Mostly I found rocks and nice fat earth worms while digging holes for the lilac bushes Jon and I planted in the front yard today. But I also found a flat hunk of metal, (I thought of how people would to bury metal around the roots of hydrangea so they would turn those beautiful blues and purples) and this blue pottery shard, probably from a plate or bowl. I rubbed the shard clean between my fingers and put it in my pocket. The piece of metal wasn’t particularly interesting or beautiful as old metal can often be, so I threw it in the garbage.
I just started reading The Girl With No Name, by Marina Chapman. It’s the true story of a 5 year old girl who is abducted and left in the jungles of Columbia. She lives there for about 5 years learning how to survive by watching and eventually living with a troop of Capuchin monkeys. She becomes feral walking on all fours, forgetting language and her first 5 years of life with humans. At one point she finds a village of native Colombians and from a hiding place in the tree tops watches them. She tries to join them, realizing she is more like them than the monkeys, but they chase her way. She goes back to the Capuchin monkeys, but takes some of what she’s learned from the humans. She writes, “My time watching the children in the human camp had opened my eyes to new diversions and one of my favorite things to do was collecting orchids… to make chains and I would drape them on anything I fancied” She decorated the hole in the tree where she slept and the surrounding jungle. She also made dyes from leaves and flowers and would “…decorate not only my skin, but the rocks and branches, not to mention any monkey who interfered with my art class.”
Art is what humans do. Once the business of food and shelter is taken care of, we begin to decorate our selves and our environments. Even if we can’t create, we make distinctions about beauty and meaning. We put a tiny shard of pottery on the mantle and get rid of a boring hunk of metal. I used to wonder about the necessity of art. Agonize over whether the government should fund it or not. Question the role of the artist. Now I understand that art is part of being human. It’s one of the things that differentiates us from other animals. It’s not a question of should of whether or not it’s important, or necessary, like eating or sleeping, it’s what we do.