Art doesn’t start on a canvas, or a stage. You can look and look, but you won’t discover the seeds of art in the best textbook, video course, or even in the flashpoint of inspiration. The genesis of art is in relationship. The beauty of a rattletrap Jeep might escape the casual observer. Not for Evan. His devotion is anything but casual. Torn seats, a patch of rust here and there, mismatched lug nuts – all contribute to Evan’s love of the Jeep. Partly, it’s because his PoP! has helped to transform the bouncy contraption into a story mobile.
We greet the windmill with a wave and a shout as we roll by. Then the horse trough, the pole barn with its bays for a leaky tin boat, some four-wheelers, a couple of decommissioned deer feeders and – if we’re lucky – a bunny rabbit skittering into the brush on the north side of the barn. We circle back around, mowing down tall weeds as we rehearse “Turn Right!” “Turn Left!” at the top of our lungs. He can shift, though sometimes the positions for fourth and first get a little confusing.
The best parts come in the brief stops between destinations. That’s when we slip into “conversations” (“combinations” in Evan-speak). Combinations might consist of a windmill story (essential elements: the windmill becomes a rocket ship that takes us to the moon where we eat some green moon-cheese, then return to land with a Whump! followed by warm chocolate chip cookies and cold milk. Every time.). Or a river story, or variations on Jeep, Troop, or Beef (our 1976 Chevy Pickup) stories.
Evan has started contributing to the stories. I’ll ask him, “what happens next?” Most of the time, his ideas have absolutely nothing to do with following a logical story arc. They are wildly free of any conventional constraints imposed by linear plot, or character, time, or place. And there’s a casual disregard for the fact that I teach a graduate level Creative Writing course at DTS! Somehow, 2 1/2-old, Right-Brain-Evan generates freeform story elements that float in and out of my logical storyline. “Before” and “after” in Evan’s story world are irrelevant. All that matters is “now.”
And here’s the thing – I’ve come to realize that it isn’t my job to make his contributions fit. I don’t need to reconstruct the storyline in order to “make things work.” They just happen. The Troop may well wind up next to the Windmill on the moon, even though we left it back in the barn on earth. Once, the river had a big floating birthday card that could fly. Or – this really taxes my need to finish a story – we abandon the Giant Singing Fish story in favor of a Firetruck story. And I was just about to make some profound spiritual point with that fish!
That’s ok. I follow his lead. Wherever he wants to drive. Whatever he wants to explore in “combinations.” We’ll go there together. And Evan will discover, day by day, that art begins with the permission to discover even as he creates “what happens next” on PoP!’s lap.