls to close their eyes and tell me what they heard.  They were still young enough to like this kind of game.  They said they heard, laughter, giggling, cheering, balls bouncing, girls whispering, boys yelling.  I asked them to open their eyes and tell me what they were seeing.  The identified happy preschoolers, fast boys, girls who danced around making up cheerleading routines, or threw markers for hopscotch. 

I asked them if they could point out one of "those poor children" they felt so sorry for only minutes earlier...disadvantaged children they had been sure "just couldn't be happy" without the same kind of well-equipped playground they enjoyed at their school "in the county".

They couldn't find one.  These were happy children, they were wearing clean, brightly-colored uniforms, they were with their friends, they were laughing, cheering, teasing, competing, being disciplined by teachers that obviously cared about their safety and happiness...they were just like them.  

This was a lovely opportunity for each of us to practice "spiritual translation."  What from a limited perspective appeared as a diminished sense of swings, grass, or equipment, fewer teachers, "less" screaming from every direction,  to spiritual sense -- " the constant conscious capacity to understand God" (and that He is always present) -- there was an abundance of creativity, joy, innovation, community, generosity, patience, sharing.  We started to see that through the lens of spiritual sense the girls had more in common with these children...than what at first glance appeared different.

This was the first, of many breakthroughs.   We enjoyed two dozen months of happiness in our city home.  The girls grew to know their neighbors, to feel protective of the "wild-haired professor"  and his black kitty who greeted us each afternoon when we returned from school, to anticipate the return of grad students at the end of Spring Break, to wave to the little girls who visited their grandma each weekend, and to look forward to the first signs of spring and the ducks in the park.

The day we reluctantly filled the moving van and left our wonderfully diverse urban neighborhood, we had to call the girls away from where they were playing with a group of neighborhood children across the street...they had become part of the beautifully rich and diverse threads that made up our neighborhood.  A tapestry more lovely because of the many colors and textures found woven through its fabric. 

Last weekend we joined friends for a Spring Break visit to our beloved Forest Park in the old neighborhood.  The girls pointed out favorite gardens, trails we had walked hundreds of times when they were just a day-to-day part of our neighborhood, recognized saplings that had been planted after a devastating Spring storm...flowering trees that had grown "at least a foot", and wondered if the ducks in the pond were decedents of "our duck family"...the ones we fed and talked to on our family walks in the park after dinner on summer evenings.

We now live halfway between "the city" and "the county."  We are learning new things here too.  When we drive through our old city neighborhood the girls tell us how much they loved "our old house" and the neighborhood where "the sidewalks were crooked and there was a big rope swing where all our neighborhood friends played in front of the student coop across the street."  Yes, we smile too.  "Those poor children" had become their neighbors...and friends.

"You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they're worth

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends

How high will the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you'll never know
And you'll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon

For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind

You can own the Earth and still
All you'll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind*..."

*WIND. That which indicates the might of omnipotence and the movements of God's spiritual government, encompassing all things."  - Mary Baker Eddy

with Love and hope...

Kate Robertson, CS

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:08 PM

    What a perfect commentary for this week as we are audience to thought opening on the world stage - seeing all the unity, variety and value in the global arena. God's government is being revealed and we can all marvel in the beauty and harmony of notes. Thank you for the treasures you share.