Saturday, December 12, 2009

Staying Within the Lines, and Without

I'm posting this on the road. For that and many other reasons, Dan's is practically a blank Canvas this month. Not what I had hoped. Yet a blank canvas is made to be filled.

A blank canvas is possibility.

I've been driving along the Southeast United States on I-95 from Virginia, through North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to South Florida. No scanner in sight. As I've driven south, temperatures have risen from the 30's to the 70's. Soon I will be in Miami, comfortably at home in my 80 degree habitat.
And soon my car will be parked, like this car for Shadow Shot Sunday and for Hey Harriet!, bathed in the shadows from the hot sun.

My simple version of photography gives me the chance to focus on one aspect of art - composition - without all the rest of it. Now I find that I am always on the lookout not only for everyday matters to draw, but for shadows to shoot. It's all part of the same thing, as far as I am concerned - seeing and presenting.

The lawn will be high when I get home, and all of this I-95 driving - straight forever, within the lines - strains my creativity bug. As I said, my temperature is rising. Here is an example of what this creative fever has done to me (swine flu, step aside):

One day, when I was mowing the lawn, my 13-year old autistic son, Matthew, wanted to try. I gave him the mower and stood beside him as he began mowing masterfully, except in one way. Matt would snake and curl around and across his area of the lawn, without regard to order. I would have him swerve back and loop-de-loop so that he could catch the tufts of grass he missed. And this was doing the job, though rather unconventionally.

But I'm a father - and as such, I am compelled to teach. I told Matthew that he could accomplish a lot more if he walked in straight lines, and went back and forth to accomplish the task. This way, I wisely explained, he would not have to go back to catch spots he missed. And I tried to guide him.

That's when he lost interest and walked away.

A few weeks later, when I was mowing the lawn again, I thought about Matthew and his unorthodox mowing. And I thought to myself, Why do I mow in straight lines? Each time I turn the corner it costs me time! Maybe Matthew has it right! Why do I have to do it like everyone else?

You creative folks were first and foremost in my mind at that point. And since I feel part of the clan, my old skin that stays within the lines is starting to shed.

So I parked the mower in the center of the large square that is my front lawn and began to mow in circles, in ever wider spirals. If there are no corners you do not have to stop! Soon I was crossing the sidewalk and extending to the front swale, and occasionally, of course, I would have to go out into the road.

It was at this point, when I was in the road, that my wife marched out the front door and asked, "What on earth are you doing?!"

Thelonius Monk, the creative jazz musician, once walked around the house tilting all of his pictures with his wife frantically following behind, straightening them. He was showing her how to look at things differently.

I like to think I am like him.

I read a saying the other day: Adults do not grow up. They merely learn how to act in public.

I like that.

This is now my preferred method of mowing. Though I must confess, I have to do it when my wife is not around.


  1. Hi Dan.

    What an interesting narration.
    And I so agree,

    "Why do I have to do it like everyone
    else does."

    And three cheers to your son
    for pointing that out to you.

    Love the composition and geometrics
    of your picture, that interplay of light,
    shadow, and darkness,

    those marvelous designs,the reflections
    in the car's window. Truly an interesting

    Hope you had a great time in Florida.
    Cheers, Doug

  2. Great shadow shot Dan!

    We've been missing your creativity around here, but I'm glad to know you're being creative with your creativity! (Did I really just say that?) Hope to see you back soon!

  3. cool shadows & light.
    I like the quote about adults-so true!

  4. Your posts are always entertaining and thought-provoking. Thanks.

  5. It's amazing what we can learn from our children (but don't tell them that!) Keep on "going in circles"....

  6. {luv} the narration.

    The shadow lines are fantastic!!

  7. A blank canvas is indeed a is a blank christmas tree. :) Thanks for the encouragement. As always, enjoyed your writing and perspective. Thanks for opening my eyes to a new way of looking at things!

  8. Dan, I really enjoyed reading this post and you've really nailed it about creativity (or rather your son did!).

    This might be of interest to you might already know about it.

  9. You're so missed because you bring so much to the table...glad you're back. You leave me working to apply your son's very valuable lesson of the day.

  10. What a great story!! I firmly believe in questioning habits and finding more creative solutions. Keep going ...

  11. Outstanding shadow shot! Love the story, fyi, 50 years ago I promised Peter Pan that I would "never grow up". Your son was very creative in his mowing, if he was left to continue, I wonder what an aerial shot of the yard would have looked like....maybe he's on to something...

  12. Your son may have taught the lesson, but you were open to learning it. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Yessir, you've been missed.
    Who knows, maybe your son is an artist! He had his own plan. Why do we do tht? I know that so many times I've done that...just assumed my way was better. I'm with your son! Creative mowing! (And weren't you the clever one for having open ears? Bravo! You didn't let yourself get in the way!)
    Love your photo!

  14. Hi Dan, I am new follower of your blog, but I have been evesdropping from Melinda's blog for a while. I started following because I love your perspective. Thanks for sharing :)

  15. So many good things in your posts, I discovered an amazing bird, the anhinga, beautiful watercolors by Jacob, yours , beautiful also, the shadows in the picture, so rythmic, and also your stories that tells me " look, open your eyes and think outside of the box"

  16. I know that drive on 95. When I was doing it - I was traveling from Homestead FL to Norfolk VA and back again several times a year way back in the day - 95 wasn't entirely completed (you had to drive directly through Jax, Savannah and Fayetteville, etc.) Dan, your writing is so beautiful. This story is particularly moving and really has a lesson for us all. Thanks for writing it - truly memorable. Oh, and superb addition to the Shadow Shot Sunday blog.

  17. Jehovah's purpose was for us to live "forever" on a Paradise earth. So when someone dies, it is the most un-natural thing the living experience. That is why it hurts so much. I lost my father in March and it is as if I lost him yesterday...I can't even imagine what it is like that you are going through. There are no words to express. Even Jesus cried for Lazarus although he knew he would be able to resurrect him and he did hours later (John 11:33). But it shows that death is "painful." So don't be afraid of shedding a tear, if Jesus, a perfect human being, can weep and feel pain, so can you...

  18. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  19. Awesome post!! Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! I love reading your blog!

  20. Thanks for sharing such thought provoking comments. Have a very Merry Christmas and holidays.

  21. Dan, just wanted to stop by and let you know that my thoughts are with you and your family. I took a little break to focus on drawing (intensely) and seem to have missed the announcement you made. We had a similar Christmas a couple of years back. So sorry! But, we miss you around here. We miss your funny writing, and wonderful artwork! Do hope you find your way back soon!

  22. Wonderful post, Dan. I think I'll take a line from you and your son, or maybe a circle even :) Happy New Year.