I was walking down the street today and passed a little girl playing with a word. Wrapped in her scarf which muffled her voice and her winter jacket which muffled her movement, she was literally “blah blah blahing” in songlike discovery. Exploring what it was like to say the “b” with pursed lips that exploded or to say it with a protruding pucker, to hammer hit the “l” or softly roll by it into the “a,” to open her mouth wide to the “ahhhhhh” like the doctor would tell her or cut it off like the word had been severed. Or to simply let the “ah” flow right back into the next “bla” as if it all were one. Blahblahblah…
There seemed no end to her joy, toying with the variations of the sounds she was capable of imagining or vocally discovering by accident. The word itself, its form and meaning, meant nothing to her. She wasn’t critiquing her parents’ pointless conversation (that was me, they were talking about politics); wasn’t commenting on the bland, uniform color of the vintage dog shit she almost stepped in when compared to the bright autumn leaves now decorating the ground (that was me too); or trying to express some sense of ennui (again, me). Only the way she contorted the sound was of interest to her. And, stripped of its form, the sound became interesting to me too. Like her play had pulled something completely new out of the old everyday “blah.”
It’s easy to forget, as I get older (no, that’s not an Alzheimer’s joke), the developmentally important stage of play and experimentation, the boundlessness of a world without rules. As children, the wonder with which we approach the world is how we later understand it and ourselves. The innocence and ignorance of the child is their beautiful brilliance.
I mentioned these thoughts to my partner in crime on this Sunday morning stroll, though it came out as a slightly less formulated thought, something like, “Huh. That’s cool.” A far smarter, more creative artist than I could ever hope to be, and one who knows much better than I the importance of holding on to the child inside (I wanted nothing more than to be older when I was younger and am now looking to the young as I’m older), she informed me with a wistful smile, “That’s how kids are when they’re young. They play. They want to scribble and squeeze clay between their fingers. Form comes later.”
Of course it wasn’t a long leap to connect this thought to what I’m trying to do these days: to form a new frontier in my life. If I am the child now, coming to this experience all innocence and ignorance (okay, I doubt anyone who knows me would ever classify me as “innocent” though a boatload would definitely say I’ve been “ignorant” once or twice…oh, wait, that’s not the same as being a dumbass), then I should take a cue from this little wandering poet-philosopher of the street and her bountiful “blahs.”
This life is punctuated by beginnings and endings. Each beginning bearing the seed of its end, and each end the seed of another beginning. If the beginning is faced with the child’s irreverence for rules and form, taken on with innocent joy and an ignorance of that which can’t or shouldn’t be done, who knows what dreams may come.
I ended one life when I moved and with that end cultivate a new beginning.
So I need to remember: Play. Experiment with a little reckless abandon. Scribble. Squeeze clay between fingers. Discover. Don’t be so fucking concerned about the “right way.” I need to set aside the form of the life I think I want and let my (figurative) child reign. After all, not knowing where I was going led me around the world and back again.
I’m sure, listening a little more closely to the voice behind the scarf, that little girl was saying, “The child is the father of the man.” Can you hear her too? “Blllllllllaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.”